A Review of The Terror of Neoliberalism: Authoritarianism and the Eclipse of Democracy

A review of The Terror of Neoliberalism: Authoritarianism and the Eclipse of Democracy by Henry Giroux

Every person who works with young people should know that politics is more than the Democrats or who you are voting for in the next election. Much more. Dozens of people have spent hundreds of hours speaking and thousands of pages writing to explain how politics underscores everything that we–as individuals and as a society–do every moment of every day of our lives. This kind of politics helps us make up our minds about what clothes to wear to work; what job to work at; who we work for; and, most importantly to youth workers and educators, what work we actually do.

A new book illustrates how a hellacious political reality is actually altering the society we live in right now. In The Terror of Neoliberalism: Authoritarianism and the Eclipse of Democracy, scholar Henry Giroux outlines how neoliberalism – the belief that the private sector should be wholly responsible for the public good – is about more than money. Throughout this book, Giroux explains how neoliberalism is actually a set of values, ideologies, and practices that is actively recreating America today–for the worse. Of course, CNN, the presidential elections, and the never-ending war in Iraq have proven that the political and economic reality of democracy in the US has changed. But Giroux exposes a more terrifying plot.

Neoliberalism is changing the very meaning of democracy today. Where democracy once depended on people becoming socially and politically involved throughout their communities, today that is an option. The schools, youth programs, community centers, and agencies where many young people spend the majority of their days have lost their place at the table of democratic importance. Do you want to understand the onslaught of high-stakes testing in schools? The defunding of programs for children and youth? The ongoing newspaper stories about so-called youth apathy? The seeming disregard for children and youth that fills our communities today?

Giroux cites the resistance against neoliberalism in all of its forms around the world today. The work of The Freechild Project, the mass movement against globalization, and the struggle for social justice in education each epitomize the struggle; but individually none summarizes the whole effort. Giroux writes, “…[Activism is] not limited to identity politics focused on particularized rights and interests.” Instead, the interests of young people and their communities, as well as those of the anti-globalization movement and many others are put into the larger context of building democracy. As Giroux explains,

“Democracy in this view is not limited to the struggle over economic resources and power; indeed, it includes the creation of public [places] where individuals can be educated as political agents equipped with the skills, capacities, and knowledge they need…”


With that premise established early in the book, Giroux proceeds to dissect and examine the realities of neoliberalism. He details the ability of the government to extinguish the capacity of society to make significant change in society by examining the effects of September 11, 2001, and the militarization of America. Giroux also outlines how neoliberalism has created a “new racism,” evidenced by the corporate powers that control law enforcement, education systems, and increasingly, community governments.

However, with his emphasis of the effects of neoliberalism across the spectrum, Giroux pulls a coup by reintroducing his ongoing analysis of youth in the US today with a chapter entitled, “Class Casualties: Disappearing Youth in the Age of Market Fundamentalism. What the chapter essentially proposes is that children and youth are subject to the whims of society, despite (or because of) the reality that young people “embody the project dreams, desires, and commitment of a society’s obligations to the future.”

With this premise, Giroux sketches out how the American War Against Youth continues, as the programs and services which once benefited children and youth are slashed across the board, and as popular culture increasingly erases any optimistic expectations society may have of young people. Giroux explains,

“Rather than being cherished as a symbol of the future, youth are now seen as a threat to be feared and a problem to be contained… Youth are currently being framed as both a generation of suspects and a threat to public life.”


Giroux details how “the ongoing war against justice, freedom, citizenship, and democracy” is focused at young people today. He thoroughly explores how curfews, physical searches, profiling, and drug testing are heaved upon schools, youth programs, and communities as solutions to the “youth problem.” Poverty, childcare, healthcare, and education are all challenges that must be meant by an ever-growing private sector.

Meanwhile, the number of children and youth who struggle to survive in low-income communities and communities of color grows, while federal policies increasingly legitimize “tough love” policies for all of America’s youth. Giroux also examines how juvenile detention for youth and lock-up rooms for 8-year-olds typify the norm, not the exception. This is neoliberalism at work in the lives of young people today.

Neoliberalism is seeping “into every aspect of American life… It thrives on a culture of cynicism, insecurity, and despair.” But the solution is as complex as the problem. “Democracy is too weak,” Giroux quotes Benjamin Barber as saying. When culture combines with politics to become entertainment (Giroux says think of the California governor), and when corporate powers– instead of the democracy– control the media, we’ve got a serious problem. And it is not an issue of whether education (and youth programs, or community organizations) has “become contaminated with politics; it is more importantly about recognizing that education is already a space of politics, power, and authority.”

