Jonathan Goldman: Give youths the respect they deserve

Sunday, August 20, 2017
Give youths the respect they deserve

At Northampton High School, a group of students recently introduced reusable silverware to their cafeterias, and, at JFK Middle School, students held rallies which brought sexual harassment to the forefront of issues being discussed by school administration.

These developments are not flukes. These students didn’t just get lucky. Their work is a reflection of what can happen when young people who are driven to create change are given the respect they deserve.

Respect should not be reserved solely for the elderly and adults but should also be extended to children and youth. Respecting young people means a teenager’s idealistic goals shouldn’t be whisked away, deemed as impossible. Respect means that we should provide resources to enthusiastic youths rather than constrict their potential.

I’m not going to pretend that teenagers are flawless in their thinking nor that they should be given free reign. In the same way that we do not give unconditional respect to all people in our lives, respecting young people does not mean that this respect must be unconditional. It is possible to listen and support ideas in constructive ways without simply shutting them down.

Just three years ago I was also a teenager trying to save the world (and I like to imagine I still am working toward that goal). For example, I spearheaded BenchWalk and attempted to bring residential composting back to Northampton. The respect and support of community leaders such as Bill Dwight and Lilly Lombard were essential to my success.

I urge adults and community leaders to follow their example and give the respect to youth that is integral to fostering great ideas.

Jonathan Goldman