Saturday, February 28, 2009

Johnathan Krohn- 13 Year Old Conservative Author

The latest conservative hero is a 13-year-old boy from Atlanta, Georgia named Jonathan Krohn. (He turns 14 on March 1.) Jonathan was a guest speaker at a national conservative meeting this week, and has apparently authored a book on conservative principles.

Imagine, this kid can't vote, but he can be this articulate about politics:

Whether you agree or disagree with him, you have to admit he definitely has a good head on his shoulders.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fake Plastic Childhood

I was just watching the powerful music video for Radiohead's, "FakePlastic Trees." It featured Yorke as an overgrown child sitting in a shopping cart (as a child would), being pushed down a long aisle in a supermarket. If you want to talk about a clear image of the commodification and restriction of childhood, isn't it interesting how parents cart the kids around with all the other "stuff?"

It's from the viewpoint of the parent, and the camera appears to "look" back and forth at the shelves, passing over this "child" sitting in the cart, eyes fixed forward on the parent, as if yearning unquestioningly for some attention amidst everything else that has the adult "distracted,"--a "fake plastic love" indeed.

I take it as a statement on child dehumanization and confinement (literally to a shopping cart in this scene) in the face of consumerism, as much as Yorke's "overgrown child" in a shopping cart image strikes me as a representation of the blatant infantilization of teens in our consumer culture.

Art can be interpreted many ways.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Economic Woes Mean Youth Marginalization

Research into social perceptions of youth has shown us that in times of war, youth are depicted as "mature, responsible, and competent," but during times of economic hardship, the same group are depicted as "immature, unstable, undereducated." Obviously you can see why. When there's fewer jobs, adults want to make the playing field look more uneven. When there's a war that needs to be fought, they want everyone to get behind sending out the fresh, young, front lines (Enright, Levy, Harris, & Lapsley, 1987).

Seriously, how many criminal "sexting" cases have to make headlines these days before we see this pattern of marginalization happening right before our eyes?

This has been posted on the Age of Reason blog, concerning the increasing criminalization of youth and their "conspicuous absence of concern for youth" during this economic crisis.

A good read.

Increasingly, children seem to have no standing in the public sphere as citizens and as such are denied any sense of entitlement and agency. Children have fewer rights than almost any other group, and fewer institutions protecting these rights. Consequently, their voices and needs are almost completely absent from the debates, policies and legislative practices that are constructed in terms of their needs. This is not to suggest that adults do not care about youth, but most of those concerns are framed within the realm of the private sphere of the family and can be seen most clearly in the moral panics mobilized around drugs, truancy and kids killing each other.


As the protocols of governance become indistinguishable from military operations and crime-control missions, youth are more and more losing the protections, rights, security or compassion they deserve in a viable democracy. The model of policing that now governs all kinds of social behaviors constructs a narrow range of meaning through which young people define themselves. Moreover, the rhetoric and practice of policing, surveillance and punishment have little to do with the project of social investment and a great deal to do with increasing powerful modes of regulation, pacification and control - together comprising a “youth control complex” whose prominence in American society points to a state of affairs in which democracy has lost its claim and the claiming of democracy goes unheard.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Congrats New Teen Parents

A firestorm has ripped through the United Kingdom recently, with the much-publicized birth of Maisie Roxanne, a 7lb 3oz baby girl born to teens Alfie Patten and Chantelle Steadman. What's making this case so special is the fact that the father, Alfie, is 13 years old. Beyond all the criticism and controversy (as typically irrational adults run about trying to find someone or something to blame for this supposedly "horrible" tragedy), what we have here is new life, a new family, and it ought to be celebrated--not stigmatized.

Luckily, The Sun--those who broke the story, wrote a very touching article that paid each party in this whole event the respect they all deserve as they struggle through this time, and took some very touching photos of the new family. These two youths, and their families have a lot to deal with raising a baby on top of their studies, and it should only underscore the fact that the last thing they need is controversy--or to be drawn into some national debate about teen pregnancy. Regardless of your stance on it, you have to admit that it is not healthy for any new family to be under such scrutiny. Illigitamate children are born every day, all the disrespectful press this young family is recieving is nothing but ageist prejudice.

