I'm sorry for being unclear. I've realized that in trying to simplify something to the base question above--to avoid getting too specific--I've actually taken something that is complex and human and real and turned it into something unintended. Basically, I've been teaching teens for many years. And while I've seen discrimination against youth for that entire time, over the past two years it appears to have grown. In a conversation with a colleague, I noted this and posited that stereotyping teens and discriminating against them says something about a society that claims its future is in the hands of its youth. I believe that teens are not only our hope for the future, they're our hope for today. And if there's a growing trend of hostility and fear toward teens, what does that say about society? My colleague countered that it's discrimination toward the elderly that better reflects society--how we treat those who in some cultures have the utmost respect. Who in THIS society once had the utmost respect. This conversation turned into discussing "shifts" in isms. While it's true that hate and discrimination are hate and discrimination no matter who they're aimed at, it's also much more complex than that. There are shifts and waves in "how" and "whom" we discriminate against, and as that occurs, it says something about us as people and a society. I'm sure I'm being as clear as mud here. Sometimes words escape even a Word Nerdfighter ...
No, discrimination isn't always wrong, and in fact all of us do it on a regular basis. We discriminate who we are going to be friends with, who we are going to be romantic with, who we will have sex with, who we will work for or who will work for us, etc. Discrimination is a necessary part of life. It's just that there are some extremely stupid things upon which to discriminate in various circumstances.
It makes sense, for example, for a gay man to discriminate against women in selecting a life partner. It does not make sense, for example, for him to refuse to hire women on the basis of sex for a job as office manager. It makes sense for a movie director to discriminate on the basis of race and sex in hiring someone to play the part of Harriet Tubman in a movie. It does not make sense to discriminate on the basis of race and sex in the hiring of a movie director.
That's not discrimination. Discrimination is holding something against a group for something they really can't control. Choosing friends wisely means you hang out with people who aren't jerks and you have something in common with. You don't necessarily discriminate against people you don't date or befriend. You can respect them and uphold their rights as people without wanting to have a sleepover with them.
Each are discriminated against, but it also depends on what you consider to be discrimination. Teens can not legally do many things since they are still considered children by the law until the age of 18 in the United States. But that is society's way of protecting them as they would for any child (0-17). In American society, we have the luxury of prolonging our immaturity as a nation in ways that other countries do not have the pleasure. Think of kids in Africa being pressed into military service at the age of 8 compared to the lives or our own American 8 year olds. There are also child sweatshops in many countries, especially in Asia and South America. Even England makes their citizens grow up faster with being an adult at 16 and have complete citizen rights at 18, including being eligible to run for any government office. Could you imagine having an 18 year old president of the United States? This is the reasoning behind the institutional discrimination. This also bleeds out to the image of teens as a whole. They are seen as immature, rebellious, and an upcoming change. Just as the elderly represent the past, or the old ways. American culture has the "out with the old, in with the new" mentality, so they discount the wisdom and experience of the elderly. But people in general are afraid of new change in many circumstances. Each wave is a new generation ready to change the status quo and propel society either forward or backward (assuming the society at the time can tell which is which). I think that teens experience more institutional discrimination while elderly experience more social discrimination. (Institutional discrimination is discrimination that is supported by laws and the government.)
I think this discussion raises a very interesting point though. Especially if you look into why teens and the elderly are discriminated against.
Teens are generally told that they aren't allowed to do something because at some point the person forbidding them, or perhaps many in society if it's a law forbidding them, have done exactly what they are forbidding. A lot of times, the things that a teen is told he can not do are things that we regret doing in our own teen years, or things that lead to regrets. The universal fallacy, of course, being that all people are different. We don't all make the same choices in high pressure situations, and what one person regrets, another person may not.
Old people, on the other hand, are often discrimintated against because we cannot relate to their age. Nobody knows what it's like to feel old except old people. There are many things that make us feel isolated from the elderly as well. The most prominent of which is that they remind each of us of our own mortality. That being said, I'm not really sure that old people are really all that discrimintated against. The only thing I can think of is taking away their driving licenses and committing them to old-folks homes. Which, taking away driver's licenses is based on sight and old-folks homes are there to take care of our loved ones when we are not able to. Well...assuming it's not one of those crooked sweat-shop homes.
Hmmm. It definately depends on the setting and whatnot. Some youth don't respect elders at all, butn then some elderly people are just as unhappy with the young people of this generation. A lot of them blame the rising violence on the youth, thought it was them who raised the youth or their parents, so it's tricky. Then there's the fact that some people are just not respectful to anyone, so you can't judge one person, or a few, for their whole age group. Oui?
The elderly get a lot of extras nobody else gets, (i.e. senior citizen discounts, social security, the right to be insane in public because they might have Alzheimer's or some other mental disease...) The youth on the other hand, is often pushed aside as though they have no real say because they can't possibly have any real experience because they're young. Teens are assumed to be insane in public because they're teens. Teens often have to work for what they own, (unless their parents are the super rich and super awesome kind), especially if they live by themselves. There are no "home for the Teenagers" to keep young homeless or abused kids off the streets and out of their incompetent parents hair.
I say teens are more discriminated against, but only by the stereotype held by the elderly that we're all just a bunch of idiotic mall rats.
Perhaps I'd say different if I were elderly, however, I know my Grandma who earned her handicapped license plate by being mentally handicapped by age 65. Nobody wants to drive with her because it's quite likely she'll snooze behind the wheel. She often accuses me of being addicted to caffeine just because I'll say something like, "I feel like coffee". And even though I hadn't had any coffee in months, she'll give me a story about how she knew someone who was addicted to coffee.
*sigh* I guess Grandma ruined it for all of the elderly...
Is there an elder amongst us who can give their end of this argument?
I think both parties are discriminated against by stereotyping. Teens seen as uneducated/experienced in the real world, and the elderly seen as purely senile.
While neither of these stereotypes are true. =\