Center for Interfaith Cooperation

Hoosiers of Many Faiths in Community

Maggie Clayton on the Youth Forum

What is civic engagement? Do the children of this generation even understand how to look beyond themselves and their electronics to see what’s happening in the world? Do they know the impact they could have on society? The impact they should have? Those were the question’s posed by this year’s Youth Forum.

These questions are nothing new to us. It seems like there’s at least one news story about the downfall of society because of the technology-obsessed youths a week, if not in a day. The unique thing about this presentation is that it was supposedly led by the children. It starts off with a room that is jam-packed with people ranging from 6 to 66. The room is dark because they’re featuring a video. A man is rapping about how much technology is taking away from the world, how the youth of America no longer interacts with one another—ironically he’s using the technology he’s so adamantly against to portray this message to the masses.

The video ends and the speaking begins. The speaker goes on to criticize the younger generation, of which he’s barely a part of, for being selfish. His name is Tony Styxx, he’s a local speaker and he’s enthusiastic but all he’s spouting is blame. Why are millennials so selfish? Then he asks pointed questions to see how selfish the group is, its feels as though the kids in the room are on the chopping block. They use technology too much, and not in the right way according to Styxx.

This begs the question, what is the right way? How do we use it more effectively? Unfortunately, no one bothered to go into details on it. Time was taken to criticize but not to assist the kids. It would have been nice to see a few examples of technology being used to convey a civic message. After all there are so many excellent examples of how technology has been used to further causes, for example the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS. The challenge was started in the US and managed to reach all across the world, and touch people of all different statuses.

The kids are then asked to break into groups, with a youth leader heading the group discussions. The questions are generic and broad, probably to leave things open to conversational change but it really just seems to make all participants nervous.  The kids have their parent’s directly behind them, to add pressure to the already nerve racking situation.

The parents have more to say than anyone else and often don’t leave room for the kids, even their own kids, to make comment. It’s essentially a massacre any good vibes of open conversation that was intend are definitely dead. The free pizza was the only sense of joy in the room.

The forum was good in theory. However, in practice it fell short on a handful of matters.  The children’s interaction being the biggest trouble, perhaps if the parents had been forced to wait on the sidelines and not allowed to join the discussion things would have gone differently.

Of course we cannot just ask parents’ to give us their children and leave the room, so why not have a small parental group in the back of the room. The parents’ can still keep an eye on their children while also being able to discuss important issues. It could even goes as far as instructing the parents on how to keep their household more civically involved, and how to allow technology in their home without letting it take over.

This event will hopefully continue yearly and grow from its blunders, only getting better with time.