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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » talking down to teens in the media

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Author Topic: talking down to teens in the media
Scarleteen Volunteer
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So this isn't super sex ed related, but in a New York Times article about student walk outs to protest budget cuts, someone from the governor's office said this of teens walking out of class:

It is also our firm hope that the students were motivated by youthful rebellion or spring fever, Mr. Drewniak said, and not by encouragement from any one-sided view of the current budget crisis in New Jersey.
I read that, and I just *couldn't* believe that statement. I may not be a teen anymore--in fact I'm now starting my career as a high school teacher--but I find those words deeply offensive.

School policies and budgets deeply effect students' lives. Protesting policies that *hurt* their futures is the opposite of what I'd call "youthful rebellion." That man couldn't be more condescending towards teens if he tried.

While I did appreciate the fact that the author of the times article described the walk outs as a "real life civics lesson," it disturbs me when people try to silence teens with statements that imply that teens aren't capable of having their own, well-informed opinions.

So, consider this thread a place to discuss how you seen teens and young people portrayed in the media when it comes to responsibility. Have you seen other examples of this?

Is it just me, or is teenage activism only portrayed as political activism when it's noncontroversial? (eg "saving the rain forest.")

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Scarleteen Volunteer
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I'm doing research for a paper on prescription drug abuse, and EVERYTHING I find is about drug abuse in teens, to the point where you'd think they were the only ones that do it.

I work in a field where I see drug seeking behavior all the time. I don't think a single one of these people have been under 25, and a larger percentage are actually over retirement age.

On the other hand, I'm 20 now, but I never even tried drugs, and neither have several of my friends.

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Executive Director & Founder
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I probably don't have to tell you that I could go on and on about this subject for DAYS.

I agree, atm1, that was patronizing. Of course, I DO think it was youthful rebellion, I just think youthful rebellion is powerful. Trouble is, that phrase doesn't usually carry that connotation, but instead the suggestion that it's frivolous.

With my generation, it was older adults who coined the term "Gen X" to name us, and what that name suggested was that we were apathetic, were slackers, were a blank. I remember how angry that made me, especially as someone who had a while where she was gathering pennies to drive in groups all night from Chicago to DC to protest the first gulf war for many months, who sat with groups writing letters by hand for Amnesty, who canvassed in her gap year for freaking peanuts.

Of course, as it's turned out, we weren't a blank. I was just thinking the other day, as a feminist of an age wedged in between "younger" and "older" feminists, an in-the-middle spot that leaves a lot of us feeling like chopped liver, that many of us started and now work for or run some really powerful organizations or initiatives. We do our own thing while also mentoring younger people and recognizing older people. The way older adults talked about us then didn't wind up working to create the generation which didn't interfere I think many wanted.

What I know now that I didn't know then was that that presentation was made of us out of what was most likely an attempt to control us: if we were presented as doing nothing, maybe we wouldn't, right?

Some of my parents generation was presented the same way, as aimless hippies, pervy beats, blah blah blah. And yet, young activists like my father was worked to end the Vietnam war, and succeeded in the civil rights movement. Young feminists then got Roe Vs. Wade passed, programs like Title IV and Title X in, and massively changed women's status and rights.

Adults are really threatened by young people, always have been, because it's new generations who change things, always. Maybe not all when they ARE young, but that's when it starts, and some adults like things just as they are, especially if they personally benefit from them. I think a statement like that reporter made, under the insult, shows a feeling of intimidation.

I'm not saying any of that to suggest that comments like that are okay or should be allowed to stand: rather, I'm saying what I am to give you perspective on that kind of presentation I only saw through later so that when you do take a stand against it, you can perhaps better call it out for what it is. [Smile]

[ 04-28-2010, 12:41 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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This isn't about the media, but when I was working raising money for the ACLU last summer, a woman whose house I stopped at went off at me about how sad it is that the ACLU is "manipulating young people like [me]" and yada yada yada...because I opposed Prop 8 and she supported it. While my upbringing certainly affected my views on gay rights, I'm my own person, not some kid brainwashed by some "misguided" organization (as she described it). This is something I should've expected doing this work, but it still bothered me.

Also the media, and others, talking about the youth involved in the Obama campaign and how it was just a fad. Although I do know some teens who joined the campaign because it was the "cool" thing to do, this ignores all the many many many teens who DO care about the world and politics and our election and took it very seriously, including myself.

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I really appreciate your response, Heather. I think it was the "or spring fever" that really made the patronizing tone crystal clear for me.

I do think that many older people are afraid of teenagers/young adults actually finding ways to exert political power. But then again, I grew up in an area with the activism of students (most college students, but high school students, too) is so deeply ingrained in the culture that I never personally encountered comments so demeaning of students' political involvement. The Bay Area is a great place to grow up, but often it doesn't give you a realistic view of the way the world works [Smile]

Lilerse, I've also gotten a comment about how I'm "getting brainwashed at those liberal colleges." I was pretty proud of my response: "Um, I study science and if people consider learning the laws of nature being 'brainwashed' I have a better understanding of why science education in this country is so terrible." This was definitely not someone who would have engaged in a productive discussion so I felt like that response was better than saying that my opinions were my own. She wasn't going to believe me, anyways. After all, I've been brainwashed. With science.

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I completely agree, that was condescending, and I see the same thing pretty often in the news. I'm currently personally boycotting that good morning America show because of it, and because it sucks.

I kind of feel like I got a lot more of this growing up because I am unschooled, so the same generic adults who think that anyone under a certain age couldn't possibly have their own opinion, thought I was not only about as free willed as a zombie, but also about as well educated as a third world monkey.

In my case, I just began to feel superior to adults and devalued their opinions as being inferior by nature. Funny how that works.

Although there are certainly those of us young people whom are immature and who blindly follow someone elses ideals. At some point we stop behaving that way, and start questioning it, finding out what it is we actually believe in ourselves.

The part that gets ignored is that it doesn't happen at any particular age. A good friend of mine was just as mature as me when he was 14 and I was three weeks from 18, but on the other hand, my own father(60+) is more of an immature child than I think I ever will be again.

In short, maturity and the ability to think for yourself IS learned with time, but it is NOT learned with AGE.

Chin up and face the future, wonders beyond your wildest dreams await us!

Posts: 47 | From: Crescent city, CA. | Registered: Jul 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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