Adultism: Teenagers And Young Adults Have The Power

Until at least the age of 25, people treat you as a child. It is assumed that because of your age, you’re not experienced or mature enough to make proper decisions, especially if you’re under 20. Yet the truth is that being young is valuable. Teenagers are a lot more intelligent than people make them out to be, and even though they don’t have as much experience as people over 60 do, their opinion is no less important, because they have certain traits that older people lack. Open-mindedness, recent education, creativity, progressive thoughts, ambition, you name it. The younger you are, the more you have of it. So then why is today’s youth constantly ignored when it comes to their thoughts and opinions?

Whenever I tell people that I have written a book, one of the standard responses is “but you’re so young.” As if that’s a reason not to write a book. Perhaps even worse are the replies my friends give, many of whom say that they also want to write a book, but not “until they’re older.” Everything we could do is postponed to a time when we’re older, even though by that time, we will have lost all that open-mindedness and all that creativity. We all seem to think that being young is a disadvantage, that growing older is somehow going to fix that.

But as this article points out, that’s wrong. By believing that being young is a disadvantage and by spreading that belief, we make it true. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you tell a 16 year-old boy that he cannot have a proper relationship because he’s too young for it, and that the love he has for a certain girl is temporary and childish, he will believe you, and he will act upon it. By not taking it seriously and experimenting with sex at way too young an age, because even though love and caring apparently don’t exist yet, sex does. I’m not making it up. It’s all in the article.

It’s discrimination based on age. Everyone knows it exists, there’s even a term for it (ageism), but it only seems to apply to older people. A 50 year old woman is the victim of ageism when she cannot get a job because young students are favoured, but the other way around, it is hardly ever used in practice. Psychologists know all about it, of course, but psychologists cannot make changes any more than we can. They call it adultism, but my spell-check doesn’t even seem to agree that that is actually a word.

The truth is that adultism is a serious issue. We need young, open-minded and creative people for all sorts of things, including politics, yet we leave those things to the elderly. Every government in this world is filled with older people, as if they are somehow more intelligent. Sure, we need older people in politics as well because their experience is valuable, but it is no more valuable than the creative and progressive thoughts the youth can bring. Those two forces need to work together, the way democracy was intended, rather than the one oppressing the other, which is what would have been done in a dictatorship.

Although it also manifests itself institutionally, adultism is a cultural problem, and the only way to address it is by making the problem known. If you consider yourself a young adult, then you can share this message and convince yourself of your own worth. You can make sure that you won’t ever use the excuse that you are “too young” for something and that you realise that your youthfulness is just as valuable as your grandmother’s experience. At the same time, if you’re from an older generation, you can make sure that you become the exception. You can become that person who encourages young adults to do what is right, regardless of how young they are. That’s all that’s needed.

Ultimately, being young is valuable, and it is something you can never get back. All those advantages will fade in the end, and that is why it is so important to use them while you still can. Express your ideals, share them with the world, and make sure you remember them, because they matter, and you won’t be able to think of them in 40 years. The time you spend as a young adult is incredibly important, so don’t waste it just because other people say you should. It’s much too valuable for that.


– Dean Richards is not liable for any mid-life crises this post may have caused –


Right, I’m sorry about that one… I definitely wouldn’t argue that being older is a disadvantage, or that you can no longer do all those things you want to do, but it’s definitely not an advantage either. This post was just meant to inspire younger generations, not to discourage the older ones!

Anyway, don’t forget to rate/share/like this post, and if you have any thoughts of your own, please do leave them in the comments! And if you’re new here? Feel free to like the Facebook page for regular updates, or try having a look at the list of most popular posts!

More on this topic from Dean Richards:

Our Purpose: A Simple and Concrete Explanation of the Meaning of Life

How To Become Textbook Healthy: A Guide For Fangirls

We Are All Ignorant: Social Media and the News


About Dean Richards

A young student with a passion for writing. Aspiring author and human rights activist, but I write about anything. "If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree!" New blog post every Monday!
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5 Responses to Adultism: Teenagers And Young Adults Have The Power

  1. perspectivethink says:

    A lot of older people tend to say things like “I know more about life because I’ve lived longer than you have.” This goes under the assumption that life is the same for everyone everywhere and that circumstances are the same throughout. Unfortunately, that is an inaccurate perspective regarding life and experiences. Life is not the same now as it was back in 1945 so, it would be more accurate to say that they know more about their own life than about circumstances in the present. They didn’t have a public internet back then like they do now. It has changed the way people look at and experience life. How can anyone know more about life if they haven’t known life with something like the internet?

