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4/27/15: Principal's Misdirected Apology Challenged
Sometimes an apology can be as hurtful as the original offense. One of the worst is when an adult wrongs a child or teenager, and then thinks he can make up for it by apologizing, not to his victim, but to the victim's parents. As if the young victim deserves no sympathy or respect except as property of her parents.
More than someone's daughter, Sophie Thomas is someone
During the Clinton administration, for example, Senator John McCain made an ugly joke about teenaged First Daughter Chelsea Clinton. When McCain later ran for president and had this brought up to him, he explained to the public that everything was okay because he had apologized to President Clinton. He didn't understand why anyone expected him to apologize to Chelsea. Who was she, after all? Just some teenager. Not someone whose feelings could matter. In McCain's mind, it was only the feelings of her father that were worth repairing.
Recently, though, a bigot learned that apologizing to the victim's parents isn't enough. The bigot in question was middle school principal Kendra Young. When student Sophie Thomas wore a t-shirt reading "feminist" on class picture day, Principal Young had the image photoshopped to remove the word. But Sophie Thomas refused to accept this censorship quietly. Instead, Thomas organized student-protests and earned the attention of the media.
How did the principal try to put out this firestorm? She apologized to Ms. Thomas's mother! And here's how the mother responded:
[Kendra Young] apologized to me profusely, of course, after the local news station called her this morning! She asked me if we were good? I told her she needed to apologize to Sophie and ask her that question. She seemed dumbfounded by that.
But according to reports, Young did finally apologize to Sophie Thomas.
Thank you, Christine Thomas, for standing up to ageism and standing up for your daughter. And thank you, Sophie Thomas, for standing up for yourself and refusing to accept mistreatment from your principal.
3/17/15: San Francisco Demands more Democracy
Activists in San Francisco yesterday held a rally inside City Hall to urge the city's Board of Supervisors to pass a measure to modernize the voting age to 16. And some Supervisors were among the activists!
Check out this TV station's coverage of the event:
2/15/15: New Content
Recent scientific studies support the view that 16 is a better voting age than 18. Get the facts.
1/22/15: Another City Lowers its Voting Age Barrier
Hyattsville, MD has now voted unanimously to expand their voting age to 16.
11/27/14: Expanding Democracy
Activist Bill Bystricky made this argument last year to the Takoma Park City Council, urging them to lower their voting age to 16. They did. Now he's in Hyattsville, MD asking that City Council to do the same thing. City by city, this new level of democracy is spreading across America.
11/1/14: New Content
Later this month, we will see another Hunger Games movie and will hear yet again praise for the series offering us a strong heroine. But will it finally be true this time? So far, Katniss has been painfully weak, as argued in our new essay contrasting The Hunger Games with Ender's Game, A Strong Hero: Ender, not Katniss.
10/27/14: Repeal Age-Limits for Holding Office
As much as we wish America to be truly democratic, this nation currently restricts youth from voting, and also restricts voters of all ages from voting for candidates who are young. Slate.com recently ran an outstanding essay on the need to remove age-limits for those seeking office. Read it here. You'll be glad you did.
9/15/14: Cris Carter Stands Up to NFL Shame
With so much attention on footballer Ray Rice beating his girlfriend, there was surprisingly little outrage about Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson beating his four-year-old son.
Indeed, while Ray Rice was rightly shunned, some are rallying to support Peterson. Charles Barkley has said that beating defenseless children is normal behavior in black communities and should be accepted.
But not everyone is buying into that. Hall of Famer Cris Carter was asked about this on ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown," and he stood up for the child. As soon as Carter revealed his position, the hosts tried to politely silence him with thank-yous, but he refused to keep silent. He discussed his own painful childhood and had the strength to say, in effect, the legacy of pain stops here; I will not normalize what was done to me; I will protect my children from the pain I suffered. He further called for Adrian Peterson to be banned from the game as Ray Rice has been.
What Ray Rice did was shameful, but what Adrian Peterson has done and apparently continues to do is even worse. Peterson is beating someone who never made the choice to live with him but who is dependent on him for survival and has little legal freedom to leave. That's the definition of "defenseless."
It is time for all of us to join Cris Carter in saying No to child-abuse. And if the problem is as wide-spread as Barkley claims, that is all the more reason to take a stand.
6/2/14: Who will Restrict Men?
When one mass murder was committed by two teenagers, politicians across America used it as their impetus to impose new restrictions on teenagers in the name of keeping our communities safe. Following the recent tragedy in Santa Barbara, however, Upworthy pointed out that 70 of the last 71 mass murders in the U.S. were committed by men.
