Adultism: A Well-Kept Secret

Adultism is the term used to describe the oppression of young people by adults. An article by John Bell included this definition: “…adultism refers to behaviors and attitudes based on the assumption that adults are better than young people, and entitled to act upon young people without their agreement. This mistreatment is reinforced by social institutions, laws, customs, and attitudes.”

My Photo
Location: Boulder, CO, United States

see my blog entries

Thursday, May 7, 2009

When Students Were Killed

My sister-in-law sent me the link to this article about the Kent State killings; May 4th marked the 39th anniversary. I received my BS in 2003 and my MA in 2005 at Kent State, but when the shootings occurred I was 19 and living in Columbus, OH. My life at that moment in time had just taken an unanticipated turn, so I don’t recall thinking about the tragedy that much. As I scan back in my memory, my sense is that I wasn’t surprised that the governor of my state called out the National Guard and students were shot. Now I’m appalled, but back then I wasn’t. I knew most adults didn’t like young people. We were on opposing teams. Adults were people one had to appease, tolerate, and basically stay away from as much as possible.

Killing college students for protesting the war in Viet Nam belongs on the extreme side of adultism, along with incest, child molestation, child pornography. It sent a strong, clear message to young people in the U.S. and around the globe: we don’t care what you think and we’ll shut you up with force if need be…butt out, you’re not wanted, you don’t count. The fervor and fever of protest died down after that…I don’t think we’ve seen it matched since on college campuses.

I didn’t know much about the Kent State killings until I attended school there several years ago. There is a commemorative event each year and I walked with one of the survivors to each of the sites where events occurred and heard his story. I also read a number of articles to gain a better understanding of what had happened. Yesterday, when I read the article about Mary Ann Vecchio, the young woman in the oh-so-famous photograph just after four students died, I learned for the first time that she was a 14-year-old runaway from Florida. Now I realize that her reaction to the death of Jeffrey Miller spoke the horror and anguish of many of us. An adult would have been less likely to show their full feelings…more likely to have gotten right to the business of ambulances and taking control of an out-of-control situation. Mary Ann gave us her unedited reaction…it’s written all over her face: “How could you let this happen?!”


Labels: , , ,