Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Young adults and politics

Sandy Levinson

As Balkinization regulars know, my wife and I co-authored a book directed at teenagers, Fault Lines in the Constitution, that, not surprisingly, examines a variety of defects in the structures created by the Framers in 1787.  We regularly blog about the book, and our latest examines the spate of student activism following the Florida shootings.  We had earlier discussed the fact that several teenagers are running for governor in Kansas and Vermont, the only two states that don't have age requirements for that office.  The mainstream press has begun covering the Kansas election, in part because GOP officials are trying to make sure that none of the youngsters will be allowed to participate in the upcoming candidate debates.  I sometime wonder if and when anyone will start suggesting that one really shouldn't trust anyone over 30 :)  Perhaps it a mistake to assume that any age cohort, including those we usually classify as "adults," are necessarily trustworthy.  Perhaps we should actually listen to what people, including the articulate thirteen-year-old running for governor in Vermont, instead of assume that he has nothing valuable to say.

I'm also taking the liberty of including an announcement by Meira Levinson about a new resource just established by a consortium of people and institutions interested in the phenomenon of student activism:

New online on leading change from experienced youth activists and allies. 

All around the country, inspired by activists from Ferguson to Parkland, a generation of young people are considering participating in their first political action or protest. They have questions. What’s the point of a walkout? Will I get in trouble? What happens after a march?

YouthInFront is a community-created online learning resource. We started by interviewing and surveying youth about their questions, and then sourced questions from adult allies and educators as well. We believed the best people to answer those questions are experienced youth activists and allies. During an 18 day sprint from Feb 13 to March 7, we interviewed nearly 30 youth activists and educators, reviewed youth-produced and youth-focused resources from around the web, and benefitted from the generous contributions of media producers, civic educators, youth activists and organizers, software engineers, and many others.

The YouthInFront community is made up of individuals with diverse array of beliefs about public policy, the tactics and strategy of protest, and how adults can best and most appropriately support students. What we all agree on, though, is that youth-led civic activism can transform society for the better. Young people are powerful civic actors, and during their apprenticeship of citizenship, their voices deserve to be heard. The youth in our community are leaders; the adults in our community are supporting them as they march up front.

YouthInFront was kicked off by three longtime civic educators: Justin Reich from MIT, Doug Pietrzak from Fresh Cognate, and Meira Levinson from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Yes, this means that YouthInFront site was planned and organized by adults – but we hope that we have used the wealth of resources at our disposal to provide a model of how adults can support youth who are leading the way. We quickly had nearly 100 volunteers from Cambridge, Boston, and across the country, and we gratefully acknowledge their many contributions.

YouthInFront is supported by a wide variety of organizations, led by the Harvard Graduate School of Education Usable Knowledge project, the MIT Teaching Systems Lab, Fresh Cognate, Justice in Schools, and the HGSE Teaching and Learning Lab. A wide variety of other organizations sent resources, offered suggestions, and shared our site within their networks. We gratefully acknowledge these informal partners below.

The majority of project resources were generously provided by volunteers; we also gratefully acknowledge financial support from the HGSE Dean’s Office and Dean James Ryan.

Please send questions, comments, and feedback to Apologies if we cannot respond to all queries.


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