DR. GAYLE KIMBALL

GLOBAL ACADEMIC RESEARCHER WITH FOCUS ON YOUTH

“Do you know what global youth say about life, the world, their wishes for the future? I do.”

Gayle has travelled to 18 countries all over Earth to interview over 4,000 youth under 19 years of age on their views and experiences on important issues. Wow, how often do you get to meet such a person?

“I’d like to stop the apocalypse and save the world; we are the new generation and it’s up to us.” What do you think, in what country do youth speak like this?

Gayle's story

“Normally when we need to know about something we go to the experts, but we tend to forget that when we want to know about youth and what they feel and what they want, we should talk to them.” – Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General

Gayle found that academic literature only speaks about youth and never gives voice to their views. This is called ageism and a strong form of discrimination that commonly results in depiction that is strongly distorted by the elder author’s lense mixed with personal sub/conscious conceptions of what his/her youth was like and charged with simplified, incomplete, broken, superficial and largely negative stereotypical youth image.

Especially in today’s fast paced world in which many youth mature much earlier and have access to what thirty years ago would have been reserved to grown-ups age 20+ (global news, media production, conversation with youth all over Earth …) and where early teenage changemakers have strong societal impact on lives, land, learning, laws and industries, such simplified writing on a young generation of 3 billion youth in highly diverse setting in 200 countries does not live up to scientific standards and society’s standards.

So, Gayle sat out to change it and interview thousands of youth with multiple coice and open questions by scientific standards. The results are stunning in volume, scope and depth.

We have never read so many young voices … form such diverse geographical and cultural context and it truly fills our blanks on billions of youth that are not like a tiny %age of urban U.S. kids called Generation X, Y, Z characterized by oversimplied stereotype that does not live up to today’s young generation.

Gayle is author of over 20 books on underrepresented groups, among which are 6 books on youth, always with global focus with voices from many countries: 

  • AGEISM. Generation maligned
  • GLOBAL YOUTH. How global youth values will transform our future
  • BRAVE. Young Women’s Global Revolution
  • RESIST. Goals & Tactics for Changemakers
  • KIDS ADVICE TO KIDS. How To Survive Your Parents’ Divorce
  • CLIMATE GIRLS. Saving Our World

and that’s a lot of content that she can share with you!

Gayle has published with academic publishers, whose prices are often out of reach for ordinary citizens.

That’s why Gayle is delighted to share her knowledge and young people’s stories in vivid conversations with classrooms around the globe and invite them to add their own.

TOPICS

global youth views

girls & uprisings

climate girls

ageism in literature on youth 

PREPARATION

“Normally when we need to know about something we go to the experts, but we tend to forget that when we want to know about youth and what they feel and what they want, we should talk to them.” – Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General

What are young people thinking?

Since I was a child, I have cared about the underdog, the voiceless. Although I’ve written over 22 books on seemingly disparate topics, the recurring theme is that they give voice to the under-represented: women and girls, egalitarian couples, and youth. My recent books have a global focus, rather than limiting their attention to North America. To find out what global young people are thinking and what they value, I surveyed over 4,000 youth, mainly under the age of 19, from 18 countries, and quote them in my books.

“The new voices need to be heard and this book can let the world hear them! I am so amazed that there is really a new force waking up around the world, which can make the Earth a better place. If I were a leader, I would make it part of the education. The world needs to know how the new generation thinks and what differences they can make.”

– Yuan, 19, m, China

“I’d like adults to understand that in the 21st century, young people are thinking big and have a huge amount of knowledge that can be useful, due in large part to the Internet and the globalization it has brought about. I also would like them to think outside the box a little more, as so many (including my parents) think that school-uni-job is the only way to go.”

– Will, 18, m, Australia

“We’re the Green Generation. Let’s unite to bring an end to famine and poverty, stop pollution and epidemics, and make our environment clean and green with happy faces in it.”

