Ian Rowe and Ana Samuel discuss the “blame the system” narrative that teaches kids they are powerless against societal forces—that only systemic change can open their path to prosperity. Meanwhile, the “blame the victim” narrative tells them that any undesirable outcome in life is a product of their own shortcomings, regardless of whether they have received any meaningful support or guidance along the way.
But there is a third way – Agency, which keeps the individual at its center while relying on mediating institutions (families, faith communities, schools, neighborhoods, and work) to guide and support young people so they can lead flourishing lives. Young people need a sense of hope, grit, and belief in their own ability to shape their future—that is the “thrust” of agency. But they also need to develop moral discernment—the “guiding force” of agency—by engaging four building blocks: Family, Religion, Education, and Entrepreneurship (FREE).