In an article in the July 2 edition of New Yorker magazine titled, “Spoiled Rotten: Why do kids rule the roost?”, anthropologist Elizabeth Kolbert takes a critical look at the “rules of engagement” between young people and their parents, based on studying everyday life for a group of middle class Los Angeles families. Kolbert’s conclusion is that the conventional approach to parenting among the studied families shows a permissive attitude that leads to young people being more dependent on their parents even well into young adulthood, a dependency she labels “adultesence”. Though this longer period of dependency could in theory be an indicator of a longer period of time needed to become functional in an increasingly complex society, Kolbert posits that…
Adultesence might be just the opposite: not evidence of progress but another sign of a generalized regression. Letting things slide is always the easiest thing to do, in parenting no less than in banking, public education, and environmental protection. A lack of discipline is apparent these days in just about every aspect of American society. Why this should be is a much larger question, one to ponder as we take out the garbage and tie our kids’ shoes.
Numerous examples are cited of kids in the study ignoring repeated directions from their parents to do various chores and demanding that parents do routine tasks for them like tying their shoes. Also examples of young adults returning to live with their families after college and exhibiting similar irresponsible behaviors, what Kolbert coins as “adultesence”.
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The Palmer Park Preparatory Academy
Just read the Education Week
article, “Teacher-Led School Innovates With Student Regrouping”
, about some innovative governance and methodological changes happening in a Detroit public school. Detroit, if you are not aware has had a crumbling public school system, even before the current recession has put extra pressure on state budgets and as a result, school spending. What I like about what’s happening at Palmer Park Preparatory Academy is that former worker-bees from the conventional educational hierarchy are demonstrating agency beyond what is expected of people at the bottom of the pecking order. As my mom always said, “The teachers should run the schools”, and that is what’s starting to happening here. The only missing ingredient IMO… bringing the students into that school administrative and governance processes. Continue reading →
It is stunning to me the “adultism” demonstrated by the disrespectful ways many adults still treat children and youth, particularly their own kids. I think it is one of the last vestiges in our society of pure patriarchal “power-over” protocol that is still considered acceptable by many adults in dealing with their children and youth. That protocol involves the assumption that the “superior” adult/parent has the absolute command and control over the “inferior” young person/child, such that any inappropriate behavior by the “inferior” reflects on and is highly disrespectful to the reputation of their “superior” and must be forcibly modified to save face.
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The pedophile priest scandal in the Catholic Church over the past 25 years is just one more example of the societal axiom that “power corrupts”. The phrase is actually a bit too simplistic, not all forms of power necessarily corrupt. I would say more specifically that power exercised from the top down (what some delineate as “power-over”) inevitably leads to some form of corruption if the people subjected to this form of leadership are not involved in the governance process and/or do not have comparable power of their own to check the actions of their leaders. This was a key factor motivating the American Revolution (e.g. “taxation without representation”), the French Revolution and many other similar insurrections… part of a larger trend in the world to move from authoritarian toward more egalitarian models of governance. This other idea of power flowing from empowered consent of the group is what is delineated as “power-with”. Continue reading →
So you have probably already been “ism’d” within an inch of your life and may be ready to roll your eyes if I attempt to direct your attention to another one! Seems the 20th Century was full of positive movements and negative systems being coined as “isms”, including “feminism”, “progressivism” and “environmentalism” on the one side and “sexism”, “racism” and “militarism” on the other. Some might make a good argument that we should leave all those “isms” behind with the last century and turn our focus forward and reframe the way we look at liberating movements and the restricting systems that hinder human development.
Given those disclaimers I want to alert you to one more “ism”, “adultism”, that has been defined by and comes out of the milieu of thoughtful people, youth and adults, working in the democratic education and youth empowerment movements. One of my colleagues in the newly formed Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA), Adam Fletcher, has compiled information calling out this negative system on his website (freechild.org) page titled “Challenging Adultism”. Continue reading →