This raises the question: Where in America do we see any lawmakers passing, or even discussing, legislation to restrict men? Where is the city that will pass a curfew law to keep men from prowling the streets at night? Where is the Senator calling for gender-limits on who may purchase violent video games? What leaders are working to "shield" men from the harmful influence of violent movies or song lyrics? Why isn't the president calling for men to be forced to attend classes where they will be lectured about violence and "taught to settle their conflicts with words and not weapons"?
A few pundits have suggested examining our cultural values, but no one is calling for the government to impose legal restrictions on men's freedom.
The reason is obvious. It would be outrageous to treat all men as if they were represented by the few who commit mass murder. No politician would dare. But where is the outrage when politicians treat all teenagers as if they were represented by the two who shot up Columbine?
We would never allow our husbands and our fathers to be punished for crimes committed by a handful of strangers in other regions. So why do we allow our sons and our daughters to be?
4/16/14: An Ageist Classic Gets Repaired
Kimberly Peirce's remake of Carrie is now available on home video, and we offer an analysis of how this film, while sticking close to the original's plotline, removes most of the ageism and creates something fresh.
3/10/14: Mild Progress on Emergency Contraceptives — With a Catch
Obama's Food and Drug Administration has stopped its fight to legally bar teenagers from buying Plan B. The FDA was forced by the courts last summer to make Plan B legal for all ages. The last battle was on generic versions of Plan B, which cost less and would therefore be more accessible to youth.
The FDA agreed last week to have generic emergency contraceptives sold over-the-counter to customers of all ages, Just like the branded Plan B, but as a compromise, the FDA, for no medical reason, is requiring that manufacturers put a label on the product saying the product is intended for women 17 and older. This is almost guaranteed to increase confusion, and studies have shown that many pharmacists have already been refusing to sell Plan B to younger women, mistakenly thinking it was illegal.
It's nice to see this legal progress, but disappointing that once again a compromise is made at young people's expense. Adults will continue to be confused — this time deliberately — and young people will continue to pay for adults' confusion.
Instead of playing games, our government should show leadership. It should stand up and say, Everyone has a right to avoid pregnancy, including teenagers. No American will ever again be forced into premature parenthood. Every child born will be welcomed into the world by parents who want and love her.
That would be the kind of honest leadership Americans of all ages deserve.
2/4/14: Study on Anti-Social Behavior
Are teenagers more likely than adults to engage in anti-social behavior? According to a new study by the University of Cambridge, they are. And the reason they are is simple: Ageism leads people to interpret the behaviour of teenagers as anti-social and to interpret the same behaviour by adults as acceptable.
The study found, for example, that 40% of adults thought it was anti-social for teenagers to merely stand in a group in public. "[Y]oung people's presence in public places, regardless of their behaviour, was considered to be an [anti-social behaviour] by four in ten adults," said the study's lead researcher, Dr. Hulley "The information that adults have about young people, for example from their negative portrayal in the media, often defines them in terms of the threat that they allegedly pose to adults."
In a survey of nearly 400 adults and teenagers, nearly everyone called it anti-social when asked about a group of girls shouting insults at an elderly lady. But when asked about an elderly man shouting insults at a group of teenage boys, only 60% of adults considered that anti-social, and some even praised the hypothetical elderly man as "brave" for standing up to the teenagers!
Hulley said, "The results of the study show that, in practice, the identification of behaviour as anti-social involved an interpretative process that is not based simply on the behaviour itself but on the age of those involved." In other words, when adults do something, they are fine, maybe even heroic and brave, but when teenagers do the same thing, they are no-good punks. Double-standards are alive and well.
1/27/14: Bieber update
Teenaged rock star Justin Bieber took a lot of abuse across America for his supposed misbehavior. We at the Pro-Youth Pages took some grief as well for suggesting he was a victim of bigotry. Turns out, Bieber was guilty of even less than we thought.
We now know the police lied about him speeding. A GPS device attached to Bieber's rental car tracked his speed as being within 4 MPH of the legal limit. This means the police had no grounds to pull him over in the first place. Apparently they just saw the teenager driving and decided to harass him. We also now know Bieber was not intoxicated even by the ridiculously tight DUI standard Florida applies to drivers younger than 21 and would never apply to older drivers. Bieber was also charged with resisting arrest. But that "resistance" was never anything more than Bieber asking, "Why did you stop me? What did I do?" with a few swear words thrown in. Now we see Bieber had good reason to ask those questions, swear words and all.
Police are now quietly dropping the charges. More details here.
