Social Justice Links

The Freechild Project focuses on youth changing the world. Our theory of change focuses on youth engagement throughout the world around them, in meaningful, empowering relationships that bring about social change. By becoming connected with organizations committed to social change, young people acknowledge their interdependence and build their communities.

In assessing moral issues, interdependence shows us that we cannot isolate ourselves from the harmful or criminal act of ‘another,’ we cannot pretend the criminal or the pirate is bad and I am good, because all of us are to some extent responsible for this state of affairs. – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Organizations

The following list of organizations has been compiled to provide a broad array of opportunities for young people and their adult allies to join together in large movements for social change, affecting individuals, communities, and the world.

Adbusters Media Foundation — Adbusters describes itself as “a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age.” Adbusters publishes a glossy, provocative magazine of the same name, sponsors Buy Nothing Day and TV Turnoff Week, produces clever “uncommercials” and seeks to agitate so that folks “get mad about corporate disinformation, injustices in the global economy, and any industry that pollutes our physical or mental commons.”

AFL-CIO  The AFL-CIO is the largest labor organization in the United States. Its website includes abundant information on organizing campaigns, links to member unions, news articles on union drives, updates on student activism, and sections on union culture and history.

American Friends Service Committee — This venerable social justice organization has a Mexico-U.S. Border Program and publishes an assortment of resources. AFSC also has a Youth and Militarism project that organizes against JROTC and military presence in public schools. The Cambridge, Massachusetts AFSC publishes Peacework, a monthly journal serving movements for nonviolent social change. AFSC also maintains a film and video library.

Amnesty International USA — AI seeks to promote the human rights included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, focusing especially on prisoners of conscience, ending the death penalty, and combating torture. Amnesty’s website includes the complete text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as numerous links to human rights groups around the world, articles, video clips, reports, and action opportunities.

Catholic Worker Movement — The Catholic Worker Movement is “grounded in a firm belief in the God-given dignity of every human person.” Since its founding in 1933 they have protested war, violence and injustice in all forms. Its journal is The Catholic Worker.

Changemakers.net — A monthly journal of stories about system-changing, problem-solving initiatives undertaken by social entrepreneurs from around the world.

Clean Clothes Campaign — A coalition of European groups aiming to improve working conditions in the global garment industry. Conducts campaigns and provides information on companies such as Adidas, Benneton, C & A, Disney, Phillips-Van Heusen, Gap, H & M, Levi-Strauss, Nike, and Otto.

Green America — Valuable information on sweatshops, consumer boycotts, and strategies to use “consumer and investor power for social change.” Co-op America is a national nonprofit organization that helps individuals find businesses that are environmentally responsible and engage in fair trade, and offers technical assistance to companies aiming for social and environmental responsibility.

The Council of Canadians — This independent organization provides analyses on key issues from a critical and progressive standpoint. Its director, Maude Barlow, is perhaps the leading critic of schemes to privatize the world’s freshwater supplies.

CorpWatch — Indispensable resources and news about globalization and justice struggles around the world. An online issue library includes topics such as biotechnology, Globalization 101, grassroots globalization, sweatshops, the WTO and the IMF/World Bank. Very extensive links. A similarly valuable but unrelated site is Corporate Watch.

Cultural Survival — Cultural Survival sponsors basic research on indigenous peoples, particularly examining the effects of “development.” The results of this research are published in its Cultural Survival Quarterly. The website includes an education archive with curriculum resources offered, including Rainforest Peoples and Places (grades 6-9), The Chiapas Maya (grades 6-12) and the Rights of Indigenous Nations.

The David Suzuki Foundation — David Suzuki is one of the world’s leading geneticists and environmentalists. The foundation is especially active in the area of climate change, focusing on the “urgent need for practical strategies to reduce global warming caused by human activities.”

Focus on the Global South — Too often discussions of globalization are dominated by those of us in the North, however well-intended or well-informed we may be. Focus on the Global South’s website features wonderful, hard-to-find, in-depth articles from the perspective of activists and scholars in the global South ÷ the so-called Third World. See their “publications” section.

Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy — Food First describes itself as “a peoples think tank and education-for-action center.” Over the 25-plus years that this pioneering organization has been around, it has published some of the most useful books on food and hunger issues. Through its publications and activism, it continues to offer leadership to the struggle for reforming the global food system from the bottom up. The catalog is online at their website.

Friends of the Earth — Friends of the Earth is a national environmental organization dedicated to preserving the health and diversity of the planet. FOE distributes valuable publications ranging from books on global warming to the IMF’s effects on the environment.

Global Exchange — Founded in 1988, Global Exchange is an organization dedicated to promoting environmental, political, and social justice around the world. In the late Î90s, Global Exchange was perhaps the most important organization drawing attention to Nike’s sweatshop abuses. Their expansive website gives a flavor for the diversity of activities they have initiated, which include “people to people” projects, such as “reality tours” to Third World countries, managing “fair trade” stores, and publishing resources on global justice issues. Global Exchange is one of the key global justice organizations.

Greenpeace International / Greenpeace USA — Greenpeace began in 1971 when activists went to “bear witness” to nuclear weapons testing planned for Amchitka island, off Alaska. Today Greenpeace is one of the leading organizations using nonviolent direct action to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions that are essential to what the organization hopes will be a “green and peaceful future.” It sponsors campaigns on global warming, environmental toxics, destructive fishing, genetic engineering, nuclear power and weapons, and saving ancient forests. Both websites feature extensive background materials on these issues, action alerts, ways to get involved, and numerous links to other organizations.

