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October 23, 2005

Outline: Youth Power - Four Theory Frameworks

Back on October 11, while I was working on the "Youth Power Framework" series, I had a little epiphany. I can view the "Youth Power Framework" as several interlocking frameworks, rather than one big one.

This is a good thing. It creates "severability". There's a core YP framework -- but then there are several useful add-ons. If you disagree with one of them, that's OK -- it can be jettisoned without harming the other pieces.

The other useful aspect of thinking about several frameworks rather than just one, is that it makes my job of juggling all the pieces much easier. There's less chance that I'm going to forget to talk about something important, if my subject areas are narrower.

I've written I-don't-know-how-many outlines that try to sum up all the topics that I would like to cover in my lifetime. This organization of information, however, is slightly different. Rather than listing everything, I'm just going to describe several main chunks that can be removed without hurting the whole. ...They're like modular components. They're built to complement each other -- but can all function independently.


The stripped-down Youth Power framework, I believe, has to include these components:

  • The command / obey relationship. An analysis of how one person controls another on the person-to-person level. Perhaps a discussion of consent, as the alternative to hierarchical relationships.

  • The structure of adult power at the society level. The relationship between adult power in the family, in the government, and anti-youth propaganda. Locating the heart of adultism in the family, I think, is one of YP's key distinguishing features.

  • Escape freedom. This is the principle by which YP generates its agenda. It has an enormous amount of overlap with the agendas of Youth Equality, but arrives at its goals from a different direction.


I think that you can talk about the power relationship between adults and youth without defining where the line between adults and youth lies. Still, it's an awfully nice to be able to explain what you mean when you use the terms "adults" and "youth".

  • Adulthood as a membership organization. Adulthood is an artificial concept projected onto biological realities. Distinguishing between adulthood as biology, psychological development, a character virtue, and law.

  • Strategies for avoiding childhood's stigma. The strategies that both adults and youth use to dissociate themselves from childhood. Adults' options to embrace adulthood, passively benefit from it, or be conscientious objectors.

  • Ageless being. The problem with "maturity" connoting both inevitable biological stage and a personal accomplishment. Age-bending with regards to clothing, music, qualities, interests, etc.


You can pursue the goals of YP without putting any strictures on adults who want to help. However, if you're concerned about well-meaning adults nonetheless taking over formerly youth-led organizations, this can be a useful bit of theory.

  • Model Youth Lib organization. "A local activist group led by youth, for youth, engaging with adult authorities."

  • Limiting adult participation. How one's role in the movement changes depending on if one is under 18, 18-25, or over 25. Principles that help an ally feel comfortable deferring to youth leadership.

  • [Pro-youth parenting. A bill of rights for youth in the family. How parents can mobilize their power to assist YP.] Nix -- this is non-essential.


There are a variety of ways of understanding what "oppression" is. There has to be some comparison between different models here. Still, however you explain why adultism happens, it doesn't change the fact that it does happen.

  • Adultism vs. Ageism. How the two concepts differ.

  • Oppression defined. "A historical relationship between two groups where one has power over the other -- institutional, economic, enforcement, standards of "normal". A survey of other definitions of oppression.

  • Comparing adultism to other oppressions. How adultism is unique, how it is the same, how it overlaps with other groups' history.

  • Arguments for a progressive alliance. Why other movements should care about Youth Lib. Why Youth Lib should care about other movements. ...As I understand it, the main reason for invoking an oppression model is to be able to facilitate talking with other radical liberation movements.


A framework is different from a strategy or a position. It's a theory which allows you to understand the world -- it's a lens that you look through. Here are several topics worth writing about that wouldn't belong in the frameworks that I've described:

  • Positions on specific issues. For instance: school reform, violence against minors, the curfew, the drinking age, age of consent, teen access to abortion, etc.

  • Activism tactics. For instance: how to organize at the national level, how to run a local organization, how to orchestrate a direct action campaign, how to engage with adult governmental bodies.

  • Other branches of Youth Liberation. The distinctions between Youth Equality, Youth Power, and Youth Culture. The history of the YL movement. Comparing and contrasting YP and "Youth Rights". Proposing an alternate model of how youth and adults differ (contrasting that of YR).

Posted by Sven at October 23, 2005 09:45 PM


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