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Why are student (young) activists so few and far between?

You always see stories on the news about these inspiring young children and teens that have done amazing things to change their community or contribute to a charity. These are great accomplishments and children and teenagers should aspire to be like these people and try to do things like this, but there has not been a lot of true change by the world's next great generation. I hope that when they become adults that they're ambition will change like the world will. I know that there are children capable are out there but why is there not more?

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    Dec 13 2013: Hi Kegan!
    From looking at your profile, it looks like you are relatively new to TED conversations.....welcome!

    Your question suggests that there are not enough young people in our world who want to change the world for the better. When you've been on TED for awhile, hopefully you will interact with the many young people who comment here and contribute positively to our global community. Based on what I've seen from the young people contributing on TED, as well as many of the young people I encounter in our world, I am anticipating many positive changes in our world:>)
  • Dec 8 2013: I believe that your question is not, or perhaps should not be,"why are there not more?'' but rather ''why are not more heard of?'' Personally I feel as though the face of activism when it comes to youth can be very one-sided where only certain young people are given praise for their actions whilst other young people are seen as lazy and not willing to make change. The opposite is true. Many times and too often young people are not recognized by the mainstream for perhaps "fighting against the upper power" or for volunteering to read to kids in a school program. Because of popular culture only the fought against struggles that are seen as "endearing" or "not very unsettling to normal society". This is not to say that any one struggle is over another however. As a student activist I can say truthfully that my work in respects to "activism" can feel very isolating. Along with a host of other young people who fight for student rights a and social change in New Orleans. And unfortunately with such work comes pushback and attacks because adults who want to keep the world as they have made it don't want to hear us. But a story about a youth who perhaps raised money for a charity will perhaps be broadcasted on the five o'clock news for the world to hear. But they are still fighting for the same thing: justice and a better world. I know of such youth in many cities in the U.S. and know that they most likely exist in every city around the world. So i say to you sir or madam, if you are looking for young activists, just look right around yourself. -:)
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      Dec 11 2013: That's a great point! Charity work is way less controversial, and much more likely to be show, whereas other activism is a pain in itself for most media.
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    Dec 11 2013: As a young student who is very opinionated on multiple issues, I can tell you that there is not the proper environment to really participate in change. First off, my generation's focus is completely on college admissions and resume building. There is little encouragement for anything big and unrelated. Sure activism could be a resume thing too, but it's so specific that one's views might not be accepted by institutions they wish to apply to. Second, this focus point also takes up most of our time, as it seems it's impossible to do too much club, sport, and volunteer work. The generation is well encouraged to maintain this focus completely. Furthermore, I think many of us don't think we can really make a difference, regardless of our ideas, as there is still ageism to consider. Lastly, many of us are not often encouraged to think outside the box of our ordinary student selves.
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      Dec 13 2013: Krisi,
      It sounds like you are already thinking outside the box, and perhaps the focus on college admissions and resume building is the first step, and the stage of your life in which you can start to build a good foundation?
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        Dec 13 2013: What do you mean? I don't think success and activism are synonymous.
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          Dec 13 2013: Krisi,
          As I understand your previous comment, you say that your generation is focusing on college admissions and resume building, and there is no time for "anything big and unrelated".

          I'm only suggesting that perhaps college and resume building (education and experience) may be the step you are taking to bigger things in your future. The more information we have with education and life experiences, contributes to how we can "BE" in this world. In my life adventure, there have been different stages of education and experiences, all of which add to our ability to function in various ways in our world.....make any sense?
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        Dec 13 2013: Yes it does. And some volunteer work certainly helps that. However to be an activist, you must be a leader. Meanwhile doing all the "great" things you are expected to do just makes you a clone of everyone else in your generation.
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          Dec 14 2013: I agree Krisi, that volunteer work is very valuable both for the giver and receiver of volunteer services. I also agree that an activist is a leader. In my perception, there are various levels of activism ("a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue").

          For example, I have been an activist/leader regarding violence and abuse in our world....in my own little way. I have not done anything "great", but I have consistently spoken against violence and abuse by volunteering in a shelter, facilitating sessions with offenders of violence and abuse, facilitating empowering workshops for women, guest lecturing and facilitating discussion groups at the university, etc. This is a small contribution in the big scheme of things, AND it is part of a larger action opposing violence and abuse.