The Independent Media Center — This is the CNN of the global social justice movement and a wonderful resource. The Center acts as a clearinghouse of information and provides up-to-theminute reports, photos, audio, and video footage of global social justice struggles through its website. Launched during the Seattle WTO protests of late 1999, Indymedia is a fascinating, colorful site. Updated regularly. Great graphics.

The Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism — The IPCB is organized to assist indigenous peoples in the protection of their genetic resources, indigenous knowledge, and cultural and human rights from the negative effects of biotechnology.

Corporate Accountability International — A non-partisan national grassroots organization whose purpose is to stop life-threatening abuses by transnational corporations. Articles posted on their website, like “The Marlboro Man Goes Overseas,” could be used with students.

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy — The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy promotes resilient family farms, rural communities and ecosystems around the world through research and education, and advocacy. Their website includes background readings, articles, and forums on vital issues of agriculture and trade.

Institute for Global Communications (IGC) — “The mission of IGC is to advance the work of progressive organizations and individuals for peace, justice, economic opportunity, human rights, democracy and environmental sustainability through strategic use of online technologies.” IGC is an outstanding resource, with a fabulous search engine that is linked to social justice networks of all kinds.

Institute for Policy Studies — An important think tank on global issues from a social justice perspective. IPS has programs on Peace and Security, the Global Economy, and Paths for the 21st Century, supplemented by several projects that address specific issues.

International Education and Resource Network (iEARN) — iEARN is a nonprofit organization made up of almost 4,000 schools in over 90 countries. It aims to empower teachers and young people (K-12) to work together online at low cost through a global telecommunications network.

International Rivers Network — IRN is an important network that works to support communities around the world struggling to protect rivers and watersheds. They see this work as part of a movement for “environmental integrity, social justice and human rights.” IRN’s website is a valuable source of information about global water struggles.

Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility — A coalition of 275 Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish institutional investors that organizes corporate campaigns to press companies to be socially and environmentally responsible. Publishes the newsletter, The Corporate Examiner.

International Forum on Globalization — Begun as an alliance of over 60 scholars, activists and writers, the IFG has sponsored important conferences to evaluate the social and environmental impact of globalization. They have published numerous booklets. Their website features worthwhile resources on the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, among others.

International Labor Organization — The ILO is the UN agency that promotes internationally recognized human and labor rights. The organization maintains a searchable website on labor issues of all kinds, such as child labor, and includes useful articles, links, and reports.

International Labor Rights Forum — The ILRF is a nonprofit organization that takes action on behalf of working people, and creates innovative programs and enforcement mechanisms to protect workers’ rights. Current campaigns include child labor, monitoring labor rights in China, sweatshops, forced labor in Burma, and examining IMF/World Bank practices. Provides detailed information on the effects of NAFTA.

Jobs With Justice — A national campaign, with local affiliates, to organize support for workers’ rights struggles. JwJ’s Student Labor Action Project is an initiative focused on supporting student activism around issues of workers’ rights as well as social and economic justice. Extensive information on current campaigns at their website.

MADRE — An international women’s human rights organization that works in partnership with women’s community-based groups in conflict areas worldwide. Our programs address issues of sustainable development, community improvement and women’s health; violence and war; discrimination and racism; self-determination and collective rights; women’s leadership development; and human rights education. MADRE provides resources and training to enable our sister organizations to meet immediate needs in their communities and develop long-term solutions to the crises they face.

Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network — A volunteer network of occupational health and safety professionals providing information, technical assistance and on-site instruction regarding workplace hazards in the over 3,800 “maquiladora” (foreign-owned export-oriented assembly plants) along the U.S.-Mexico border. Their website includes excellent resources and links on maquiladora health and safety issues.

National Labor Committee — NLC’s goal is to “end labor and human rights violations, ensure a living wage tied to a basket of needs, and help workers and their families live and work with dignity” ÷ through education and activism. The organization, under director Charles Kernaghan, has been one of the most effective groups in raising awareness about super-exploitation and horrific conditions in global sweatshops. The National Labor Committee is the producer of some valuable videos and reports on sweatshop and labor rights issues around the world (see, for example, the videos Zoned for Slavery and Mickey Mouse Goes to Haiti).

Teaching for Change — Teaching for Change publishes excellent multicultural, global justice teaching materials, such as the Caribbean Connection series and the widely used Beyond Heroes and Holidays. The Teaching for Change catalog is the single best source for resources to rethink and teach about globalization.

One World International — One World is “a community of organizations working from a range of perspectives and backgrounds to promote sustainable development and human rights.” Described as the “global supersite on sustainable development and human rights,” this is truly an amazing website, filled with photo galleries, news, special country reports, campaigns, and the like.

Oxfam America — Oxfam America is dedicated to creating lasting solutions to hunger, poverty, and social injustice through long-term partnerships with poor communities around the world. Their website features lots of educational materials and links to other global education sites.

Prison Activist Resource Center — The source for progressive and radical info on prisons and the criminal prosecution system.

Rainforest Action Network — RAN works to protect the earth’s rainforests and support the rights of their inhabitants through education, grassroots organizing, and nonviolent direct action. Theirs is a must-visit, comprehensive website that includes a wealth of information, including ideas for activities and activism with students, classroom-friendly fact sheets, and links to indigenous rainforest groups. RAN has a Beyond Oil Campaign that should be of interest to students who are responsive to activities in Rethinking Globalization’s chapter on consumption and the environment.

Resource Center of the Americas — The Resource Center provides information and develops programs that demonstrate connections between people of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States. Over the years they have published a great deal of curriculum in this area. Their website includes an on-line catalog of these and other classroom materials, along with resources on critical issues about the Americas.

