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January 09, 2004

Three Approaches to Introductory Essays

I think previously I've only seen two approaches to YL "introduction" essays: the "bill of rights" format, and what I call the "grocery list" format...

The "bill of rights" approach feels like a manifesto. It says: "these are the major issues that our movement wants to address".

The "grocery list" approach is to catalog all of the instances of adultism that one can think of. The list of possible examples really has no limits -- so what you wind up doing is creating categories of injustices (e.g. government, schools, family, etc.), and then selecting what you think are the most significant problems for further discussion. No one is an expert on all issues, and it takes a fair amount of space to really explore any single one, so this is a particularly difficult kind of essay to write.

Now I think that I've identified a third possible approach to writing an introductory essay: "humanistic ideals". The idea behind this approach is to describe various humanist ideals that people subscribe to, and to then merely suggest that people of conscience should apply them to youth.

The entry that I wrote two days ago, Ideals that motivate YL, could be repurposed for this kind of introductory essay. The five relevant humanist principles that I listed there were:

  1. No human being should be treated as if they are property.
  2. Everyone who will be effected by a decision, should be able to participate in the decision-making process.
  3. All people should be treated identically by the law.
  4. Interpersonally, all people should be treated as unique individuals.
  5. People should get to express their authentic selves.

...I've never seen someone use this approach before, so I'm excited to give it a try. One thing it has going for it, I think, is that it has the potential to appeal to a lot of different people. Unlike most essays, where you're trying to show how a set of phenomena are all related, the principles here can remain disparate -- even conflicting. You only need for the reader to resonate with one of them.

Posted by Sven at 06:13 PM | Comments (1)

January 07, 2004

Ideals that motivate YL

A few entries back, I posted a first draft of the youthlib.com homepage. I proposed five broad topics for the purpose of categorizing my essays. I'm thinking now that I ought to add two new topics onto the end of that list... Thus:

  1. Age
  2. Adultism
  3. Youth Liberation
  4. Adults as Allies
  5. Adultism Compared to Other Oppressions
  6. How People "Act their Age"
  7. Differences within Youth Liberation

Today I've got a new idea that would fall under "Differences within Youth Liberation"...

Ideals that motivate YL

What motivates a particular activist to do YL work?

I imagine that many folk only really care about one issue. That issue might be, for example: access to contraception, censorship in schools, homophobia at school, unschooling, spanking, curfews, police harassment, or the vote. I want to call people like this "issue-based activists".

Everyone who does YL work surely has their own pet issues -- ones that they care most about, personally. For me, that issue is violence against minors. Most of all, I care about reworking the laws around spanking, child abuse, and child protection...

However, I would not say that I am an "issue-based activist". Rather, I am an "idealist". I see an underlying principle that unifies the YL movement's many various struggles. That principle is the idea that "no human being should be treated as if they are property". I see school issues, the vote, access to contraception, etc., all through this lens. Thus, my interest in YL transcends the single issue of violence against minors.

I think that different YL activists are motivated by different ideals. Here are the ones that I've identified thus far:

  1. No human being should be treated as if they are property.
  2. Everyone who will be effected by a decision, should be able to participate in the decision-making process.
  3. All people should be treated identically by the law.
  4. Interpersonally, all people should be treated as unique individuals.
  5. People should get to express their authentic selves.
  6. Minorities have got to look out for their own kind.

In previous writings, I've made a distinction between three varieties of YL: Youth Equality, Youth Power, and Youth Culture. Those are essentially three different ways of approaching political activism. Each one suggests a strategy for creating social change. The varieties of idealism that I'm listing here may be even more basic: they address beliefs that people hold about human beings in general. ...I suppose they tap into one's notions about humanism.

In my opinion, it's OK -- and perhaps even desirable -- for there to be multiple idealisms floating around in the YL movement. Different idealisms motivate people to tackle different issues. There are so many issues to tackle, I think we need people to spread out and deal with what they're passionate about.

[While I'm busy reducing people's world views to single sentences, it occurred to me to do so with Marxism. I think the heart of Marxism could be expressed thus: "Each person should contribute to society according to their ability; each person should take according to their needs." ...I haven't heard of anyone who has tried to apply old-school Marxism toward a YL analysis, but it stands as a logical possibility.]

Posted by Sven at 07:18 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2004

YL Presentation at New Year's Party

To celebrate the turning of 2003 to 2004, I spent four days at the Oregon coast. A group of my friends has a tradition of renting a house for their New Year's celebration each year. In this, the fourth year running, 22 of us gathered to share company, good food, dancing, and playing games... It was really a lovely time.

This year we tried something new: people were offered 15 minute slots in which to present lectures. Naturally, I decided to present on Youth Liberation.

I'm pleased with how my presentation went. My material came across as overly adversarial; and in retrospect I should have spent the bulk of my time talking about power (rather than age identity). It definitely needs work. ...Nonetheless, at the end of a very heated Q and A session, I felt like I had succeeded in giving articulate and reasonable answers to all questions. And -- miracle of miracles -- by the end, the folks who had started off in opposition were voicing support.

One person in particular opened the Q and A by saying: "I feel very negative towards everything you said. I can't imagine how any parent could support this." After the Q and A was over, she came up to me and talked about how when she heard the details, she realized that what I was proposing was very much in line with what she believed already. She told a story about how her own mother would confront parents when she saw them spanking their children, saying "you have no right to do that!" Another participant found me and talked about how, when she used to work in a battered women's shelter, she would give ad hoc counseling to the kids there. So, in some sense, she's been part of the cause all along, too.

I'm fascinated by how people reframe their life stories -- how they can say: "I guess that I've always been Youth Liberationist."

...I organized my presentation around notes that I wrote on big sheets of butcher paper. Here's a transcription from those posters:


Youth and adults have conflicts of interest, therefore youth cannot depend solely upon adults for protection. They must organize for self-defense.

Adultism = The oppression of youth by adults.

Youth Liberation = activism led by youth, for youth interests, that challenges adult power.


Three Main Models

Legal Lines:


Adulthood as Organization

Childhood as Disability
A) Dependence?

B) Transcend biases attached to body:

1. What if minds could switch bodies?

2. What if you could construct a body and summon a mind into it?

3. What if, upon entering a body, you had amnesia?


Adulthood does not look like an organization because everyone is inducted. You would expect a political conversion, denouncing former membership with youth -- but most youth identify with the adult point of view from the very start.

Avoiding the Stigma of Childhood:

Adults' Options:

Flavors of Personal Protest:

Posted by Sven at 12:58 PM | Comments (0)