          I never felt "expected" to do any of that, and some of my friends thought I was nuts for going into the correctional facilities/prisons to address the challenge with offenders. So, I did not feel at all like a "clone" of everyone else in my generation".

          You will discover Krisi how you can be a valuable and active leader with some issue that touches your heart and mind. The reason I am quite sure you will discover it Krisi, is that you are asking questions....exploring....maybe a little discontent with something in our world that might benefit from your attention? Perhaps frustrated with peers who don't seem to care?

          The very fact that you ARE asking questions and exploring, tells me that you are on a great path of discovery, leadership and activism:>)
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          Dec 14 2013: Are you saying that only the "one at the front" of a group advocating for or supporting something is an activist? What do you consider a leader? You might be interested in Drew Dudley's talk on Everyday Leadership .

          Are there no examples of young people you know who work for causes they find important, sometimes compromising what you might consider their own best interest to do that? Could you hold yourself accountable for making, or not making, a courageous or principled choice?

          If you are interested in activism, what issue would you work on and how do you typically spend your summer?
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      Dec 13 2013: I too am "a young student who is very opionated on multiple issues" Ms. Tran i believe you have expounded my beliefs also.
  • Dec 11 2013: Good question, unfortunately there are no organizations that are run by young adults which they can join and run. In the 60's, 70's there were a number of organizations started by young people and run by young people. Today, those organizations seem to be taken over by adults.
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      Dec 11 2013: I agree. I've never heard of a student ran club anywhere, without at least a serious backbone of adults behind it. The whole idea is completely new to my mind. That in itself shows it's rarity.
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    Dec 9 2013: "Student Debt" might be one reason.
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    Dec 9 2013: Large numbers of young people are active in enhancing quality of life for people in their communities and elsewhere. It may be precisely because such activities are so widespread, that it is unusual to hear of specific examples.
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      Dec 13 2013: Good point Fritzie!
      I also suggest that the media tends to focus on the less valuable contributions of young people (crime and unacceptable behaviors), rather than all the good things young people are doing.

      P.S.
      Did you get my reply to the e-mail you sent me?
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        Dec 13 2013: Yes, thank you. I thought I had remembered last time you were away for a few days that you had fallen, So I wanted to check everything was fine and am glad all is well.
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          Dec 13 2013: Thanks for your thoughtfulness Fritzie. Right after I replied to your e-mail, I got a notice from TED support that said the contact info changed, so I wasn't sure if you got my reply. I have been traveling, and did not always have access to a computer:>)
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    Dec 8 2013: I suppose in general it takes time to develop the skills that allow you to rise to prominence. There are more famous adults in every field than there are famous kids. But a few kids are the exception, I don't know why. Maybe in their families there were high achievers in previous generations. For example, think of Drew Barrymore, who became a famous actress at age five in "E.T." She comes from several generations of actors, the Barrymore family.
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    Dec 13 2013: Perhaps experience is the answer to your question. It takes time to realize and to then figure out the problems and inconsistencies that require activism. Especially if that youth has been raised in a culture or a home where questioning the status quo is unknown or unpopular and activism is seem as something "those people" - meaning lesser - are involved in. Not all of us and certainly not never enough of us, are raised in homes where activism is seen as a being responsible and/or necessary.

    Make no mistake, there are all kinds of pressures to conform and go along. Those who will not conform also suffer consequences for their resistance and there are few activists that also enjoy 'comfortable' or 'stress free' lives. Then there is the Sisyphean realization that hits many of us from time to time that the job may well be too big to even contemplate never mind undertake.

    Then there are all the hormonal, social and life experiences that every growing person is confronted with on a daily or even hourly basis. who's got the time for causes?
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    Dec 13 2013: i think you are putting alot of pressure on us. Some of us don't notice it and some of us rise up to the occassion( but it's not really an occassion).
  • Dec 13 2013: I don't believe they are really aware of the world they are inheriting.......they are the uninformed and highly distracted meek.
  • Dec 10 2013: They are to busy concentrating on their studies/careers to get involed. They don't want to rock the boat and risk what they have worked for. Simply; selfishness.