Rethinking Schools — Its quarterly journal, Rethinking Schools, is produced largely by classroom teachers with a focus on social justice and equity. The website contains this entire resource list with all website addresses hot-linked, so all you need to do is click on them and you are taken to each site. The Rethinking Schools website also features a number of additional articles on teaching about globalization, including further resources and lesson plans that are mentioned in this book. Rethinking Schools publishes Rethinking Columbus and Rethinking Our Classrooms, volumes 1 and 2.

Schools for Chiapas — An organization working in solidarity with the struggles in Chiapas, Mexico. Mobilizes people and resources to build schools in Chiapas. The organization also sponsors trips to study Spanish and Mayan language and culture in Chiapas. The website features news articles, historical information and other resources.

TransAfrica Forum — TransAfrica Forum provides commentary and scholarship on policy issues related to Africa and the Caribbean. The organization seeks to educate Americans in general, and African Americans in particular, on human rights and global economic policy. Reports on TransAfrica’s website deal with issues such as the Sub-Saharan Africa debt burden, the impact of tourism in the Caribbean, and landmines.

UNITE (Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees) — UNITE was formed by the merger of two of the nation’s oldest unions, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) and the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU). UNITE’s website offers information on campaigns against sweatshops, as well as government and organizational links.

United Farm Workers — Affiliated with the AFL-CIO, the UFW is the oldest and most prominent farm worker union in the United States. Their website includes links, current news articles, updates, and background white papers, such as “Fingers to the Bone: United States Failure to Protect Child Farm Workers,” “Fields of Poisons: California Farm Workers and Pesticides,” “Five Cents for Fairness: The Case for Change in the Strawberry Fields,” “Trouble on the Farm: Growing Up With Pesticides in Agricultural Communities,” and “Pesticides in Our Food and Water.”

UNICEF – United Nations Children’s Fund — UNICEF produces educational materials and distributes funds to children’s programs throughout the world. Their annual The State of the World’s Children provides useful statistics.

Related Articles

Convenient and Inconvenient Youth Voice

Freechild Project retreat participants in Seattle, Washington

Many well-meaning adults who advocate for youth engagement too often consider only those elements of the younger population with which they are familiar. This is comfortable and convenient for adults, but it doesn’t fully address realities regarding young people today.

Identifying aspects of youth engagement as convenient or inconvenient doesn’t convey a value judgment; it simply acknowledges an existing condition.

Convenient Youth Engagement happens whenever adults know who is going to be engaged, what is going to happen, where and when it will happen, and what the outcomes will be. Adults might not have written the whole script for youth engagement, but what’s going to be said is no surprise to them.

Inconvenient Youth Engagement takes place when young people become engaged in ways that aren’t predictable. They share ideas, shout out thoughts, take action or critique harshly. They do things that adults don’t know, understand, approve of or otherwise predict.

The difference between these two situations depends on context, including location, position and circumstance. A young person’s race, socio-economic status, gender, educational attainment or other characteristics frequently determines how engagement is perceived. A particular instance of youth engagement may be heard or ignored, approved or disapproved, praised or penalized by older adults.

 

The Freechild Project Youth/Adult Partnerships Tip Sheet
Check out our FREE Youth/Adult Partnerships Tip Sheet!

 

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The cover of Facing Adultism by Adam Fletcher
Order Facing Adultism by Adam Fletcher.

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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can help improve adult perceptions of youth in your community or organization, contact us.

Youth Political Action Institute

The Freechild Project is excited to announce the availability of our Youth Political Action Institute. Designed to inspire, inform and empower young people ages 12 to 18, Freechild facilitates online workshops with powerful, positive and practical lessons that will change the lives of youth in your community!

Our institute covers five areas:

  • Motivation — Why is it absolutely essential for YOU to take action?!?
  • Knowledge-Sharing — You know what you know; now share it with others!
  • Skill-Building — Developing the POWER to create change is critical.
  • Action Planning — Learning how to DO SOMETHING takes commitment!
  • Reflection — Its not enough to just do stuff. You should learn about action with us.

Call The Freechild Project today to discuss costs, availability and more at (360) 489-9680 or email info@freechild.org.

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Quotes about Youth + Social Change

Freechild Project youth at a summer camp in Seattle

These quotes, both popular and unknown, may prove to be inspiring, thought- provoking insights that can inspire and motivate young people to take Action. Or, they may simply be words of wisdom or advice. Anyway you read them, remember the working motto of the Freechild Institute:

Only through action do words take meaning.

— Freechild Institute motto

Quotes on Social Change

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come to because your liberation is bound up in mine, we can work together.” — Lilla Watson

“I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it’s humiliating. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other and learns from the other. I have a lot to learn from other people.” — Eduardo Galeano

“Washing ones hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”

— Paulo Freire

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

“Yo, activism, attackin’ the system, the blacks and latins in prison Numbers of prison they victim lackin’ in the vision… Sh- — and all they got is rappin to listen to…” — Talib Kweli

“Its much more than being a farmer… you’re out to help people and make this little part of the world farm- able and productive, make your little street or block a better place, make the world healthier.” — A youth participant in GRuB


Quotes on Democracy

“The freedom and human capacities of individuals must be developed to their maximum but individual powers must be linked to democracy in the sense that social betterment must be the necessary consequence of individual flourishing.” — Henry Giroux

“Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.”

