We hear a lot about discrimination in the workplace and other areas these days- racial discrimination, gender discrimination, and discrimination based on sexual orientation. One type, however, is conspicuously absent: age discrimination. Although admittedly we have had a few good posts about it (see Ann Bibby’s post on teacher tenure), age discrimination is not on really represented in our discussions.
Why is that? As a young activist, this has annoyed and frustrated me to no end. Why, oh WHY, do we assume that because someone is younger that they do not have the skills to succeed? When I was 8, 9, 10, and older, I consistently resented it when people talked to me condescendingly, not understanding that this was a girl who at age 8 saved up all her birthday and christmas money until she had $1,000, and then donated half to Heifer International.
The next generation is getting a lot of flack theses days for being lazy, stupid, and for not wanting to go out and get jobs. Although that is partly true, it is due mainly to messages from parents and people like Mr. Rogers that we were special no matter what, and that we should feel entitled. Yet when we hit 18, or 21, or graduated from college, we were suddenly finding ourselves on our own in the world, with parents around for moral support but at the same time with LOTS OF PRESSURE to find jobs, settle down (sometimes), and to have the “healthy, stable life that your father and I worked so hard for.” Sound familiar, anybody?
Yet when we do manage to get into the workplace, we are seen as easily disposable and are fired before everyone else. Even if we do manage to stay in a job, it’s a constant power struggle. In addition, we are so often judged by how we look. Many young teachers, doctors, layers, and others feel constantly threatened because of their perceived “youth” and “inexperience.” What older adults don’t understand about the youth of today is that you cannot push them out into a world that you have ill prepared them for, make it hard for them to succeed in it, and then get angry with them when they don’t.
There is no “magic age” at which kids and young adults stop needing the advice and assistance of those wiser than they (note that I did NOT say “older and wiser). Some people need more help for a longer time, and (gasp!) some kids can make it on their own before they’re that old. It’s true, folks. There is no magic age, and until we believe that, the old and younger generations will be at loggerheads with each other.
by Ann Garth, Care2 Member and Your Turn blogger
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