– Chuney, 14, f, Bhutan

To find these young people, starting in Japan in 2004, I traveled to Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South America, and various US states. I visited schools and families to learn how the new generation’s values and beliefs will shape our global future.

I stayed with families in Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt, England, Greece, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Switzerland, Tanzania and Turkey. Any time I met people from another country, I asked them if they knew youth or their teachers in their country of origin, such as when I met a Dutch teacher in Bonaire or a German student in Luxor, Egypt. Over 80 teachers listed in the acknowledgements on the Global Youth Book webpage mailed or emailed their students’ responses to the 12 book questions.

Traveling around the world, I got to experience drinking yak butter tea in Tibet, eating 100 different kinds of dumplings in China, steamed caterpillar in Korea, many varieties of lentils and flatbread in India, alligator in Louisiana, jelly-like green vegetables in Egypt, and excellent Russian ice cream from a street vendor. I was stranded in airports in Cairo and Dar es-Salaam when hosts didn’t pick me up, which is another story.

The best part of globetrotting was talking with young people in places as varied as barren blocks of apartments in Cairo, tiny apartments in China, a colorfully painted home in Brazil, and two-story homes in London and Northern India (see photos on Facebook), as well as email and Skype dialogues. Photographs of some of the respondents are included in the Facebook Global Youth SpeakOut albums and some videotaped interviews are on the YouTube “TheGlobalyouth” channel.

An ah-ha moment for me was that realization that ageism is at play in academic circles. Most academics erroneously told me that many books were written about youth activism and cited books that didn’t focus on youth at all, indicating that a blind spot or bias was at play.

Some publishers told me that readers aren’t interested in youth.

This phenomenon is similar to the sexism that kept scholars of both sexes from focusing on women’s contributions, until feminists pointed it out in the Second Wave of the woman’s movement. For example, I wrote my dissertation on the religious ideas of the 19th century novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her novels clearly focus on the saving grace of virtuous women, but no one had discussed the very obvious theme due to the sexist blind spot. Even books describing bias against young people don’t include their actual voices, just like history books included few women’s or people of color’s voices. The focus on great men is corrected by doing “history from below” and “standpoint” theory approaches to research by including the thoughts of actual participants—in this case, youth.

After reading over 4,000 responses to my open-ended questions for young people from 88 countries, I’m most concerned about the gap between the 1% and the 99% of the population. I have ongoing email communications with some of the most motivated respondents that have lasted for years, such as a Chinese student I “met” when he was a first-year college student. I traveled to speak with some youth in person and Skyped with others.

The most troubling fact is that around 85% of the world’s young people are growing up in developing nations in a world undergoing harmful climate change. The talent and energy of too many of them are diminished by lack of food, health care and education, robbing us of their potential contributions to progress. Young people in developing countries will change the global future with their aspirations for middle-class opportunities. The fact that 26 men own as much wealth as half the world’s population, according to Oxfam, indicates that growing inequality is going to cause more uprisings like the ones that started with the Arab Spring in 2011 and spread to occupy other public spaces around the world.

Some malnourished children are literally stunted in their growth and mental capacities for the rest of their lives. In the Global South, kids suffer from malnutrition in areas like India and Sub-Saharan Africa and work hard in their parents’ fields, often depriving them of education. In contrast, in the developed world, youth struggle with obesity, eat too much unhealthy junk food and do not exercise enough, often sitting in front of screens instead. It’s simply not humane to allow fellow humans to suffer while pampered pets in the developed world get better food and health care. People in the US spend $100 billion a year on their pets.

The biggest surprise to me after ten years of dialogue with youth is illustrated in the photo of Joao in Brazil in Chapter 1 of Youth Values. With his “Lost” T-shirt, headphones, skateboard and athletic shoes he could be an urban, middle-class teen in any country. I discovered that regional differences are less important than education and class in shaping youth attitudes. Middle-class young people share a global culture made possible by ICT and their education.

