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March 05, 2003

Chapter 1: About This Book - part 8

III. Audience -- Who This Book Is For
Adult opponents of Youth Liberation may well feel that I haven't proved youth deserve liberation. This book is not meant to convince them. If youth can themselves demand better treatment and expanded rights, I view that as sufficient proof of their intelligence and humanity. ...Going forward and acting on the ideas of Youth Liberation does not require adult approval.

I am writing for people who already support Youth Liberation, and for skeptics who suspect that they might agree with the idea, if only it were spelled out for them.

Foremost, I want to speak to actual youth activists. I've spent ten years studying how adultism works and how it might be fought. My hope is that the ideas I've come up with will be useful: helping youth see adultism, challenge it, and defend against counter-attacks.

Writing that's unnecessarily complex and uses "big words" excludes youth. As my writing style has developed, I've always tried to be as plain as possible, replacing technical terms (like "hegemony") with more simple ones (like "command / obey relationship"). Nonetheless, I know that I frequently fail. I'm college-educated and think in those terms. If you don't understand, it's my fault; I apologize.

[In earlier stages of writing, I had the good fortune to find teens willing to review my writing. Hopefully I'll be able to connect with more youth readers before this is published to a wider audience.]

Among adults, I most want to address persons who are going to work within Youth Liberation organizations. Special responsibilities fall upon allies. It's a humbling experience. You need to learn how to invite criticism; how to suppress the urge to assert your "right" way of doing things; and how to abide by the activist dictum "Do nothing about us without us." I think that I can make this difficult work easier.

I also want to reach adult activists of the Progressive Left. Because of their commitment to fighting other oppressions, I believe they are predisposed to becoming allies. I think activists have a moral obligation to become educated about the various oppressions, and to lend assistance to other people's movements when possible. The Left could be a great support to Youth Liberation: supplying training, meeting space, and political credibility.

Having an academic background, there's a degree to which I'd like this work to be read in colleges and universities (particularly psychology, sociology, and political science departments). I want the theory herein to stand up to at least moderate scrutiny from scholars. It's more a standard that I set for myself than a crucial audience, I suppose. It would be nice if my work inspires further research on adultism -- but if that research doesn't connect with activists, what good is it?

Obviously there are many other people that may read this work. Parents will want to know more about the implications for raising children. Teachers may wonder what good they can do in their current positions (without risking their jobs). College students -- with most of the legal privileges of adulthood, but much of the social stigma of youth -- will want to know where they stand. Whole books could be devoted to each of these concerns -- and I hope that someone writes them. The scope of this book, however, must be limited to what directly helps the activism of minors. I offer parents, teachers, and college students brief suggestions; but discussion always returns to what they can do to support youth-led groups.

...I'm in an odd position, writing this book when I'm now an adult myself. I criticize adults as a group and advocate that youth be seen as the experts on adultism. By my own principles, I must not speak in their place -- yet, at present I know of no one else prepared to write a book like this. How do I reconcile the contradiction?

I reconcile it by naming youth as the legitimate critics of my work, instead of adults. I've worked hard to make something that is accurate and useful -- but youth can take it or leave it as they see fit. It's offered as a tool. If they praise it, then I will feel validated. If they discard it, I'm OK with that too. Adults -- while I'm interested in their in their criticisms -- don't get to be the final judges here.

-- to be continued --

March 5, 2003

Posted by Sven at March 5, 2003 07:12 PM