The Bones Of Justice / The Capacity Of Youth

The tides of discrimination wash back and forth over the bones of justice. Whitewashing reality happens every day, as people conveniently forget what they do not want to remember, and coincidentally recall the most minute details at the perfect moment in time. Keeping these things in mind helps recall how some become the oppressors, and how others reinforce their power.

When considering the roles of young people of all ages throughout society it is easy to deny the truth. This morning I was speaking at a local summit called “Voices of Youth” in which a group of young people from local high schools were gathered to discuss young peoples’ health and well-being. I was quickly reminded that adults, despite having the best intentions, often have it in for youth.

Rather than turning the floor over to young people to identify, develop, lead, and reflect on substantive social change we oftentimes regale them with our knowledge, hammer them over the heads with our capabilities, and expect young people to be passive recipients of whatever we’re giving them. I AM GUILTY of doing this. As a public speaker I feel a twang of irresponsibility when I approach an opportunity in this “sit n’ git” fashion. It pains me some days. But I do it anyway.

Where do adults establish their supremacy? 

Recently I talked with a group of adults- parents and organizational leaders and others- who boiled it down to the statement that “Adults have intellectual and moral capacity that youth do not, and that enables us to make decisions for them that they should not make for themselves.”

However, “intellectual capacity” and “moral capacity” are both subjective perspectives that are determined a variety of factors. Reflecting on my own professional experience, I find that adults generally attribute all variable components of a young person- of any age- to their so-called “developmental ability”, which in itself is a subjective variable dependent on concrete influences. Allowing for all those variables to reasonably influence policy and programs affecting children and youth would encourage much more efficacy in how we educate, socialize, and otherwise engender the experience of being young throughout our society. 

Today I’m curious whether there are boundaries to the intellectual and moral capacity of young people. What do YOU think?

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