Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Adultism...Lets Name It for What It Really is.

couldntthinkofanoriginalname's picture

“’Student voice,’ in its most profound and radical form, calls for a cultural shift that opens up spaces ad minds not only to the sound but also the presence and power of students.” –Cook-Sather 363

This quote resonates with me because back home, in Boston, much of my community organizing had to do with proving that young people are capable and impactful in their own education. Convincing adults was incredibly frustrating work. However, I kept with it because I agree, like Cook-Sather, that the true purpose of student voice should acknowledge and accept the power of students in and beyond education. When reading her article, I found it interesting that much of what she was describing—the positives/negatives of student voice, the power dynamic between young people and adults that calls for student voice—had not been coined with a term. Back home, much of what Cook-Sather describes is called, adultism, the act of discriminating against or undermining someone who is a young person because he/she is not yet an adult.

As I read, I kept hoping that Allison would use the term since it is an experience that all of us go through, and will continue to go through, until we reach adulthood. Yet, as I write, I begin to wonder, “What is adulthood?” and “How can adults discriminate against young people based on a concept that is so subjective and has many gray areas?” In all, I really appreciated reading this article because it reminded me of how easy it should be to incorporate student voice in education. All of us have the ability to remember and reflect on our experiences as young people. So, why is it hard for adults to realize the importance of student voice when they, too, were young people at some point in their lives? It just amazes me that the concept of adulthood, whatever that is, can make people forget how it feels to experience an oppression we have all shared at some point.



Adam Fletcher's picture

Adultism in schools

Hey, just a quick note to let you know I really appreciate your post. The challenge of adultism in schools is overwhelming to many educators, if only because a lifetime of conditioning keeps them from considering the spaces Cook-Sather talks about in the quote you have.

You might like the post I wrote about this at

I'm curious what you think could be done to promote awareness and cultural work on adultism in schools?