    You also have to look at the influences of young people today, most of which is just media and doesn’t do much to educate young people rather than it makes them consumers of products and followers of the system, if you will. Granted, not every young person gets sucked into the nonsense of media and consumerism, but it is necessary to see how much of people in the so-called industrial world get suckered into what’s on the screen than what’s happening beyond that.

    Young people need not feel victimized. Their focus just needs to shift from one of not knowing to one of knowing. It’s the same with adults, really. Once people start to recognize individual perspectives and acknowledge experience and abilities, this business of “adultism” will disappear into nothingness.

    • I agree with most of what you said, but I wouldn’t say young people feel victimised except in those cases when they are truly left out of something.

      Most of the time, it’s more like what the article suggested: young people are basically indoctrinated by the idea that they are children and that therefore the things they do are less “worthy”. Being victimised would imply that it is a conscious thing, but I don’t think it is. If a 15 year old is told over and over again that he can’t love anyone because he is too young, then he will eventually believe it to be true.

      That’s also what makes it difficult to change anything: nobody realises that adultism exists because when we compare the current situation to what it was like 200 years ago, all we can think about is the child labour they had back then, and we forget the advantages that society had.

      • perspectivethink says:

        I understand your point, but look at theistic religion, Christianity in particular. It teaches that everyone (adults included) is a “child” of God- born imperfect and in sin- in need of “his guidance”. It also teaches that those “children” (adults included) who are “worthy” of “his” presence shall have it and those who are not “worthy” shall be denied lest they become “worthy” through knowing and acceptance of God. I don’t think that this idea of “worthiness” that you mention is limited only to young people. “Worthiness” implies some kind of elitism which is probably more in line with what you’re suggesting as far as “adultism” although I can clearly see the logic of both.

        I think there is too much emphasis on the duality of “young” and “old”, “right” or “wrong”, etc, etc. We must see that everyone (regardless of age) experiences things and has knowledge that others don’t but could very well learn from. The idea of “worthiness” you talk about sounds incredibly institutionalized to me. However difficult it is for things to change, they are not impossible. Even if people don’t realize that “adultism” exists, my thought is, why give it any credibility in the first place? It only exists because people feed into it’s ideological existence by their thoughts and actions. If you don’t want it to exist, don’t feed into it by being antagonized by it. An opinion, mind you. 200 years ago was 200 years ago. Whatever the advantages (which I see very few, if any), life is now and any “ism” can be eradicated through education and evolution in thinking.

        • perspectivethink says:

          By the way, I do acknowledge that there is an injustice being done towards young people by deeming them unskilled or unknowing. The point I’m trying to make is that it isn’t just limited to young people, but to all people regardless of age or background. How many people out there think that gay couples are not worthy to raise a family? How many people out there think that others cannot achieve certain things because of their background? As long as people keep thinking and feeding into that, division among society is guaranteed. Anyone, regardless of age, can set the example for something different and more beneficial. It takes beneficial action to make it happen. Being angry and upset about it is fine, but to stay there accomplishes nothing. What it will take is cooperation and understanding on both sides to eliminate what is called “adultism” or any “ism” for that matter.

          • I think we actually agree, judging from this. Of course, it isn’t limited to young people, but the only point I wanted to make was that it does include young people. That doesn’t make adultism a bigger issue than homophobia or racism, but it makes it an issue.

            Also, no matter what kind of discrimination you are subjected to, just being angry and upset about it is always useless. So that’s not what I’m suggesting we should do, nor is it even nearly what I’m doing myself. Not only am I pretty much incapable of being angry at all, I also won’t ever let something as pointless as a little criticism about my age stop me from doing the kind of things I think I should be doing. I did write that book despite what people told me and I do write a political blog despite the criticisms I received when I still put my age up there somewhere (which I learned from, by the way).

            But I don’t let it stop me, and I am definitely not suggesting that I should. People are always going to criticise and they are always going to try to get you down based on irrelevant things such as race, gender or sexual preference (and sometimes something minor as age, which I also wouldn’t say is equally bad as those other forms of discrimination), but it’s never a reason not to do something.

            Now, the thing is… most lesbian black women know this. But the problem with adultism is that it affects children and young adults, who are not only a small minority with very few non-minority supporters, but they are also often still in a formative phase, in which the opinion of the many is picked up. If you tell a lesbian black woman she isn’t clever enough to be involved in politics, she will rightly call you out on it. If you tell the same thing to a 16-year old, chances are that he’ll believe you. And there certainly won’t be a societal outcry about it.

            So, basically… adultism is not as bad as the other forms of discrimination, but it is much more difficult to resist. And that doesn’t mean that being angry or upset about it will help, but I do think that writing about it might help, just as long as that young person him or herself realises that age isn’t a burden.

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