Giroux proposes that we, as young people, youth workers, and educators “appropriate, invent, direct, and control” the politics within our efforts. Whether you facilitate after school activities, work with youth-led community organizing programs, or teach in a middle school classroom, you have the opportunity– or more appropriately, the responsibility– to “work against a politics of certainty, a pedagogy of censorship, and an institutional formation that closes down rather than opens up democratic relations.”

The one of his most directive moments yet, Giroux implores educators to “teach students to be skilled citizens… learn how to use the Freedom of Information Act, know constitutional rights, build coalitions, write policy papers, learn the tools of democracy, analyze social problems, or learn how to make a difference in one’s life through individual and social engagements.”

In the final chapter of this book Giroux deeply explores the implications of the work of Edward Said, renowned a renowned theorist, activist, and author. Giroux explores the implications of Said’s work on neoliberalism, sighting his recognition that “the war on terror has become a rationale for a war on democracy… against any movement that fights for justice, liberty, and equality…” Giroux offers Said’s life and work as a “model and inspiration for what it means to take back politics, social agency, collective struggle, and the ability to define the future.” He repeats Said’s call for “academics, students, and other cultural workers” to activate, mobilize, organize, and agitate society by “educating the public to think and act as active citizens in an inclusive democracy.”

But the conclusion the book holds the gauntlet over our heads, collectively, as people who are committed to young people, social change, and justice. Giroux cites Said’s call for groups to “put aside their petty squabbling over identities and differences and to join together collectively… [as a] coalition against those forces of totalitarianism lite, without anyone much noticing, or for that matter complaining.” This call for awakeness resonates with Dr. Martin Luther King’s message in his final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, where he wrote:

“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.”

In The Terror of Neoliberalism Henry Giroux reissues this call, reemphasizes Said’s mission, and issues a new demand for all of us to become active, engaged, and effective allies in our collective struggles against neoliberalism, and for democracy. It is up to you to hear this call.


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Check Your Perspective exercise by The Freechild Project

Here are some terms that The Freechild Project has found can be essential to supporting young people in changing the world.

