- Youth activism
Youth activism is best summarized as
youth voiceengaged in community organizingfor social change. Around the world young people are engaged as activismplanners, researchers, teachers, evaluators, social workers, decision-makers, advocates and leading actors in the environmental movement, social justiceorganizations, campaigns supporting or opposing legalized abortion, and anti-racism, and anti- homophobiacampaigns. As the central beneficiaries of public schools, youth are also advocating for student-led school changethrough student activismand meaningful student involvement. [Checkoway, B. & Gutierrez, L. (2006) “An introduction,” in Checkoway & Gutierrez (eds) Youth Participation and Community Change. New York: Hawthorne Press. p 3.]
There are three main forms of youth activism. The first is youth involvement in social activism. This is the predominant form of youth activism today, as millions of young people around the world participate in social activism that is organized, informed, led, and assessed by adults. Many efforts, including
education reform, children's rights, and government reform call on youth to participate this way, often called youth voice. Youth councils are an example of this. [Chawla, L. (2002) Growing Up in an Urbanizing World. Paris/London: Earthscan/UNESCO Publishing.]
The second type is youth-driven activism requires young people to be the primary movers within an adult-led movement. Such is the case with the Sierra Club, where youth compel their peers to join and become active in the environmental movement. This is also true of many organizations that were founded by youth who became adults, such as
SEACand National Youth Rights Association.
The third type is the increasingly common youth-led community organizing. This title encompasses action which is conceived of, designed, enacted, challenged, redesigned, and driven entirely by young people. There is no international movement that is entirely led by youth, aside from the
World Federation of Democratic Youth, which has UN NGO status.
Youth activism as a social phenomenon in the United States truly became defined in the mid- to late-nineteenth century when young people began forming labor strikes in response to their working conditions, wages, and hours.
Child laborers in the coal mines of Appalachiabegan this trend, with newspaper carriers, soon following. These actions isolated youths' interests in the popular mediaof the times, and separated young people from their contemporary adult labor counterparts.
This separation continued through the 1930s, when the
American Youth Congresspresented a "Bill of Youth Rights" to the US Congress. Their actions were indicative of a growing student movement present throughout the US from the 1920s through the early 1940s. The 1950s saw the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committeebring young people into larger movements for civil rights. This led to the outbreak of youth activism in the 1960s.
Important individuals in U.S. youth activism
Mother Jonesorganized the first youth activism in the U.S., marching 100,000 child miners from the coal mines of Pennsylvaniato the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. in 1908. In 1959, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.engaged youth activists in protesting against Bull Connor's racist law enforcement practices in Birmingham, Alabama. Coupled with the youth activism of Tom Hayden, Keith Hefner and other 1960s youth, this laid a powerful precedent for modern youth activism. John Holt, Myles Hortonand Paulo Freirewere each important in this period.
In the 1960s, the Supreme Court Justice
Abe Fortashanded out two landmark case decisions in favor of youth rights, " Tinker v. Des Moines" and " In re Gault".
In recent years, educators such as the
Paulo Freire, Henry Giroux, Howard Zinn, Alfie Kohn, and Jonathan Kozolhave all called for young people to become central actors in the guidance of schools and communities. Modern advocates have included Aaron Keider, William Upski Wimsattand Adam Fletcher. Researchers, including Shawn Ginwright, David Driskell, Barry Checkowayand Lorraine Gutierrezhave led the burgeoning study of modern youth activism.
Community youth development
Teaching for social justice
Youth Activism Project
The Freechild Project
American Youth Congress
Students for a Democratic Society
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
The Newsboys Strike
Youth Liberation of Ann Arbor
Day of Silence
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