― Howard Zinn

“Darkness cannot drive out hate; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long- range risks and costs of comfortable inaction. — John F. Kennedy

“Students should not only be trained to live in a democracy when they grow up; they should have the chance to live in one today.” — Alfie Kohn

“Any situation in which some individuals prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence. The means used are not important; to alienate human beings from their own decision-making is to change them into objects.” – Paulo Freire


Quotes on Education

“It is because modern education is so seldom inspired by a great hope that it so seldom achieves great results. The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young. ” — Bertrand Russell

“Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”

— Malala Yousafzai

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Marianne Williamson, as written for Nelson Mandela.

“Education should not be the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” — William Butler Yeats

“Without the voice of students, schools serve no purpose. They are nothing but institutions where adults run and tell you what you need to know in order to continue this tradition of, this cycle of “we have master’s degrees and we know what’s best for you so just shut up and deal with it.” — High school student, as quoted by Rubin and Silva

“We believe that to confront the challenges our communities face, people- — not just their advocates- — need to define issues and develop strategies for action. [We] foster leadership, literacy and language development among its participants and provides them an enriching job experience that prepares them for college and for careers in community organizing, advocacy and services delivery.” — Youth Action Research Group

“Students do not shed their constitutional rights… at the schoolhouse gate.” Tinker v. Des Moines

“Your life, time, and brain should belong to you, not to an institution.”

— Grace Lwellyn

“Students should not only be trained to live in a democracy when they grow up; they should have the chance to live in one today.” – Alfie Kohn


Quotes on Young People

“If we are to reach real peace in this world… we shall have to begin with children.” — Mahatma Gandhi

“This is a time for bold measures. This is the country, and you are the generation.” — Bono

“You can never stop and as older people, we have to learn how to take leadership from the youth and I guess I would say that this is what I’m attempting to do right now.”

— Angela Davis

“Great changes in the destiny of mankind can be effected only in the minds of little children.” — Sir Herbert Read

“This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.” — Robert Kennedy.

“The secret message communicated to most young people today by the society around them is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely until they — at some distant point in the future — will take over the reigns. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself nicely… because the rest of us need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear down on our difficulties. For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile.” — Alvin Toffler

Children, after all, are not just adults-in-the-making. They are people whose current needs and rights and experiences must be taken seriously. — Alfie Kohn

“We are all creative, but by the time we are three of four years old, someone has knocked the creativity out of us. Some people shut up the kids who start to tell stories. Kids dance in their cribs, but someone will insist they sit still. By the time the creative people are ten or twelve, they want to be like everyone else.” — Maya Angelou

“Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children.” — Albert Camus

“…the anxiety children feel at constantly being tested, their fear of failure, punishment, and disgrace, severely reduces their ability both to perceive and to remember, and drives them away from the material being studied into strategies for fooling teachers into thinking they know what they really don’t know.” — John Holt

“A century that began with children having virtually no rights is ending with children having the most powerful legal instrument that not only recognizes but protects their rights.” — Carol Bellamy on the CRC

“The more we increase the active participation and partnership with young people, the better we serve them. … And the more comprehensively we work with them as service partners, the more we increase our public value to the entire community.” — Carmen Martinez

“This is not class warfare, this is generational warfare. This administration and old wealthy people have declared war on young people. That is the real war that is going on here. And that is the war we’ve got to talk about.”

– James Carville

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person… Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

“The young, free to act on their initiative, can lead their elders in the direction of the unknown… The children, the young, must ask the questions that we would never think to ask, but enough trust must be re-established so that the elders will be permitted to work with them on the answers.” — Margaret Mead


Quotes on Youth Involvement

“Our youth are not failing the system; the system is failing our youth. Ironically, the very youth who are being treated the worst are the young people who are going to lead us out of this nightmare.” — Rachel Jackson

“Rather than standing or speaking for children, we need to stand with children speaking for themselves. We don’t need a political movement for children… [we need to] build environments and policies for our collective future.”

— Sandra Meucci

“If you had a problem in the Black community, and you brought in a group of White people to discuss how to solve it, almost nobody would take that panel seriously. In fact, there’d probably be a public outcry. It would be the same the for women’s issues or gay issues. But every day, in local arenas all the way to the White House, adults sit around and decide what problems youth have and what youth need, without ever consulting us.” — Jason, 17 years old, Youth Force Member, Bronx, NY

“If it is clear youth will be encouraged and listened to, and preparations are well thought out, you are set up for success… Having youth on boards and commissions has been a rewarding experience for everyone involved. Youth feel their voice is valued and that they have an impact on city decisions. Adult members benefit from the fresh perspective, optimism, and enthusiasm youth bring to the table.” — Matt McCarte

“Youth involvement has moved forward. It is no longer seen as a rebellious act, the way it was a few decades ago.” — Maureen A. Sedonaen

“…Youth voice is crucial to the overall effectiveness of service- learning programs. Youth voice has a tremendous impact on program participation and program outcomes, both short term and long term.” — Education Commission of the States

“We all benefit by having young people exposed to the ‘way things are done’ in a democratic society. Isn’t it time… to ‘tap the power of youth?'” — Hans Bernard

“I raise my voice not so that i can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.” ― Malala Yousafzai

“What kind of twisted message do we send when we tell youth they are judged mature, responsible adults when they commit murder, but silly, brainless kids when they want to vote?… Lowering the voting age is the just, fair way to set things straight.” — National Youth Rights Association

“Children learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions.”