  • Action: The power of any young person to do things to change their own lives or change the world. Learn more »
  • Activism: Any attempt led by young people designed to create change in a community, school, government or other area. Learn more »
  • Activist Learning: An approach to learning through changing the world. Learn more »
  • Adult: Any person identified by society as an adult; usually over 18, 21, or 25; or a person outside the age of majority. Learn more »
  • Adultcentrism: The practice of regarding adult, including their opinions, interests and actions, above young peoples’ opinions, interests and action.
  • Adultism: Bias towards adults that results in discrimination against youth. Schools, lawmaking, movies and music all reflect adults’ interests and perceptions. Even young people can unconsciously share adults’ perceptions of young people. Learn more »
  • Adultization: The elimination of childhood and adolescence by schools, marketers and parents in order to promote order and eliminate the “inconvenience” of youth.
  • Adultocracy: A governing system that assumes power should be concentrated in the hands of adult members of society; the collection of obvious and inobvious tools adults use to impose their authority, domination and superiority over children and youth.
  • Age: An anniversary of birth.
  • Age of majority: The age at which a person is granted by law the rights (as ability to sue) and responsibilities – (as liability under contract) of an adult.
  • Ageism: Discrimination based on age. Learn more »
  • Censorship: Restricting access to information or limiting/eliminating freedom of speech. Learn more »
  • Child abuse: Any violence—physical, emotional, social, moral, etc.—against a person because they are a child.
  • Children’s liberation: Freeing children from bondage they feel is imposed upon them by adults.
  • Children’s rights: Civil and human rights of children who have not yet reached adolescence; also, any right ordained by any common usage or ethics process of such a person.
  • Cities: The highly developed urban environment where young people live, work, learn and play everyday. Learn more »
  • Civic engagement: Strong feelings of connection individuals make between themselves and the larger society in which they belong. Learn more »
  • Commercialism: Manufacturing and distribution of objects and traits that were formerly free to young people, particularly in the forms of education and culture. Learn more »
  • Consumerism: The process of identifying, training and transforming young people into complacent consumers rather than dissatisfied citizens. Learn more »
  • Criminalization: A formal and informal process that makes young people or their specific actions illegal, particularly when young people or their actions were legal in the past. Learn more »
  • Corporal punishment: Causing somebody pain in order to punish them. Learn more »
  • Critical pedagogy: Learning through justice, community and empowerment. Learn more »
  • Critical thinking: Purposefully examining multiple perspectives. Learn more »
  • Cruising: Driving a car in a leisurely fashion for social purposes.
  • Culture: The shared expressions of young people within a society. Learn more »
  • Curfew: An order, rule or law that after a certain time a particular activity stops. Learn more »
  • Decoration: When young people are used to make a situation look sufficient, often without their consent or knowledge.
  • Democratic schools: Learning communities in which students experience democratic norms in order to learn about democracy. Learn more »
  • Demonization: The process for making young people evil in order to justify attacking them in the forms of character assassination, legal action and to get rid of their civil liberties.
  • Discrimination: Whenever someone makes a decision that does not include other people. Everyone discriminates all the time, and that is not always bad; also means treating an individual or group unfairly because of a predetermined judgment or their value, beliefs, action or otherwise. Learn more »
  • Drug testing: A biological test to determine the presence of alcohol or drugs within a person.
  • Drinking age: A defined age at which a person can consume, purchase or be in possession of alcohol.
  • Driving age: A defined age at which a person can operate a motor vehicle.
  • Education: The transmission of values, culture, beliefs and knowledge, deliberately or otherwise. Learn more »
  • Elected office: A governmental position obtained through voting. Learn more »
  • Emancipation: A parent’s relinquishing authority and control over a minor child; also, a court upholding a child’s petition to force the parent to relinquish authority and control.
  • Empowerment: An increase in a person’s social, emotional, spiritual, political or educational ability. Learn more »
  • Engagement: The emotional, psychological, physiological or other connection a person feels towards a person, place, thing, activity, or outcome. Learn more »
  • Ephebiphobia: The fear of youth. Learn more »
  • Gerontocracy: Older people dominating the governance of institutions or governments in order to benefit.
  • Gerontophobia: The fear of older people.
  • Home: Any place a young person finds family, whether their birth family, chosen family or otherwise. Home can only be identified by the child or youth and not assigned to them by adults. Learn more »
  • Homeless: Young people who don’t have a home. Learn more »
  • Homeschooling: Structured learning happening away from a formal school environment, usually in a house. Learn more »
  • In loco parentis: Control over students legally appointed to schools; literally means “in absence of parents”.
  • Infantalization: Whenever a person is made unable or assumed to be incapable of something because of their age, presumed development, or education. Making a person feel, act, think, believe or otherwise become younger than they are.
  • Intergenerational equity: Parity among all ages that sustains total participation throughout society. Learn more »
  • Internet: The online environment young people occupy for connectivity, learning, gaming and more. Learn more »
  • Jeunism: Preferring young people because they are young, and in turn, discriminating against adults (also called Youthism).
  • Loitering: To delay or procrastinate, often by occupying one place for too long
  • Manipulation: When adults exert influence over young people in order to gain for themselves. Learn more »
  • Maturity: The degree to which a person has developed (without regard to age); A perceived notion of above tied more to a person’s age than their actual maturity
  • Militarization: The process where young people and the procedures they participate in become overtly manipulated or controlled by the military or administered in a military fashion.
  • Military conscription: The forced participation of people in the military that is disproportionately focused on young people (also called The Draft).
  • National service: Contributing to a national identity or belonging by volunteering energy, action, ideas or otherwise. Learn more »
  • Paternalism: The notion that by “protecting” children and youth, adults are preventing young people from harming themselves.
  • Pediaphobia: The fear of children. Learn more »
  • Rural: The non-developed or agricultural countryside where young people live, work, learn and play. Learn more »
  • Status offense: An act which is only considered criminal when committed by a minor.
  • School reform: Intentionally changing schools to promote improved teaching, learning, accountability or outcomes. Learn more »
  • Student rights: The inherent freedoms and responsibilities of learners within an educational setting. Learn more »
  • Student voice: The unique perspectives, ideas, actions and knowledge of learners within an educational setting. Learn more »
  • Tokenism: Whenever young people are included in order to make it appear that young people are participating; occurs exclusive of meaningful participation. Learn more »
  • Unschooling: Releasing all aspects of formal education, unschooling is a way of living that allows young people to learn by their own devices without adult control. Learn more »
  • Voting rights: The ability of a person to share their formal opinion about an issue, for a representative, or otherwise within a group setting. Learn more »
  • Voting age: The formal age determining the right to vote. Learn more »
  • Youth/adult partnerships: Informal or formal relationships between people recognized as youth and as adults designed to foster equity between partners. Learn more »
  • Youth infusion: An essential approach to fully entwine youth throughout communities, organizations and society. Learn more »
  • Youth liberation: The complete emancipation of young people from adultism, adultcentrism and adultocracy. Learn more »
  • Youth rights: Distinct civil and human rights afforded to people people between the ages of 12 and 18, or otherwise according to an organization or government’s agenda. Learn more »

