How the Myth of Childhood Innocence Undermines Teenage Activism

Kids Are on the Front Lines of Society's Problems, but They're Treated as Less Than Full Citizens

Since the 1960s, so-called “youth movements” worldwide have been led by college-aged students. What has been less accepted, and less noted, is that children under 18 also have participated in social movements throughout history. Often they have been written out of the history of these social movements or given only a mere descriptive mention.

One example is Barbara Johns, who in 1951 at age 16 led a student strike at Moton High School in Prince Edward County, Virginia, to protest overcrowding and inadequate conditions at the segregated school there. Johns …