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.”

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Youth Rights Day


In honor of the second annual Youth Rights Day today (chosen because it was John Holt's birthday, a man well worth knowing about in regards to youth empowerment), I reread a couple articles about lowering the drinking age at the National Youth Rights Association (NYRA) website. Their strongest argument is based on the phenomenon of "forbidden fruit;" that is, anything that's prohibited only makes it more attractive. Their next argument goes like this: with the emphasis on alcohol prohibition for people under 21, dialoguing about it in any rational way is not emphasized.

Funny the NYRA folks should bring that up! We (adults) don't want to engage in rational dialogue with youth, probably because they would make us confront our own irrational behavior, not only about alcohol, but with drugs, sex, and other "bad" stuff that humans so love to do.

I would get really upset about the craziness of our alcohol policy, except that all our major social policies are just as screwy, irrational, illogical, and need I say, counterproductive? Take your pick: policies about drugs, abortion, taxes, the death penalty, the right to die; compulsory education, all are based on fear, tradition, and one group (highly conservative, mostly fundamentalist Christian people) lording it over those of us that are ready for some major paradigm shifting.

Can't we get real and acknowledge our seemingly inbuilt tendency to want to alter our consciousness from time to time, probably so we can feel less afraid? Can't we acknowledge that simultaneous with wanting to alter our consciousness, we are ashamed of that impulse, so we pretend we don't want to, and officially prohibit young people from doing it as well? After all, we're not kidding anyone, especially youth.

In contrast, consider what the NYRA says in their article, titled "Solutions," about lowering the alcohol age: "It is time we as a nation implement a smarter alcohol policy; an alcohol policy based on education, toleration, and a message of responsible, moderate use." Whew...like a cool breeze billowing the curtains on a perfect spring day, eh?

Please check out the NYRA and their highly rational policy statements on drinking, voting, and curfew. And, next year, think about organizing for National Youth Rights Day (April 14), to stir up some dialogue about our crazy laws based on age.

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