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Youth and Personal Development

SoundOut Student Voice Team in Seattle

As young people grow up, they build skills and knowledge that are important to them as youth, and that become more important as they become more independent and grow older. Becoming fully engaged in the world around themselves leaves youth and personal development as important things to think about and work towards.

You are free to choose but you are not free from the consequences of your choices. – Proverb


Some of the issues young people can address through personal development include:

  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Learning new skills, including communication, visioning and goal setting, life planning, etc.
  • Developing self-respect and self-esteem
  • Building strengths and talents
  • Identifying employability
  • Enhancing quality of life
  • Improving health
  • Enriching social abilities
  • Fostering independent living skills such as educational planning, money management, bill paying, etc.
  • Managing transitions and rites-of-passage


Youth personal development can happen a lot of different ways. They include self-led learning, communication training, action to develop skills, self-motivation, and group activities.


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Youth and Nonviolence and Peace

Freechild Project Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre

Long playing pivotal roles in the movement,  youth and nonviolence and peace are inextricably wound together. From ancient history to modern times, from Gandhi and Dr. King’s young activists and beyond, young people have been employing nonviolence against oppression on the frontlines of social change in many ways.

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


Ways Youth are Changing the World through Nonviolence and Peace

Youth as Community Organizers — Young people are organizing their communities to challenge a variety of issues – including Black Lives Matter, school reform, and community development – using nonviolent protest. They are also  rallying against war through youth/adult partnerships and active campaigns targeting legislation and other areas.

Youth and Incarceration — Young people who are engaged in restorative justice programs in schools are changing the world through nonviolence and peace. After significant training and education, these children and youth lead their own processes and develop their own outcomes in response to issues.

Youth Rights — Working in federal congresses, state legislatures, provincial ministries, city halls and other political arenas around the world, young people are launching unprecedented nonviolent youth rights campaigns around the world. The Freechild Project has found there are more current movements for youth voice, Meaningful Student Involvement, youth suffrage and other issues right now than at any point in history.


Things Youth Need to Change the World through Nonviolence and Peace

Education — Learning about nonviolence and peace is more than action-oriented training, although that’s part of it. Educational activities should also focus on history and give applied learning opportunities, as well as reflection and critical thinking about nonviolence and peace.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — In places that have violent social norms and / or systems that promote violence, adult allies can support youth directly throughout youth/adult partnerships. Focusing on mutual mentoring and other substantive, visible actions, these intentional relationships can create new social norms and foster powerful systems change supporting nonviolence.

Opportunities — Almost across the board, children and youth live daily violence no matter where they live. Sometimes that violence is physical and visual; other times its psychological and emotional. Young people need substantial opportunities to learn, live and grow nonviolence throughout their lives and communities.


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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 support youth engagement in nonviolence and peace through your community or organization, contact us.

Holistic Youth Development

Holistic Youth Development

Holistic Youth Development is a way to think about the ways children and youth grow, learn, and evolve while they are young. It includes activities, cultures and structures that strengthen the entire young person. Instead of treating children and youth as a specific age number interested in a single topic during one time of the day, week, month or year, holistic youth development sees the entire young person all of the time, from birth to adulthood. More people today understand that child development and youth development does not happen in a straight line. Instead, it is all over for different young people, and is driven by the ecology surrounding children and youth. That ecology includes the adults, other young people, the environment, social and economic realities, culture, and many more parts.

I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self. ― Audre Lorde


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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 support youth engagement in holistic youth development in your community or organization, contact us.

Youth Mainstreaming

Freechild Project youth in a summer camp session

Youth mainstreaming is deliberately creating places and positioning young people throughout society in order to foster full, regular and normalized youth voice everywhere, all of the time. It can happen at home, in schools, business, government, nonprofit organizations, places of worship, and other places. Elected officials, teachers, youth workers, parents, ministers, and many other people can benefit when the voices of youth, including their knowledge, ideas, wisdom and thoughts are actively embedded in decision-making, research, teaching, evaluation, policymaking, and advocacy. Youth mainstreaming is all of this and more, and all of it can change the world.


