First of all, I should say that it's probably a credit to Scott Wells that he was able to write a post that I had to think about for like a week before I could respond. I read his post on youth empowerment and the sort of "I hate you, now please take me to the mall" (my characterization of his words) vibe he got from national YRUU. I read his post on Saturday and I knew I agreed a little bit, but I disagreed a lot. So I gave it some more thought.
Then yesterday, I was talking about YRUU to someone I go to school with, someone who asked the very question that every YRUU advisor is asked on a regular basis,
"So how do you keep them from fucking?"
I recited the answer I always give "We don't have to, we watch them pretty carefully, but the biggest discipline problems I've had in the years I've been doing this have been a couple of Chinese fire drills and a strip poker game where any kid who got down to underwear started putting clothes back on. That's it. They're good, better than I was at their age."
But this time, I actually thought about that answer and what I meant that I could give it. I thought about the Presby youth group I was a member of when I was a kid. We pretty much had two rules: "Try to show up at the monthly meetings" and "No twosomes wandering off alone together, because we know the sort of bestial acts your inherently sinful natures will..."
We were Calvinists, you see.
I kid, but you see my point. Our advisors spent a hell of a lot of energy trying to keep us showing up and preventing us from having sex.
As a YRUU youth advisor, I've never really had to do either. I do my best to help the kids who don't fit in as well fit into the group. In that sense, I encourage people to show up. But mostly, they come enthusiastically. The wash cars for Beacon House, they plan their worship service, they put on plays for education in El Salvador, they sell totebags for charity, they entertain the families of seriously ill children who are at NIH, they collect canned goods for the hungry. They do retreats. They support each other through first car accidents and dying grandparents.
And yeah, they show up to protest marches and sometimes argue politics. Sometimes they don't argue those politics the way I would. Indeed, one of my youth was nationally fussed over by the UUA for an email she wrote in support of the UUA/UCC petition that I have referred to here as the "fuck the Iraqis who will die when the nation descends into anarchy, just bring the white people home" petition.
So what if her method of doing things and even her goal are not things I agree with?
When I was her age, all people asked of me was to show up and refrain from sex until the lock-in was over.
In a way, Scott Wells' post (and the five days I took to come up with this response) are major, major compliments to the YRUU youth because it shows the crazy standards we hold our youth to. Honestly, I think it was pretty clever to craft a near-immediate response that frames the YRUU issue as one of denominational concern for our youth and asks GA delegates to affirm that concern. I think it's brilliant politics. The delegates will be primed to take the next step, to vote to pay for more things for youth.
But OK, let's accept Scott's logic that the resolution was a bad idea. What are his alternate suggestions for the youth?
An alternative being organized?
Yes, we expect people whose median age is too young to drive to put together national meetings, fundraisers and an entire alternative organization that they should fund themselves because some UUA (and non-UUA) adults think they've taken an obnoxious approach to their attempts to end racism*. They're "entitled," you see, because they expect adults who are not their parents to fund an organization for young UUs. It's like they think young UUs are the organization's future or something.
Hell, even MENSA doesn't expect its Teen Group to do and pay for everything themselves. And our kids aren't geniuses, they are just regular kids who have been raised UU, but we have so much faith in them, we expect them to have learned the political lessons of the 1960's and adjust their behavior accordingly.
Oh, and pay for their own large organization without help.
And keep their clothes on.
*I also think it's obnoxious. But I think a lot of denominations would kill for youth that committed to fixing the problems of the world.