Too often youth engagement seems tacked on, or pointed to with feigned enthusiasm like the end of a Mentos commercial.
Adults start cooing about how isn’t it just great that there are young people involved. Their perspective is just so fresh. If only more young people could be like these young people or if only we could get more young people to want to come to these discussions. Please, young person, tell us what we should do to make more young people like you.
That’s about when it gets awkward. If it wasn’t awkward already.
Adults seem awfully fake when they talk like that. Like they’re talking to a baby. Or a puppy. Adults don’t talk to people they see as peers that way.
This upset me when I was younger, and truth be told, it still upsets me now.
This morning I was struck by a memory from elementary school. We used to periodically have some kind of team building consultant come in and you know, team build or something.
The adults loved it. The kids hated it.
Honestly, I don’t remember much about it except that I thought it was stupid and I thought the guy who led it was a total fake. And I remember raising a little bit of hell over it. Not too much, though, it wasn’t that bad.
And my elementary school encouraged that kind of behavior. If you weren’t happy about something you should speak up. Polite-(ish)-ly and vocally. We won a few battles. We lost many more. But it was always clear that advocating for ourselves and those around us was expected.
As I thought about it this morning, it suddenly seemed very odd that these adults who had encouraged us to become radicals, to never comprise our integrity, to always question authority – these same adults would be so enthusiastic about some phoney team-building business guy.
Oh adults, where did you guys go wrong?
Here’s what I thought: Practicality it the enemy of the radical.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more concerned with the practical, often to the detriment of the radical. I’m unlikely to do something radical, because I’m overly concerned with doing something practical. What’s the long-term impact? What’s the strategic thing to do?
Everything is very serious and adult-y.
As an adult, I’ve been conditioned to think in terms of the practical. To be overly-concerned with the little details.To be very thoughtful about how words and actions will be interpreted. To be careful not to rock the boat, or perhaps, to only rock it carefully, strategically.
These are useful skills, and I’m glad I have them. But I wonder if I lost myself in there somewhere.
I used to laugh at the commuters who would run to catch their train in the morning. So busy. So caught up in their little lives. I used to promise myself I’d never be so self-absorbed.
But I have run for the train. I have important things to do, after all.
It’s like I’ve learned to lie to myself in a way I couldn’t do before. I was much more genuine then. Now it’s all just a show.
So really, we should probably let non-adults run the world.
Honestly, I think they’d be better at it.