Ways Youth Mainstreaming Can Change the World

Government Agencies — Local, regional, federal and international policymaking organizations can all facilitate youth mainstreaming throughout their functions, from the broad policymaking actions to everyday, operational activities including program facilitation, research, evaluation, and other actions. Policies, procedures, funding and outcomes should all be part of youth mainstreaming activities in these organizations.

Education Systems — On the federal, regional and district levels, youth mainstreaming can revolutionize learning, teaching and leadership throughout schools. Youth mainstreaming in education takes the form of engaging students in every action throughout the education system. It also means changing the roles of students and educators by fostering youth/adult partnerships for every student in every school at every grade level all of the time.

Local Nonprofit Organizations — Local nonprofits / NGOs work on the village, town, city and county levels to address critical community needs in education, public safety, health, the environment, and countless other areas. Infusing children and youth throughout every single part of their operations can lead these organizations to greater degrees of effectiveness in many ways.


Things Needed for Youth Mainstreaming to Change the World

Strategy — Perhaps more than any other strategy for young people to change the world, youth mainstreaming depends on deliberate strategies for success. Identifying where and when youth voice should be engaged; educating others about youth mainstreaming; determining different approaches to fostering youth/adult partnerships within systems; creating policies and procedures for mainstreaming; evaluating outcomes; and identifying next steps are all important. Once these strategic steps have been taken, practical action and reflection should begin as soon as possible.

Education — Youth mainstreaming requires addressing all three pillars of social change: individual attitudes; shared cultures; and specific systems. In order to spread ownership, foster support and sustain commitment, educating people about the types of changes that happen within those pillars is essential. Because youth mainstreaming is a responsive approach, education for each area should be different, as organizations vary in their scope, activities and outcomes.

Opportunities — Creating opportunities for youth mainstreaming requires organizational leadership, a program champion and youth advocates. These opportunities require substantive commitments of resources, including staffing, training, supplies and other tools, including sustained and appropriate funding.


Youth Mainstreaming by The Freechild Project

The Freechild Project Youth Mainstreaming Guide >>


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Service Learning

Freechild Project youth and adults working together in Seattle

Service learning weaves classroom learning with real community needs. Working with adults as partners, students must identify challenges, research the issues, identify and create strategies, facilitate action, and infuse reflection throughout activities. Some service learning programs position students in each strategy to enhance youth/adult partnerships through service. Others tie together youth throughout communities in order to build stronger connections, an ethic of service, and mutually beneficial relationships between youth and adults.

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


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Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is analyzing, integrating and evaluating what you experience, read, hear and understand. Youth can change the world when they use critical thinking to decide whether someone’s opinions, ideas or wisdom is just, fair and right.

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically… Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education. — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Ways Youth are Changing the World through Critical Thinking

Youth Media Making — In order to challenge adult apathy, disregard and adultism, young people around the world are making media that reflects their perspectives and realities. By creating newspapers, websites, videos and other media, youth are countering negative perceptions and standing up for themselves.

Youth as Evaluators — Young people are learning how to think critically by evaluating the programs, activities, businesses, communities and other settings where they spend their time, money and energy. They are developing assessments, conducting research and developing sophisticated analyses of the challenges and realities in their communities every day.

Youth-Led Activism — Rallying their peers, younger people and adults, youth activists are conducting active, engaging campaigns to transform society right now. Through organized, directed and deliberate activism campaigns, youth are critically thinking and engaging in the world around them right now.


"Only through actions do words take power." - Freechild Project motto


Things Youth Need to Change the World through Critical Thinking

Opportunities — Children and youth need practical, tangible and daily opportunities to learn and practice critical thinking. With adults as allies, young people can turn home, school and the community into laboratories of practice for critical thinking. At home, families can practice critical thinking through discussions and connectivity; in classes, teachers can challenge students to critique sources, knowledge and ideas; throughout the community, young people can question everything, everywhere by reflecting on what is presented, whether or not it matters and what can be done with it, for it or towards it.

Education — Developing individual and group critical thinking skills and abilities happens through education and opportunities. Whether led by young people among themselves or through youth/adult partnerships, critical thinking education can be nestled into any issue or action, topic or subject. Conscious reflection and examination can lead learners and teachers towards understanding, engagement and meaning.