 — Alfie Kohn

“There’s a radical – and wonderful – new idea here… that all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world. Its an idea with revolutionary implications. If we take it seriously.” — Deborah Meier


Quotes on Adults

“It used to be believed that the parent had unlimited claims on the child and rights over him. In a truer view of the matter, we are coming to see that the rights are on the side of the child and the duties on the side of the parent.” — William G. Sumner

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“Today’s ephebiphobia is the latest installment of a history of bogus moral panics targeting unpopular subgroups to obscure an unsettling reality: Our worst social crisis is middle- Americans own misdirected fear.” — Mike Males

“The young, no doubt, make mistakes; but the old, when they try to think for them, make even greater mistakes.” ― Bertrand Russell

“I am convinced that most people do not grow up… We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias.” ― Maya Angelou

“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” ― Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

“My message is that we’ll be watching you. This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Yet I am one of the lucky ones. People are suffering.”

― Greta Thunberg

“All I am saying in this book can be summed up in two words: Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” — John Holt


Quotes on Youth

“I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked…” — Allen Ginsberg

“[Did they] use your years to psyche you out; you’re too old to care, you’re too young to count?” — Indigo Girls

“We showed that we are united and that we, young people, are unstoppable.”

— Greta Thunberg

“Don’t criticize what you can’t understand, your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.” — Bob Dylan

“Kids, I wish every mom and dad would make a speech to their teenagers and say, ‘Kids, be free, be whatever you are, do whatever you want to do, just as long as you don’t hurt anybody. And remember kids, I am you friend.'” — from the musical Hair.

“…we condemned them, our children, for seeking a different future. We hated them for their flowers, for their love, and for their unmistakeable rejection of every hideous, mistaken compromise that we had made throughout our hollow, money- bitten, frightened, adult lives. — June Jordan


Protest Slogans

Youth can be the leaders of tomorrow — if we procrastinate.

Ain’t no power like the power of youth cos the power of youth don’t stop!

If you must dream of the world you want to live in, dream out loud!

Youth are the solution — not the problem! Nothing about us without us is for us.


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Activist Learning

Freechild Project youth with picket signs in Seattle

Activist Learning is an intentional strategy for creating knowledge characterized by taking action to realize just relationships that transform unequal power structures in our personal, social, political, environmental, spiritual, and economic lives. This page describes what it is, how it happens, where it occurs and what difference it can make.

This is accomplished by linking critical reflection to activism with intentional opportunities to connect the action to self-reflection, self-discovery, and the creation and comprehension of values, skills, and knowledge.

What is Activist Learning?

Activist Learning can be a youth-only, actively encouraging self-direction and self-education through community activism. Activist Learning with young people can also happen in partnership with adult allies, although in this situation the emphasis should always be on youth-led action, with opportunities for adult-shared learning facilitation optional.

Why Activist Learning?

  • Activist Learning can challenge ideas that educators can deposit knowledge into the empty minds of students by engaging co-learners as the co-creators of knowledge.
  • Activist Learning can engage young people and educators as co-facilitators of learning, encouraging young people to become knowledge creators and adults to become allies.
  • Activist Learning can empower activist/learners to articulate themselves in a way that is relevant to their lives and their roles as agents of change.
  • Activist Learning can move activist/learners from acts of charity and sympathy towards solidarity and allyship.

Activist Learning can allow activist/learners to…

  • Prioritize ethics and a work towards social justice;
  • Challenge the ways schools perpetuate power structures in our society;
  • Support teachers in reflecting on their complicity in this perpetuation;
  • Show students that knowledge is socially constructed – and is not the ‘truth’;
  • Assist students in deconstructing knowledge to see how and why it is that way and whose purposes it serves, teaching them to “read the world differently” and “resist the abuse of power and privilege” that abounds (Henry Giroux, 1991, p. 49);
  • “Create new forms of knowledge through … breaking down disciplinary boundaries and creating new spaces where knowledge can be produced” (Henry Giroux, 1991, p. 50)

Important Concepts

  • Activist Learning — A community learning approach characterized by people taking action to realize a society based on just relationships by seeking to transform unequal power structures in our personal, social, political and economic lives.
  • Adult Ally — Adults in unity or connection with young people in personal relationships, as in friendship or partnership.
  • Collective — Flat organizational structure where the all members of a group are responsible for or involved in making all decisions.  There are no ranks or structures that make one person more powerful than another
  • Community Learning — A knowledge-creating practice in which traditional student-teacher roles are eliminated; co-learners are simultaneously encouraged to facilitate and receive knowledge.
  • Critical Reflection — Thinking about what we are thinking and doing, and then acting on what we have thought about; A circle of learning that promotes continuous action for social justice.
  • Praxis — Bringing together critical reflection and concrete action with/in a community in order to transform it.
  • Social Justice — The practice of putting democracy into daily practice with regard for the social conditions within a community.  Often associated with, but not limited to, racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, poverty, and discrimination against persons with disabilities.
  • Popular Education — A space where young people and adults can learn together to foster a more equitable, just and democratic world. Facilitators use social justice, youth empowerment and active learning to foster and support real, positive and empowering relationships that teach and learn.
  • Solidarity — A union of interests, purposes, or empathies between people; a fellowship of responsibilities and interests.

Elements of Activist Learning

Activist Learning doesn’t just happen. There are critical elements that make Activist Learning the powerful, purposeful tool it is. Here are some of them:

  • Activist Learning develops communities as places that promote radical democracy, where diverse, consensus-based, non-hierarchical and non-discriminatory learning takes place.
  • Activist Learning fosters critical analysis of institutions and social structures, takes responsive action to promote justice and equity, teaches the history of social movements.
  • Activist Learning encourages learning to cross disciplines, issues, cultures and communities in order to foster knowledge creation, challenge and exploration.
  • Activist Learning honors and accentuates life-long learning that engages learners through community-based, innovative and effective pedagogy.
  • Activist Learning uses technology and media as liberating tools that support community needs.