1/23/14: Justin Bieber — Another Victim of Bigotry
Even celebrities cannot escape bigotry. Early this morning, rock star Justin Bieber was charged with driving while drunk. But what he was actually guilty of was driving while young.
Yes, he may have also been guilty of speeding, but the drunk driving charge waved around in the media, held up as proof of reckless conduct and poor role-modeling, is ageist nonsense. Bieber's blood alcohol level was tested by police to be a mere .04. That's almost nothing. The legal limit in every state is .08. So why was Bieber charged with the very serious crime of drunk driving? Because Florida makes an exception based on age. Those younger than 21 are declared legally drunk at the low BAC of only .02! We kid you not.
Had the 19-year-old rock star been two years older, with the same traces of booze in his system, with the same driving performance, he would not have been charged with DUI. He would have been handed a simple speeding ticket and sent on his way. (Or, given his celebrity status, maybe not even that.) It is only because Bieber is young that a DUI will appear on his record. It is only because he is young that he was subjected to arrest. It is only because he is young that he will have to walk into court and face serious charges of criminal behavior and possible jail time.
America's hatred of youth, we see, is more powerful than America's love of celebrities. You can sell music, enrich studios, and bring joy to millions of fans, but if you're a 19-year-old, you will not be treated as kindly as the most common adult. That is the message being sent today.
9/18/13: Jaden Smith, Education, and Media Lies
The media are in a frenzy, libeling teenaged actor Jaden Smith. "According to 15-year-old Jaden Smith, the world would be so much better if we just do away with education," claimed Eurweb. ABC News ranted about "Jayden's comments saying maybe education [is] not that important..." The Huffington Post scathed the teenaged movie star for "opining on the inherent lack of value of school and education," while Celebrity Café reported, "Jaden Smith took to Twitter last week to claim that education is what is bringing society down."
Hilariously, Examiner.com denounced his "anti-educated [sic] tweets" only one day after their article "Jaden Smith: Grammatically incorrect anti-school rant causes controversy" claimed Smith "went on a Twitter tirade against education."
This is another example of the stereotypes that distort our news. In fact, what Smith tweeted was not remotely anti-education. Here are the exact words Smith tweeted: "School Is The Tool To Brainwash The Youth. Education Is Rebellion." That is the most clearly pro-education statement one could write in such a limited space, yet the media keep saying Smith was opposing education.Ageist adults like to perpetuate this stereotype that kids are dumb and that they hate school because school makes people smart. But reality is very different. Many students hate our K-12 schools precisely because these students love learning and see school as an obstacle to education. And where do students get the idea school is obstructing their education? Maybe from reality.
According to some sources, Mark Twain once advised students, "Don't let schooling interfere with your education." Luckily for him, he was old enough that no one accused him of being anti-education.
8/20/13: The Loss of Elmore Leanard
Crime novelist Elmore Leanard passed away today. He was not only among the most influential authors of the last half-century, he stood out for depicting teenaged characters more honestly than most novelists, and without hatred. Our essay on mystery novels mentioned him briefly. He probably deserved more mention than that.
4/4/13: Film Critic Passes Away
Critic Roger Ebert has passed away. As a website that examines popular culture, The Pro-Youth Pages has crossed paths with Ebert more than once. At times, he's been among the voices of ageism, denouncing films that empower youth as "implausible". Other times, he's been among those calling for better treatment of youth, whether denouncing dead teenager movies like Friday the 13th that only exist to serve those who enjoy watching teenagers die, or being among the first to support The Breakfast Club at a time when most critics were scathing it for daring to take teenagers seriously.
Even when Ebert was the voice of ageism, he was often less ageist than those rallying with him. When Kick-Ass was released, for example, Ebert was among those expressing outrage that the film depicted a girl killing adults. But unlike the others, Ebert also denounced the film for showing an adult brutalizing the child.
Roger Ebert will be missed.
2/10/13: Some Thing Called the Face Book
You can now find The Pro-Youth Pages on Facebook. Go there and "like" us so you'll be the first on your block to get new updates from the Pages!
11/21/12: Help NYRA Today
For over a decade, the National Youth Rights Association has been our best hope in the fight for youth rights. NYRA has stopped curfew laws, changed school policies, organized rallies for free speech and a lower voting age, and has been a serious voice for young people in America's public discussions.
Now NYRA is in trouble.
This youth-led organization, after a dozen years of growth, hit a terrible year that cost them funding and nearly ended them. In August 2012, NYRA's membership elected a new board of directors who are now turning things around. But to overcome a year of setbacks, NYRA needs your help today.
