Benefits of Rejecting Adultism

In the short-term, engaging with our students through collaboration and negotiation may seem time-consuming. Yet as many of us have discovered, the long-term benefits often outweigh the investment of time and energy. In fact, we may find that such an approach allows us to circumvent negative power struggles with our students and instead ignite their interest with results that may exceed our expectations.

The consequences of adultism are serious, increasing young people’s vulnerability to violence by undermining their self-esteem, self-assertion and self-confidence. When adults do not value and believe in the capacity of young people, they are unlikely to flourish and grow into their best selves. In the 2008 report by the Safe School Action Team, the authors asserted, "Safety is a precondition for learning" (Shaping a Culture of Respect in Our Schools p. 8). Safety, defined broadly as an environment that nurtures student wellbeing and enables them to realize their full potential, is an essential condition for all learning.

It doesn’t feel good when an adult doesn’t listen to you because you think that they don’t really care about you or that your ideas aren’t good and that it’s just because you’re a kid that you’re not treated as well.

– Elementary student

Our ability to promote this aspect of our students’ education is contingent upon our continued questioning and challenging of our privilege as adults. By seeking opportunities to share our power with students and placing student voice at the centre of our classroom and school, we help foster the core components of character development.

When an adult listens to you it feels like you’re being given a say into your education and I feel like when you are given a chance to speak to adults and they listen to you that opens so many doors and opportunities. We really get to take control of our education and our environment at school and that’s something huge.

– Elementary student