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How to Start Engaging Children and Youth by Adam Fletcher

Youth/Adult Partnerships

Youth/Adult Partnerships: Nothing About Us Without Us Is For Us

At the middle of every part of society are relationships: Parents and children, teachers and students, businesses and consumers, politicians and voters, doctors and patients, and many other relationships. If people are honest about wanting young people to change the world, they need to admit that many of these relationships do not currently allow children and youth to make a difference. The framework provided by youth/adult partnerships does. These are intentional relationships that can happen anywhere, anytime and move young people from being the passive recipients of an adult-driven world towards being active partners everywhere, all the time.

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, anthropologist

Ways Youth can Change the World through Youth/Adult Partnerships

Youth as Allies — Young people can develop compassion and understanding towards adults and offer themselves as resources in order to foster positive relationships. Youth being adults to allies can teach about adultism, practice nonviolent communication, and become actively engaged throughout their own lives.

Parenting Partners — In historical family models, parents and children assumed a binary relationship where each person was seen as an opposite. Youth as parenting partners are actively engaged in their own upbringing by being actively involved in decision-making and taking responsibility in proportion to the rights they experience. Parents who are parenting partners actively seek to engage children and youth in the family and throughout the home, and actively advocate for young people throughout the community, too.

Youth-Led Programming — Youth/adult partnerships can flourish in youth-led programming. Equitable training, planning, facilitation, reflection and critical thinking can position youth as substantial agents of change while allowing adults to have appropriate roles as mentors, co-planners and staff.

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Youth/Adult Partnerships

Critical Thinking — Critical thinking is being able to name a thing; seeing where it exists; doing something with it; taking it apart; summarizing it; and/or assessing the thing. When young people deliberately develop their abilities to doing these things, they can change the world through their beliefs and actions that happen as an outcome. Critical thinking can be fostered and grown into a powerful skill that youth/adult partnerships can embody, foster and embolden in healthy and appropriate ways.

Opportunities — Creating clear, practical opportunities for youth/adult partnerships can happen in schools, youth programs, nonprofit organizations, government agencies any other place that can benefit from meaningful youth involvement. Understanding youth/adult partnerships as a framework can empower adults and youth throughout society.

Education — The skills of trust, communication, respect, mutual investment, and meaningful involvement are at the center of youth/adult partnerships; intentionality, transparency and reciprocity drive these relationships. Learn all of this provides an opportunity and challenge for many young people and adults who are used to traditionally passive or adversarial interactions with each other.

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Youth and Adults

Adult allies of youth explore what they need to learn for themselves.

Young people live in an adult world. Youth and adults constantly interact, react and have transactions with each other. Reliant on adults for basic needs, advanced needs, and most wants in-between, for a long time children and youth were forced to accept whatever adults gave them. However, more than ever before, adults are recognizing that young people today should be allowed to choose how they interact with adults.


Ways Youth Can Change the World with Adults

Youth Facing Adultism — In schools, communities and homes throughout the world, adults act arbitrarily and with contempt for children and youth. Social customs, government laws and official systems have been developed in most nations to ensure young people act how, when, where and why adults want them to. Youth fighting adultism challenge the assumptions behind adultism, which is bias towards adults.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — When young people and adults form intentional relationships based on trust, transparency, mutual investment and meaningful involvement, they can form youth/adult partnerships. Youth/adult partnerships position both adults and youth as equitable partners who contribute to the growth of each other in practical, positive and purposeful ways. They can happen anywhere in our society.

Youth as Mentors — When adults decide they are mature enough to learn from young people, they can seek youth as mentors. In this capacity, adults can gain new knowledge, challenge old assumptions and develop their skills as teachers, police officers, social workers and other types of positive professional relationships with young people. Adults can also gain powerful new abilities in their personal relationships with children and youth, as parents, older relatives and friends.


Spectrum of Adult Support for Young People
Discover our Spectrum of Adult Support for Young People!


Things Youth Need to Change the World with Adults

Training — Young people and adults can develop their healthy abilities to work with each other through skill-building and knowledge sharing activities that are designed to empower and engage each group. Communication, conflict resolution, intergenerational relationships, and other skill-building can benefit adults and youth in a variety of ways.

Education — Learning what matters to each other is an important step in youth and adult relationships. Through youth-led workshops and listening activities with adults, both young people and adults can develop their compassion, connections and understanding of each other.

Inspiration — Discovering stories and finding motivation to learn from each other can compel youth and adults to work with each in dynamic new ways.


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