Activist Learning in Schools

Following are a few suggestions for integrating Activist Learning in schools:

  • Organize a class project with all of the elements of Activist Learning.
  • Students can research news stories about social injustice by collecting and analyzing news clippings or Internet printouts that portray unjust sentiments, statements, or actions in their area.
  • Students can collect accounts of protective and supportive acts toward people of color, low-income people, differently-abled people, environmentally sensitive areas, etc.
  • Create a class mission statement about responding to one’s fellow citizens in a productive way. This can be an opportunity to brainstorm and model consensus-building.
  • Assign an essay comparing contemporary events to analogous events in history.
  • Dedicate an hour every week or month for students to locate and read publications written for largely minority audiences (e.g., Asian Week, Hispanic Review, Black Enterprise, Indian Country Today).
  • Work with interested students to form a Student Civil Rights Team in your school. Student Civil Rights Teams work in schools or other settings to teach their peers about prejudice, discrimination, hate crimes, and protecting victims or potential victims.

Activist Learning in Communities

YOUR voice is YOUR power!  You’re an activist, and you know you’re learning!  Around the world people are learning through activism and grabbing hold of learning and owning what they know.

And by the way – you probably aren’t already doing this. Activist Learning requires several important elements named above, and most groups don’t have them all.  But you can, and that’s why we offer these examples.

Young people always learn through activism.  By working with friends and partnering with adult allies, young people are developing powerful, effective Activist Learning projects.  The following are stories of young people learning through activism (click on the heading for the link):

  • Youth Act! Students Testify on Mayor’s Budget – Read this story from 2000 about young people in Washington DC who learned about homeless issues and advocated to the city’s Mayor for change.

  • Global Uprising: Stories of a New Generation of Activists – Read excerpts from this exciting book that documents young activists work today.  The stories on this page include the personal narratives of young people standing up for peace, the environment, and for social justice.

  • Talk to Us. Listen. Take Us Seriously. – Eighteen young people from small communities across America—from the Mississippi Delta to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, the Navajo Nation to the northern California coast—speak about their efforts to promote youth leadership and voice in their schools and communities. They recount their successes while offering pointed advice on ways adults can partner more effectively with kids.

YOU can get inspired, get informed, get active and learn something!  The following websites offer great information to promote young people taking action – all you’ve got to do is make something of it!  You can do that with Activist Learning.

Summary

Young people have increasingly been at the front of rallies, marches, and activism around the world over the last several decades. Children and youth organize, research, educate, analyze, and advocate for change around the world through local, national, and international movements. While this action is powerful and often effective, there has been one component that is usually missing: the intentional learning.

For several years The Freechild Project has been researching youth-led activism in several areas, including environmental activism. Using this research and our own experiences in activism, we have developed an exciting new model for youth engagement in social change work called “Activist Learning.”

We define Activist Learning with young people as an intentional strategy for creating knowledge characterized by taking action to realize just relationships that transforms unequal power structures in our personal, social, political, environmental, spiritual, and economic lives.

Activist Learning is a process that…

  • …develops communities as places that promote radical democracy, where diverse, consensus-based, non-hierarchical and non-discriminatory learning takes place.

  • fosters critical analysis of institutions and social structures, takes responsive action to promote justice and equity, teaches the history of social movements.
  • …encourages learning to cross disciplines, issues, cultures and communities in order to foster knowledge creation, challenge and exploration

  • …honors and accentuates life-long learning that engages learners through community-based, innovative and effective pedagogy
  • …uses technology and media as liberatory tools to support community needs

Elements of Activist Learning include shared assumptions and purposes; negotiated co-learning goals agreed upon among activists; common action and learning (“praxis”); continual critical reflection, and; emphasis on co-learner/community voice.

Activist Learning can be a youth-directed, youth-only activity that encourages self-direction and self-education through community activism. Activist Learning with young people can also happen in partnership with adult allies, although in this situation the emphasis should always be on youth-led action, with opportunities for adult-shared learning facilitation optional.

Activist Learning challenges the idea that educators can deposit knowledge into the empty minds of students by engaging co-learners as the co-creators of knowledge. It engages young people and educators as co-facilitators of learning, encouraging young people to become knowledge creators and adults to become allies. Activist Learning empowers young activist/learners to articulate themselves in a way that is relevant to their lives and their roles as agents of change. Finally, and most importantly to our work, it moves activist/learners from acts of charity and sympathy towards solidarity and allyship.

Recent studies have shown that Activist Learning can allow activist/learners to:

  • Prioritize ethics and a work towards social justice;
  • Challenge the ways schools perpetuate power structures in our society;
  • Support teachers in reflecting on their complicity in this perpetuation;
  • Show students that knowledge is socially constructed – and is not the ‘truth’;
  • Assist students in deconstructing knowledge to see how and why it is that way and whose purposes it serves, teaching them to “read the world differently” and “resist the abuse of power and privilege” that abounds (Henry Giroux, 1991, p. 49);
  • “Create new forms of knowledge through … breaking down disciplinary boundaries and creating new spaces where knowledge can be produced” (Henry Giroux, 1991, p. 50) [From Con/testing Learning Models by Gaell Hildebrand (1999).]

While taking action is powerful, learning from it is even more important. There are millions of people who are working to save the environment and change the world everyday – shouldn’t you make your effort today?