When people ask me if they can donate money to keep the Pro-Youth Pages going, I have always told them to give the money to NYRA instead. But now NYRA really needs those donations. There are many great causes out there, but if you care about youth rights, no organization is more vital than NYRA.
If you have a credit card, please go to this page and give a donation in whatever amount you can afford. You can make your donation one-time or set it to automatically repeat every month until you stop it. Do which ever is easiest. Don't have a credit card? At many stores (convenience stores and others), you can buy pre-paid credit cards, no credit needed.
Better yet, save NYRA the credit card processing fee by mailing them a check. Don't have a checking account? Go to your post office and get a money order.
If you care about youth rights, this is the time to be a donor. Even a check for $5 or $10 will help the cause. I personally have given to NYRA, and I hope you will join me.
9/28/12: The article Cracked doesn't want you to read
A certain humor website that over-relies on the numbered-list gimmick rejected this article I wrote. So you get to enjoy it ad-free! Just in time for Youth History Month, here is a playful take on some youth history: Top 5 Juvenile Delinquents who Solved World Problems.
4/18/12: WHO'S impressionable??
Kids are stupid. They're impressionable. They can't make informed choices. That's why school officials must make wise choices for them.
Oh, really? Ever hear of the Quadro Trackers? These devises were sold to schools with the promise of helping administrators detect which school lockers contained marijuana. The devise was nothing more than a plastic box with an antenna attached. Until the FBI proved the thing was a complete fraud, some school officials insisted the device was worth the $900 they'd payed for it!
3/29/12: Esquire magazine takes on ageism
3/27/12: Student Expelled for Tweet
Police were called to Garrett High School in Garrett, Indiana to put down a protest. What were the students protesting? Their classmate had been expelled. Not for violence. Not for bullying. Not even for talking back to a teacher. No. High school student Austin Carroll was expelled because he used a swear word. Outside of school. At night. Intended only to be heard by his friends on Twitter.
The horrifying Tweet that got him expelled was a meditation on the F-word. As a former English teacher myself, I find it great that this student was thinking about the English language. But this school expelled him and then stuck him in an alternative school with gang-bangers and drug-addicts. This undermines appreciation of our language as much as it undermines appreciation of the Constitution.
I hope everyone will take a moment to email the principal of this high school: Matt Smith, email@example.com. Let Smith know if you think he should value Free Speech and the English language more than he does.
2/27/12: Cevin Soling Nails it
1/15/12: Kraft Boycott Back on
Back when Philip Morris owned Kraft Foods, we asked youth rights activists to boycott both brands because of Philip Morris's marketing strategy of pushing ageism in order to sell their cigarettes.
Under the financial pressure, Philip Morris refused to cease their bigoted marketing strategy, but to save Kraft Foods, they separated the two companies.
When youth advocates stopped boycotting Kraft, the "food" company thought they were safe. So how did they decide to promote their new "food" products? With the same kind of bigotry Philip Morris used. Kraft has now built a machine to give free samples of their food to adults only. I kid you not. They think this will lead young people to see Kraft's crappy pudding as forbidden fruit and buy it and make Kraft profitable again.
The Pro-Youth Pages is calling for a different result. Kraft needs to learn again that bigotry is bad for business. So we are resuming our boycott of Kraft Foods. Please do not buy any product made by Kraft or Philip Morris.
Kraft Foods must do more than divorce itself from Philip Morris; it must divorce itself from bigotry.
12/17/11: The Film They Didn't Want You to See
Two years ago, Cevin Soling made the documentary The War on Kids, showing how the public K-12 system harms students. In the last two years, this documentary has not been available from Netflix nor most video rental stores. So most Americans have not seen it.
Now you can.
Someone was good enough to put it on YouTube. Who knows how long it will remain there, but if you haven't seen The War on Kids yet, here's your chance to see it for free.
12/13/11: Obama's Betrayal - Fight Back
Barack Obama came into the White House promising that, in his administration, decisions would be "based on facts, not ideology." Now he has broken that promise. The Food and Drug Administration's top researchers know that the morning after pill (known by the brand name Plan B) is medically safe for women of all ages. Yet the Obama administration has taken the unprecedented step of overruling the FDA to insist Plan B be available over the counter only to women older than 17.
Please take a moment to sign this online petition asking Obama to keep his promise and let the FDA do their jobs.
10/11/11: Are Comic Books Going Anti-Youth?
There's been much discussion lately about sexism in comic books. DC Comics' reboot of Catwoman left some angry that the opening pages show, not Catwoman's face, but her chest.
