It’s false thinking to say that adults don’t listen to young people. Many students feel that they are not heard, but it reality, the voices of youth often get the most attention from adults in power.
On Monday, students from Open High School, in Richmond, Virginia walked out of
class and marched to City Hall to protest the poor conditions of city school buildings.
2 ½ hours later, Mayor Dwight Jones joined them for a Q&A session. Students aired their grievances about school disrepair, and Mayor Jones listened. Richmond has seen many protests and sit-ins, led by adults, over the past years. Very few of these groups ever got to meet with the Mayor. But the youth did.
In 2012, a group of 4th graders were invited to the US Pentagon.
“They didn’t invite us to talk about war,” said John Hunter, the students’ teacher, “They wanted to seriously have a discussion about peace and how we do that.”* The students had participated in a game Hunter designed, call the World Peace Game**. During the game, students solved global warming in a week, staved off war and ultimately created world peace. Top Pentagon officials wanted to learn from these students.
Global Youth Village alumna Zainab Poonawalla was invited to Unite Nations.
This year, Zainab was invited to the United Nations twice – once as a delegate for their Youth Assembly, and again for conference on woman and leadership. Zainab has a powerful voice, and UN leaders have taken notice! Read more about what Zainab is up to.
The voice of young people is honesty, genuine and untainted by greed – this makes adults trust it.
And in a world where many young people just sit and watch TV or play video games, the rare youth voice in public sticks out – and it is the new and novel that gets the most attention.
One thing all these youth have in common, is that they know how to express themselves in a way that adults will listen.
Instead of shouting, screaming and accusing, they listen first, ask deep questions and voice their option clearly, succinctly and without judgement. This are skills that many adults don’t even have.
At the Global Youth Village’s Dialogue and Diplomacy workshop, students practice these skills alongside students from diverse backgrounds. It creates a perfect space for listening with patience and expressing oneself while respecting the views of others – skills key to having adults really listening to youth.
** the Lynchburg Peace Education Center, in Lynchburg, VA will be screening a documentary film about John Hunter and his World Peace Camp. May 8th at the Community Meeting Room of the Lynchburg Library on Memorial Ave. Free and Open to the Public. Panel discussion to follow, with Jen Lewis of the Global Youth Village serving as panelist.
Reid, Z. (2014, April 29). Students rally for change. Richmond Times Dispatch, pp. A1, A10
*Svrluga, S. (2012, April 19). Fourth-grades meet with top Pentagon leaders to talk about peace. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/