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Effective and Humane Youth Policy Starts by Treating Youth with Respect.

Skager, Rodney
June 4, 2015

Source: (2007) Restorative Practices E-Forum. 17 December.

This paper outlines an inevitably controversial perspective on youth development. Adults are accustomed to thinking of adolescence as a biologically distinct stage of development. Adolescents lack the capacity to assume adult roles, or so the thinking goes. Instead, adolescence is an artifact of postindustrial social and economic forces. At the macro level, the latter include two 20th century developments: (1) increasing limitations on employment opportunity until all forms of significant work became “adults only” coupled with (2) requiring that virtually all youth complete an academic high school education, whether they like it or not. Concomitantly, society tries to protect young people from themselves with more and more rules and controls. Youth reactions to their experience of mandated immaturity include conflict with parents and outside adult authorities, psychological disturbances, and risky behaviors associated with an increasingly powerful teen-age culture. These symptoms are in turn cited as justification for further controls to “protect” teenagers from themselves by means of a veritable storm of new rules in schools and laws in civic society, many of the latter criminalizing youthful offenders. How a society can, without harming itself further, “protect” and at the same time restrict and criminalize more and more young people is a question left for the reader to ponder. (excerpt)


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