What is Adultism?

What is Adultism?

I encourage you to consider the constructs for which we live under for a moment. The policies we abide, curriculums we follow, even the unspoken and socially constructed ways we go about our lives.

One of the common threads throughout a lot of these things, at least here in the Western world, is that such constructs are usually set by adults. The popular narratives of how we live and the rules we abide are typically formed by, and perpetuated by, adults. Such a society may be well meaning, but operates on the assumption that adults always know better, and that an adult dominated society is best for our children. However, what happens is a subtle but powerful undertone. One that disvalues, and can often marginalises children.

I am particularly interested in how adultism impacts the realms of parenting and education. In the case of education, our curriculums and education systems are formed by adults imposing what they think a child should learn and know at a certain age and how. Such curriculums are often underpinned by the evidence of child development. However, what if we consider that the very developmental milestones we expect children to reach at a specified age, are a adult created, social construct in and of themselves. This idea has the ability to radicalise and shift the very foundation of everything we unconsciously see as truth within the realms of education by placing more trust in children to direct their own learning.

It is curious to observe how children are seen in society. When greeting another parent as you pass each other at the school gate, do you always make just as much effort to greet each passing child? Or perhaps we can consider how we speak about our children when we feel frustrated with our parenting role. Perhaps we post something on social media, complaining about something they did or share a meme that ultimately shames a child. If we found ourselves frustrated with a close friend, would we vent this frustration in the same way? This is in no way intended to say that parenting is easy. There are rough moments, but we can express our frustration with respect, reach out for help and turn inwards and reflect on ourselves at the core.

There is a level of social acceptance around the shaming and devaluing of children.

So much so that we can engage in this behaviour unconsciously, so I do encourage you to be kind to yourself as it is highly likely something we have all engaged in at some point in time. However, I am writing this to bring such discourse out of the unconscious mind.

Children can be empowered, heard and seen. Which has the power to transform social narrative to a shared understanding. Children can be seen as beings instead of becomings, as agents with their own lived experiences and voices.

We know that children learn best when they are supported to follow their interests and passions. How transformative would it be to create an education model that respects the idealogy of the whole child and supports the child as they intuitively follow their own unuque learning journey.

We live in a society perpeturated by mental health concerns, feelings of insecurity and people questioning their worth. A shift away from adultism could be a powerful move toward a culture of that respects the whole child and sees their unique value in contributing to community, despite their age.

This idea is huge, I know. One that we may feel powerless towards supporting. But the small steps are collectively huge. We can make an effort to acknowledge children within our community, show respect to all humans, no matter their age and support the children who do step into their power to advocate for child led change.

How else how you seen adultism perpetuate your communities?

What are your suggestions for small shifts to create collective change?

Hannah x

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