Yesterday was the third annual National Youth Rights Day. A few days ago, I tasked some of my fellow NYRAnians with sharing, in whatever way, why they supported youth rights. Perhaps a little hypocritical on my part, as I not only didn’t share my own but wasn’t even sure how to answer my own question for myself!
But then I realized. Yes, I do!
Youth rights has been such a major part of my life over the past several years that it’s hard to even pinpoint any single sources of inspiration anymore. And even before I found NYRA, there were many little things here and there, the recognition that people thought little of me during my teen years and before, and, of course, my 8th grade English teacher saying “There’s no such thing as a typical teenager.”
But there is an underlying motivation, and it’s a simple one.
In short… I know this is right.
And I know it works.
I’ve met youth who were raised in whatever way in less oppressive conditions than average. In 2006, Alex and I were tabling at a conference and next to us was a table for Albany Free School, and with an adult or two from the school was a group of ten-year-old students from there. These kids? They were actually pretty mature and socially competent. They saw our NYRA table and were happy that we existed and related their frustrations at an Albany mall that had a youth curfew (Fuck you, Crossgates!) and they bought a bunch of our buttons. I don’t remember many more details than that about them, but I recall being pleasantly amazed at these ten-year-olds, the product of a non-oppressive school and probably non-oppressive families (if they had parents cool enough to send them to the non-oppressive school). It was nice to be reminded all the info flyers in front of me on my own NYRA table weren’t just spouting nice-sounding ideas that had little basis in reality, but were encouraging real changes to the way young people are thought of and treated, encouraging freedom and respect, and here were comfortable, competent, dignified kids at the table beside us, having grown up with that respect, as living proof of it.
Unschoolers, too! Whether it’s that teen rebellion isn’t necessarily a thing or just the continual accounts of unschooling families of the quality of life of unschooled youth as compared to traditional school students (yeah, I know there’s a “consider the source” factor here), the comparison between the unschooled youth who are generally more included and their choices respected as opposed to the voiceless traditional students who are coerced and dictated to at every turn.
Continue reading “What It Means to Me”