The difference in youth culture is split between the urban/rural dichotomy. Village youth live traditionally in a small world without knowledge of global issues like climate change and with little individual autonomy to make major life decisions such as choice of marriage partner. Urbanization is increasing, however, and cell phones with Internet connections are percolating into villages, so the world is gradually becoming more connected. As an educator, I was saddened to learn that, in developing nations, classes are very large and not well-supplied, keeping youth poorly educated.

Youth are more egalitarian than their elders and are less likely to judge people by their ethnicity, sexual preference or gender. More young women graduate with university degrees than men, meaning that more women will move into leadership positions. Studies generally agree that women politicians take more action to actually help families and girls are more egalitarian than boys.

The Arab Spring, the global Occupy Movements, and the recent climate movement led by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg led by youth show us their resistance to hierarchies and fixed positions, valuing freedom of expression, direct democracy and consensus decision-making. They’re also down to earth, and interested in cooperative gardening to produce healthy food. They value relationships more than material success, placing priority on a lasting marriage and being good parents. The generation gap is smaller than it was with Baby Boomers and their parents. They feel close to their parents and they are willing to work cooperatively with various age groups, enhanced by their open-mindedness and acceptance of diversity.

The logical progression to describing youth activism in the two-volume Brave: Young Women’s Global Revolution was my latest book Climate Girls Saving Our World. T-shirts proclaim, “Girl Power,” “Who runs the world? Girls.” A poster held by a girl in the “Women in White” Belarus demonstrations against President Alexander Lukashenko read “#Fight like a Belarusian Girl.” Young Egyptian and Iranian women are using social media to protest violence against women, inspired by the global #MeToo movement.

Girls lead the current climate movement, making up the large majority of the activists in every youth-led climate group I’ve discovered.

  • The 54 activists I interviewed, from 31 countries, explain that they are caring, have more affinity with nature, and are less afraid of peer pressure than teenage boys.
  • Many think of themselves as different from the norm, so they have less to lose than popular students by standing out.
  • They stand on the legacy of the global women’s movement, with all but two strongly identifying as feminists and many rejecting the concept of binary gender.

Determined not to give up hope, they predict that they will succeed as change-makers. My next book is about recent global youth-led democracy movements.

– By Gayle Kimball, author of Ageism in Youth Studies: Generation Maligned and How Global Youth Values Will Change Our Future

 

ACTIONS

We’ll add some excerpts of Gayle’s interviews for you to browse and spark ideas and questions.

Converse on what truly matters to you. Is it reflected in media, youth media, education, peer conversations, family conversations?

If we do not speak about what we truly care about … can we agree on priorities, formulate goals, take action and make what we truly care about come true?

Covid-19 and Student Voice

During the Covid-19 pandemic, youth express strong frustration over how it was handled with school and home learning, highly suboptimal and only by ministerial employees far away from the school and home realities of children of diverse settings in terms of tech, violence, resources etc. German students expressed in surveys that they demand to be included in creating new, student-centred co-creative learning culture.

Does it sound familiar?

Is your role at school that of a monarchy’s minion or that of an able active caring citizen of libertarian-democratic peaceful and sustainable societies as described in Education Law §1 The Purpose Of Schooling?

Global Youth Speak Out

Respond to Gayle’s questionnaire

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FOLLOW-UP

We like the idea of correcting false assumptions and one-sided presentations and total lack of youth views, values, wants and aims from specific regions near and far. Will you achieve to change people’s worldview on youth values and priorities, preferred better world at home, school and public (think of fears, abuse, domination, harassment, nighttime walks in parks…) … in 

  • school
  • public spaces
  • news media
  • youth media

Will it be with articles, exhibits, murals, projections, audio installations … in streets, long-term?

and even spark follow-up action?

 

Connects great with

DAVE MASON

DAVE MASON

100% student-led nature expeditions, Howick College, New Zealand.

ROBIN GRILLE

ROBIN GRILLE

Non-violent childhoods as key to peaceful, democratic, thriving societies