By Adam Fletcher
Youth Voice is a notion
that is inherently informed by a set of assumptions.
These often go unstated, leaving program participants in the dark
about the intentions that directly affect their lives. Following are
the assumptions behind The Freechild Project's work around Youth
Assumptions behind Youth Voice
Society's conceptions of young people must evolve.
We have created a condition where young
people don't know when childhood ends and youth begins, when youth
ends and adulthood begins. We have created generations of young
people who are disengaged from their personal, civic, and global
responsibilities. This must change from the very beginnings of
life, through radical shifts in the ways we conceive of childhood. We believe young people must be treated as equal partners
do not have "youth problems" - we have community problems.
Our communities have community problems that
be addressed that way. There is a popular trend in our society to blame young
people for their own problems, when in reality we share those
challenges with them. We must act together in community to create
positive, powerful, and sustainable change. We believe it takes a
child to raise a village - not vice versa.
All youth are not the
same. The word youth is
used to capture the experiences of young people anywhere between the
ages of five to twenty-five. This must stop. The experience of an
African American 11-year-old woman in the suburbs is not going to be
the same as the Latino teen in the rural Midwest. Many adults seek to
treat all youth as if they are the same, needing the same supports,
structures, and experiences to inform their common understanding of
their lives. THEY DON'T. Society has different demands on different
youth, and depending on what we honestly expect of youth, we should
support their individual needs. We believe that diversity is a
value, and that we must encourage and support all young people as
individual members of their larger communities.
Young people should be
connected to something larger than themselves.
Where young people are
fighting for rights, many have fought before. When young people are
taking more responsibility, they are taking it from someone else.
Youth must learn to advocate for people and places other than
themselves. This way our communities can educate against ignorance,
learn from elders, and form global movements for unity. We
believe that unity is at the heart of community, and that youth are
an integral part of a larger whole.
Working with young
people should not be "feel good" work. Don't work with young people because it "feels
good" to you. Do it because it is urgent. Segregation is splitting our communities apart, democracy
is losing its vitality, the planet we live on is dieing. Adults must
realize that our work must be more than a band-aid - we can be
heal. Without your work, words, beliefs, and ideals our
world is going to come undone. We believe that by denying
the power of young people, our society is going to bring about its
We must look at our
work in a critical light and encourage others too, also.
All people must critically reflect on
their experience as youth, as adults, as teachers, as students, in all
of their capacities, in order to have cause socially just, vital
worldwide transformation. Anyone aspiring to educate, serve, train,
coordinate or activate young people must be able to critically reflect
and grow from their past experiences. We must grow from our personal
and organizational limitations in order to truly transform our world,
and this is how. We believe that we make the road by walking, and
that it is each person's responsibility to continue the job of
Violence, competition, and alienation
takes power away from of young people, as well as adults. The news tells us everything is getting
worse, and that its "their" fault and "their" problem.
That's not true. Its our problem. And we can change the situation. Our
actions, ideas, involvement and perspective can make a huge,
powerful, and beautiful difference. So this website is
dedicated to the near future, and a world of peace, justice, and
2008. Adam Fletcher owns the copyright
for this material on behalf of The Freechild
Project. You are welcome to print out
this material for educational purposes
only - you cannot make any financial
gain from them without the explicit
permission of the author. You may not
photocopy any part of this material
without explicit permission of the
author. For more
information write info [at] freechild.org