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Urban Youth

Youth in Seattle with a Freechild Project summer camp

Living in a place shouldn’t condemn a person to poor health, weak education, unsafe living conditions or segregation from other races, socio-economic classes and religions. However, in cities around the world urban youth face countless barriers to successful lives. Experience and research shows that these same young people are engaged in substantive activities focused on changing the world, they become empowered, wise and transformative leaders. Urban youth can transform the lives of younger people, their peers, adults and elders living among them and throughout their cities.

There’s no reason why children in inner cities or rural areas do not receive the same quality education or opportunities as those in suburbs or wealthy neighborhoods. If we truly believe in giving all citizens a chance to pursue happiness and pursue their goals, then we cannot continue to marginalize entire groups of people. — Al Sharpton

 

Ways Urban Youth are Changing the World

Youth Leadership — When urban youth are needed to fill in gaps, or where adults refuse the power of youth, youth leadership can be a substantive tool for communities. Building skills sets like communication, problem-solving, change management and peaceful negotiations, urban youth leadership programs, activities and organizations can be beacons of hope.

Youth as Mentors — Providing positive, intentional role models is an important task urban youth can excel through. Whether mentoring with younger children or adults, young people can build trust, mutual investment, and meaningful interactions into the daily lives of their mentees, and learn from them, too.

Youth Media Makers — Learning how to make media that reflects their communities’ true realities without sensationalizing, glorifying or otherwise manipulating circumstances, urban youth media makers can change the world. Its vital to use the media popular within a community to reach that community and beyond, whether on the Internet, through video or print, or via texting.

 

"Precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience you must find yourself at war with your society." - James Baldwin

 

Things Urban Youth Need to Change the World

Education — Education in cities should focus on developing a strong commitment within children and youth to transforming their urban communities from within, and changing the entire world. They should learn about urban transformation, economic development, cultural enrichment, community building and youth-led activism.

Funding — Urban youth deserve every opportunity to build their communities, progress their lives and build social justice simply because they live in cities. However, simply because they live in cities they often don’t have access to the fiscal resources of other young people. Foundations, government agencies and other funders should provide specific, sustained and substantial funding opportunities for urban young people to change the world.

Inspiration —  Living in poverty, struggling with family / gender / gang violence, and experiencing daily discrimination and fighting community depression can challenge the strongest people. Children and youth face the outcomes far more than adults. Inspiration and motivation for understanding they can change  the world in positive ways; have meaningful, positive effects on their communities; and see relevant outcomes that affect their lives and their families can be absolutely essential.

 

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Rural Youth

A learner who is homeschooling for social change

Growing up in small villages and towns or on farms and in other rural areas can present young people with considerable challenges. However, rural youth can be vital to transforming their communities, building ownership and engaging young people to stop the rural brain drain.

There’s no reason why children in inner cities or rural areas do not receive the same quality education or opportunities as those in suburbs or wealthy neighborhoods. If we truly believe in giving all citizens a chance to pursue happiness and pursue their goals, then we cannot continue to marginalize entire groups of people. — Al Sharpton

 

Ways Rural Youth are Changing the World

Youth as Recruiters — Building their own opportunities to transform their environments is essential to children and youth engagement. After they’ve planned engaging programs and activities, young people can recruit their peers, younger people and adults. As facilitators, evaluators and decision-makers throughout their communities, rural youth can change the world.

Youth as Mentors — Engaging youth as mentors can allow children, other youth and adults in rural to become meaningfully influential and purposeful. Substantive activities for rural youth can focus on fostering community, building youth/adult partnerships and transforming organizations, schools and rural areas.

Servant Leadership — Learning to lead others can mean learning to serve, too. Servant leadership can build the humility, empowerment and engagement of young people throughout rural areas in unique ways. They can become more capable and involved than before, and can develop the ability to meet the needs of their areas in unique and important ways.

 

"It's a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with." - Pete Seeger

 

Things Rural Youth Need to Change the World

Training — Learning practical skills and relevant knowledge they can apply to change rural communities is essential for children and youth. Whether focusing on communication, teambuilding, networking, problem-solving or change management, young people can be essential partners for community development in rural areas.

Technology — Weaving together the power and potential of young people in rural areas can be easier through technology. Cell phones, texting, social media and the Internet can be powerful tools to reach across broad distances and other barriers.

Inspiration — Discovering the roots of action and finding motivation to take action can move young people from being passive recipients of adult actions towards becoming active partners in social change.

 

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Youth and Food

Freechild Project youth making a trail

Whether they’re hungry for any food, healthy food, or to end food injustice, youth and food are bound together like beans growing up a corn stalk. In homes, neighborhoods, schools, villages, towns and cities around the world, young people are changing the world through thoughtful, productive and engaged action focused on food production, food consumption, food quality and food waste.

“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” ― Ann Wigmore

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through Food

Youth as Teachers — Young people can change the world by starting in their schools, homes and communities, teaching their siblings, peers, younger children, parents and adults about food, food-related issues and more.

Youth as Farmers — Raising the food they eat can allow children and youth to be more invested, educated and engaged in their health and wellness. Learning, growing and harvesting their own fruits and vegetables, meats and other foods can empower young people in tremendous ways, causing their world to be healthier and more connected than ever.

Youth-Led Community Organizing — Working together with their families, their peers and their neighbors, young people can organize their communities to change the world through food. They can lead community gardens, advocate for healthy foods in food deserts, or teach healthy nutrition courses for their peers.

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Food

Education — Learning about the food they eat, including where its from, how its raised, what it does to their bodies and how it affects their communities can significantly improve the abilities of young people. They can learn which food is the safest and most powerful for their health, well-being and their communities’ sustainability.