A bigger problem, however, is being left undiscussed, partly because we are all too inured to it: ageism. The opening pages of Catwoman may not show her face, but at least they show her acting competently. How different things are in The Teen Titans' first issue which opens with a bungling teenaged protagonist charging on the scene and taking "a small controlled blaze and turn[ing] it into a towering inferno" and then disappearing "rather than take responsibility for his deadly showboating." No, these quotes aren't from J. Jonah Jameson cartoonishly smearing a misunderstood hero. They're from a responsible journalist describing what the artists have just shown us.
This comic book nerd can't recall ever seeing Batman do that. Or Superman. Or any other hero older than 20. But the Teen Titans are introduced as bunglers.
Comic books used to be aimed at young readers. As we've discussed, comic books started out reflecting ageist attitudes, then gradually grew more youth-friendly. Now it would appear comic books are running back. How sad.
9/27/11: Voting in Municipal Elections
The King of Saudi Arabia announced Sunday he will allow Saudi women to vote in local elections. This is a wonderful step forward for democracy and for Saudi women.
Meanwhile, many women and men in America are seeking the same reform here. A group of students in Lowell, MA are pushing for legislation that, if passed, would give 17-year-olds in their city the same right just granted to Saudi women. Under this bill, 17-year-olds would still be denied votes in state and federal elections, but would be allowed at least to vote in municipal elections.
If the youth rights movement prevails in Lowell, will Americans in other cities join the fight to spread democracy, or will Lowell be the only U.S. town where 17-year-olds march toward freedom in lockstep with Saudi women?
9/18/11: New Proof of GDL's Danger
Graduated Driver Licenses (GDL's) stop teenagers from driving in the name of public safety. Supporters claim these laws make teenagers safer drivers, and that's important enough to rob millions of mobility. But it's a lie.
Yet another study has come out showing the truth about these GDL's. Supporters (mainly insurance companies that profit from ageism) thump statistics showing these GDL laws reduce the number of drivers aged 16-17 dying in highway accidents. But as the new study confirms: A) that reduction is only because there are fewer people in that age-group driving at all; and B) GDL's increase highway deaths among drivers aged 18-19. The longer people wait to start driving, the more poorly they do it.
9/14/11: Quote of the Year
NYRA is stepping up their campaign against drinking age restrictions. On their website, here's the money quote where NYRA nails it:
[O]ver 962 men and women in uniform under twenty-one have died in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting for their country, never to be respected under the law as equal members of American society because of current minimum legal drinking age legislation.
9/11/11: New Content — how to Fight Your School
With only a few weeks to go until Youth History Month, we've decided to help those youth who may want to make their own history. Here's a step-by-step guide for students who want to change policies at their schools. From petitions to protests, we show how students can maximize their power. Use it wisely.
9/1/11: NYRA Seeks New Executive
Over the last decade, the National Youth Rights Association (NYRA) has risen to become a powerful advocate for youth rights in American politics. It has risen largely because of the passionate laboring of their Executive Director, Alex Koroknay-Palicz.
Last week Koroknay-Palicz announced he is stepping down from his position as E.D. In the tradition of George Washington and Cincinnatus, Alex Koroknay-Palicz solved the problems that were holding back NYRA, elevated NYRA to a strong position where the group can finally flourish even without him, and now that the hard part is over, rather than remain on his throne, he's going back to plowing his fields or whatever Koroknay-Palicz does when he's not solving the world's problems. (Alex Koroknay-Palicz's statement is online.)
The big question now is who will replace him? Can NYRA find a new E.D. who can continue the amazing rise that NYRA has enjoyed under Alex Koroknay-Palicz?
At this point it's hard to guess, but NYRA has one huge advantage they lacked when Koroknay-Palicz started: they have a large enough budget that they can offer their E.D. a salary, meaning the next E.D. won't have to make such a sacrifice to take the job.
Trying to boost what they can offer their next E.D., NYRA is having a special fund-raiser. Nicely enough, an anonymous donor has agreed to match every donation made this month. So if you donate $10, NYRA gets $20. Donate $500, they get $1000. Please go there and pitch in what you can.
7/1/11: Recommended Reading
The Supreme Court rightly stuck down an ageist video game law. No point in us writing about it. NYRA's Eric Goldstein has a great breakdown.
Meanwhile... Salon has published a piece examining the problems of age-limits on elected office.
6/1/11: GA Gets Serious about Sex-Slavery
When the government makes it illegal for teenagers to live independently, some teenagers wind up depending on the worst scumbags. One example of this is forced prostitution. Thank you, Georgia, for taking some responsibility on this issue.