Young people are not ‘citizens of the future’, they are citizens now

I was angered at the most recent Eircom billboards and television adverts. They portray young people going to music concerts and getting into trouble with security guards, as well as generally being unable to cope or be trusted in a variety of situations. The inference is that they’d be better off if they just went online, rather than experiencing the real world, which the young people in the ads are seemingly incapable of doing.

In a society such as ours where ageism exists that systematically excludes young people from meaningful involvement in social, political and economic life, youth work that justifies its existence by claiming to solve the ‘problem’ of young people contributes to a belief in young people’s inferiority and indirectly, the conception that they are a threat needing control. Youth work that panders to government by speaking the language of young people as victims or threats in order to receive funding unconsciously reinforces this status quo. Commendable as it is for the positive media coverage of young people, the TV show Ireland’s Top Teens is a patronising symptom of this ageism: where is Ireland’s Top 40 Year Olds? Yet it would be remiss of me to suggest that the projects showcased on the programme did not make a significant contribution to the lives of the young people involved. The problem, therefore, stems from the way in which youth work engages with young people and how this is perceived by society.

The National Youth Council of Ireland suggests that youth work is an empowering process and that it is one of the few places that young people have the power to make decisions. This qualification of empowerment as something that occurs only within youth work highlights the compartmentalisation of young people which is embodied by another NYCI supported initiative, Dáil na nÓg. Of course it is beneficial to those young people involved, and it is important to create spaces such as this for young people, but as a consultative body with no decision making power it belittles young people’s ability to make decisions in their own lives.

Young people will only be empowered if they are facilitated, not only to develop their skills, knowledge and attitudes, but to critically explore the society they live in- and be given the power to make real and meaningful changes to society. They are not, after all, future citizens. They are citizens now! 

The shelved 1980s Costello report on youth work advocated this model of Critical Social Education. Recognising that young people are equal citizens, the youth worker’s role must be to ensure equality of outcome for young people’s engagement with society both amongst young people and in comparison with those legally defined as adults. We have yet to achieve even equality of access. 

3 thoughts on “Young people are not ‘citizens of the future’, they are citizens now

  1. Adultism is a big problem in the United States. Many adults in my country have a negative view towards young people. They are often labeled unfairly by our media. I on the other hand do not have a negative view towards young people. I am a youth worker and often my positive views and expectations towards young people is often reflected in how I engage with them and treat them. In United States culture civility and respect towards one another seems to be lacking and very frequently young people are treated the worst.

      • Yes I have read varied articles on Freechild Project including on Adultism. From my own personal experience I have seen more adults, that includes both parents and those who work with young people including teachers, tend to engage with young people in a manner in which the adult acts superior of them and it is more about control and authority over a young person. There is real no close positive equal connection and relationship and a youth/ adult partnership does not exist. On the other hand I relate with, work and connect and engage with young people in a different and more positive and effective manner is seems than most adults, because I have a much more different and much better perspective, attitude and beliefs towards than young people and in some ways like them, and have some of the youth like qualities that are sadly missing in too many adults. I am able to relate and connect with them in a way in which I have greater influence and trust with them and able to have a greater positive, blessed impact on them, in which many more adults and parents are not able to, because of their lack of having the right perspective and beliefs. There needs to be a shift and change in their mindsets, perspective and beliefs they have towards younger people. They also need a shift and change in perspective, mindsets and beliefs towards life in general. The reality is when some people like myself are really good at relating and connecting with young people and have a talent and ability to connect with them in a positive, others will come to see you in a judgmental, negative, threatening, hateful, jealous and envious manner because you do have a better and more healthier, positive connection and relationship with them than other adults they come into contact with including their own parents and because you are able to have a greater positive impact on them and their young lives and potential. I have witnessed so many abusive, controlling, oppressing, harsh, caustic, cruel, perfectionist, critical, fault finding, judgmental, unloving, very serious, unemotional, harden, insecure, ego driven, cocky, prideful, selfish, immature parents, people with a superiority complex and just plain adult bullies, that frequently bully their own children and have no real close loving, warm healthy relationship with their own children, because it is always about the selfish wants, desires and needs of the parent who has a power trip going for themselves. It more has to do with having authority, control and power over another human being, rather than showing and expressing love and respect and kindness. The other person, which is the young person has no value and really does not matter and a healthy relationship does not matter. Those are the same adults that see me with crooked, evil, jealous eyes and see me as a threat because I treat their own young people better than they would ever. There own demons and insecurities come out and they show themselves for what is wrong with them, their own issues are revealed and what is missing in themselves. They show themselves for who they really are. Oh, by the way I don’t really care what people think about me and I can’t stand bullies. I have never had a parent or another adult come up to me to confront me in how I engage with their children, because they don’t have the courage to do so, and in some way they may realize, in the back of their mind they are wrong in their own thinking or they are afraid what my response would be, and they should be. Because I would confront them and challenge them about the deep sin within in them and expose it for what it is. Most people repeat the same issues and bad behavior and attitudes because no one confronts them on it and stands up to them and challenges them and hold them accountable. If they have never been hold accountable since they where a child, they will continue with the same behavior and wrong doing the rest of their lives, because they never had to face consequences of their actions, because seldom anyone stood up to them and confronted, convicted, rebuked or challenges them. Often those who never received consistent proper discipline when they where children and taught self discipline, and manage ones own impulses and behavior and where never taught good morals and values and a sense of right and wrong, good and bad and never received love and warmth from a caregiver in their young lives and consistently abused in some way and in which there was no real healthy emotional attachment between a parent and child, often, those children grow up to become anti-social, an adult bully and abuser, wicked and a sociopath who lacks compassion and empathy for others and lack a moral compass and self discipline and most anti-social people strongly believe they can do anything they like and could care less about the affect and impact they have on other people and society and the damage they leave in their wake. I have run into and seen more of these type of character disturbed individuals in my life and as roles as parents, that I am not suprised as a nation that we have not destroyed ourselves yet. Even the professionals in the mental health field have seen a increase in people having character and personality disorders, in spiritual and moral terms, these are people without morals and are evil and simply a trouble for society and a sheep in wolves clothing. And I am not afraid to call them out and expose them for that they are and for what they do and their own evil intentions that comes from a evil heart.

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