Let's congragulate this new couple, wish them the best of luck, and let their own words speak for themselves:


“I thought it would be good to have a baby. I didn’t think about how we would afford it. I don’t really get pocket money. My dad sometimes gives me £10."

"When my mum found out, I thought I was going to get in trouble. We wanted to have the baby but were worried how people would react. I didn’t know what it would be like to be a dad. I will be good, though, and care for it.”

He wanted to be the first to hold Maisie after the hospital birth. He tenderly kisses the baby and gives her a bottle.

And Dennis, 45, said: “He could have shrugged his shoulders and sat at home on his Playstation. But he has been at the hospital every day.”


“I’m tired after the birth. I was nervous after going into labour but otherwise I was quite excited."

“Me and Alfie went [to the doctor]. The doctor asked me whether we had sex. I said yes and he said I should do a pregnancy test. He did the test and said I was pregnant. I started crying and didn’t know what to do.He said I should tell my mum but I was too scared. We didn’t think we would need help from our parents. You don’t really think about that when you find out you are pregnant. You just think your parents will kill you.”

Chantelle admitted she and Alfie — who are both being supported by their parents — would be accused of being grossly irresponsible. She said: “We know we made a mistake but I wouldn’t change it now. We will be good loving parents. I have started a church course and I am going to do work experience helping other young mums."

“I’ll be a great mum and Alfie will be a great dad.”

All the best to the new family.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kids get Sent to Jail for Cash

It is good to see that these two judges are being being held responsible for their role in sending juveniles to jail in return for kickbacks. This article even goes so far as the compare their actions to the "grim, 19th-century landscape" of Charles Dickens, where the justice system is routinely set in motion against the youth. It's amazing how little changes--at least as a society we know these kinds of actions are reprehensible, but it only underscores how pitted against the youth the system still is.
The judges, Luzerne County President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., 58, and his predecessor, Senior Judge Michael T. Conahan, 56, will serve seven years in jail under a plea agreement. They're alleged to have pocketed $2.6 million in payments from juvenile detention center operators.
The judges will also be disbarred, bounced from the bench, and loose their pensions. Juveniles get brought in for petty things all the time, it's bad enough there's such a social stigma against young people to the point where they're being locked up for even non-crimes, but it's disheartening to know that the system could be profiting handsomely from it. Here's an overview of what they could get away with in Pennsylvania's current juvenile court system:
First, the judges helped the detention centers land a county contract worth $58 million. Then their alleged scheme was to guarantee the operators a steady income by detaining juveniles, often on petty stuff.
How were they able to get away with this for so long?
In asking the court to intervene in April, the law center cited hundreds of examples where teens accused of minor mischief were pressured to waive their right to lawyers, and then shipped to a detention center. One teen was given a 90-day sentence for having parodied a school administrator online. Such unwarranted detentions left "both children and parents feeling bewildered, violated and traumatized," center lawyers said.

"Very few people would stand up" to the Luzerne judges, according to the law center's executive director, Robert G. Schwartz.
The unfortunate thing is they didn't stand up, which makes one wonder what their own interests are in the system. As the article states, if this kind of thing can happen, then we loose faith in the impartiality of the courts of Pennsylvania--we can peal away the blindfold on the symbol of justice. Granted though, in the article they highlight probably the most asinine case to prove the point, as many others are probably not so asinine, but the argument still holds--in fact, they're sending the investigation off to a higher power:
The blind justices on the state's high court, though, took a pass. Only last month, they offered no explanation in declining to take up the law center's request that the court step up. Now, the state Supreme Court should revisit the issue, since the scope of corruption alleged at the Luzerne County Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre could further undermine confidence in the courts statewide.

Authorities need to redress running roughshod over juveniles' rights - a process also likely to bring damage suits. While the local district attorney pledges to "do our best to right the situation," this calls for an independent, outside review.
Rooting out these two judges is hopefully just the beginning of a long train of reforms that will be swept through to target this inner corruption in the courts. In the meantime, all those youth have to deal with being imprisoned, often on charges of things considered "petty," and even if they are all expunged, they still have to deal with having a record.

Is a million dollars worth ruining a child's life? Some in our justice system seem to think so.