Today in the news feed on the side of my facebook wall there was a link to articles about how Teenagers are Tweeting pictures of their school lunches with #ThanksMichelleObama. What I want to focus on is not the gross nasty disgusting things schools try to feed children (no one should ever be fed canned green beans, is it any wonder kids think they don't like vegetables?), and it's not about the inadequate number of calories on some of those cafeteria trays (there are a lot of athletes in high school, there's no way they should have to make it through the day on three chicken fingers people!) What I want to examine is the reaction of adults to the tweets.
I know, I know, "Don't read the comments!" But the comments are such a great place for blogging inspiration, and well, my eyes get to the comments before my brain can jump in and remind me that I really don't want to wade into the negativity.
But oh the negativity! From self-righteous comments about how their food looked just as bad and wasn't nearly as nutritious, to swearing at the kids for being ungrateful, and calling the kids lazy because they don't bother to pack their own lunches, and pointing out that it's not Michelle's fault it's the school that isn't implementing the new regulations creatively. Oh, and then there are the people who are going to jump on the Michelle bashing bandwagon while still managing to hate on the kids. Once again I am shocked and saddened by how hateful adults are toward the youth of American. I also find it ironic that those same adults blame the young people for being angry and rebellious.
So many people want to silence the voices of the kids. It's the out dated and misguided idea that children should be seen and not heard. When you take away the voice of a group of people, or you've never let them have a voice to begin with, that's oppression.
Here's what I see, the older generation, the good old boys who have long held the power, and people who want to maintain the status quo or return to the mythical "good old days," are in for a shock. The young people of today have grown up with technology. They know how to pick a hashtag that's going to get noticed, and they know how to leverage the power of social media.
People in America also forget that, while we often do our best to infantalize them, teenagers are intelligent, capable people. Increasingly social media is giving them a voice and they are going to use it. (The Epstein-Dumas Infantilization Inventory (EDII) has a list of interesting questions to consider if you think we don't infantalize teenagers.)
I think adults forget what teenagers have done, historically, to change the world. Perhaps it's time for everyone to go back and watch the movie Sarafina! When we do everything we can to control, limit, humiliate, and demean young people, we should not be surprised when they are angry, depressed, and not involved in meaningful ways in their communities. I think it's awesome when teenagers use social media to make their voices heard. When we take teenagers seriously - interacting with them respectfully, listening to what they have to say, validating their experiences, and encouraging them to join the conversation - we create the opportunity for young people to use their energy and passion to help make the world a better place.