Training — Young people can build the skills and abilities they need to change the world through food with training focused on applicable skills. They can learn farming skills, nutritional teaching information, assessment skills and other information. By becoming trainers of trainers, children and youth can also transform the food cultures they live in everyday.

Technology — Young people can learn about food, nutrition, food deserts and related issues through technology. Social media, videos, email, texting and other tools can empower, engage and educate children and youth. Changing the world through food can happen thoroughly, quickly and meaningfully.

 

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Youth and Nonprofits

Whether working locally, nationally or internationally, almost every single nongovernmental organization, also called nonprofit organizations, should rely on children and youth in their daily activities, including staffing, leadership, evaluation and more. Youth and nonprofits are tied together through their mutual energy, commitment and passion; however, the onus is on adults for engaging youth and not vice versa.

If you had a problem in the Black community, and you brought in a group of White people to discuss how to solve it, almost nobody would take that panel seriously. In fact, there’d probably be a public outcry. It would be the same the for women’s issues or gay issues. But every day, in local arenas all the way to the White House, adults sit around and decide what problems youth have and what youth need, without ever consulting us. — Jason, 17 years old, Youth Force Member, Bronx, NY

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through Nonprofits

Youth as Board Members — Young people can be vital and integral to organizational leadership. Every nonprofit should engage youth on their board of directors; local and international youth-focused NGOs should have at least one half of all board seats assigned to full-voting, regular youth membersMutual mentoring and adult champions of youth engagement must be strategically developed in order to ensure longevity and effectiveness.

Youth-Led Programs — Creating obvious, powerful and significant opportunities for young people to lead their own programs is another way youth can change the world through nonprofits. Working across many issues that are important to themselves, local and international communities, and with many different technologies both in-person and online, youth-led programs can be educational, social, cultural and empowering.

Youth as Founders — When adults aren’t responsive; when young people see the need; and when there’s authentic determination focused on changing the world, children and youth need to start nonprofits. As social entrepreneurs, young people can create and grow dynamic, responsive and engaging operations focused on meeting unmet needs and fostering social change around the world.

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Nonprofits

Training — Children and youth who become involved in operating nonprofits and NGOs need substantial training and technical assistance to be consistently effective, engaged and empowered staff and leaders. Training should focus on practical, applicable skills for their positions, while educational opportunities should development their knowledge relevant to the missions they are trying to accomplish and the visions at their core.

Inspiration — With the vast majority of NGOs being adult-led, adult-driven and adult-oriented (including youth-serving nonprofits) young people sometimes need inspiration and motivation to take action. Providing examples of youth action in organizations; offering meaningful opportunities for action; and creating new approaches to engaging youth as leaders and staff can all provide motivation.

Funding Foundations, philanthropists and funders of all stripes should provide substantial and sustained funding to support youth engagement in the operation of NGOs and nonprofits, and make this funding the normal and regular expectation of all youth-serving organizations. Infusing funding opportunities with this is key for the future of youth engagement, and anything less than this is disingenuous and inauthentic at best.

 

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Youth and Foster Care

Youth are changing the world right now.

Despite how they’re often treated, young people in the foster care system are powerful beyond measure. Even though they rarely have significant and meaningful opportunities to share their concerns and ideas or make meaningful decisions about the systems that control their lives, youth and foster care often need each other. Transforming foster care by empowering children and youth in foster care is absolutely vital. Rather than focusing on speaking for children and youth or doing things to children and youth, the foster care system should take action with young people to improve the system and outcomes.

Don’t try to silence me or my thoughts on being adopted. I have a voice, and everything I say is the truth and valid. I have been through it, therefore, I know. This is my story. — Source unknown

 

Ways Youth can Change the World through Foster Care

Youth as Decision-Makers — Young people in foster care should have substantial opportunities to make decisions for themselves. Adults should teach children and youth healthy and successful decision-making skills, and facilitate decision-making for every children and youth in foster care to experience personal, group and systemic decision-making, too.

Youth Evaluation — Positioning youth as evaluators can provide meaningful, applicable and real ways to change the world through foster care. Whether evaluating their placements, support services, counselors or other individuals and activities that affect them directly, or integrating them throughout community-wide evaluation activities, young people in foster care can share powerful assessments of their world.

Community Youth Development — In addition to teaching foster youth independent living skills, it is essential they learn how to rely on others throughout their communities in healthy, supportive and empowering ways. Interdependent living skills can be learned through community youth development strategies that are designed to integrate foster children and foster youth throughout their communities, whether geographic, cultural or otherwise.

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Foster Care

Opportunities — Foster care is an adult-driven system with adult-determined goals operated by adults for the benefit of adults, all focused on children and youth. Young people need substantial, relevant and meaningful opportunities to affect the system. These should not be tokenistic, belittling, demeaning, manipulative or otherwise negative. Instead, they should be equitable, geared towards youth/adult partnerships and transformative for everyone involved, including children, youth and adults.

Training — Whether they’re learning how to transform foster care in group homes, in nonprofits, through government programs, with foundations, or through the media, children and youth in foster care should have significant training. Their skills should be developed to ensure successful action, while their knowledge should be shared to encourage meaningful personal development.

Technology — Using every technology available to them, children and youth in foster care can change the world. Texting can increase communication and community building among youth in foster care, while social media can help ensure that foster childrens’ voices are heard. Building websites and forming organizations online can further systemic goals focused on youth engagement, while access to the Internet can be a building block for further action.

 

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