Theoretically speaking, with age comes wisdom. In many cases, this is true--as we grow older and experience more, we learn from our mistakes and grow as people. If we were to break this statement down logically, however, the converse isn’t necessarily true: just because you’re not old, doesn’t mean you can’t be wise.
Think of the Revolutionary War (friendly reminder that many of them were younger than ya think--Hamilton was 21 in 1776 #facts), the World Wars, the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout history, young people have oftentimes been the catalysts for change.
The youth of today have had enough. In the wake of countless tragedies—from gun violence and terrorism to prejudice and everything in between—many teenagers have taken a stand. And I’m not just talking about attending marches and social media activism (while those are respectable choices as well): we have some incredible role models.
Take Malala Yousafzai, for example. A young girl shot in the face at 15 years old for advocating for the education of girls. Yousafzai made the choice to use her terrifying plight to continue her mission, facing terroristic threats head on and becoming the youngest Nobel Prize laureate in history.
Take Jack Andraka, who at 13 years old developed a method of early detection for pancreatic cancer that’s noninvasive, inexpensive, and effective. Andraka took the tragic loss of a family friend and did something about it. (Check out his Ted talk)
Take Zendaya: a multi-talented celebrity who uses her platform to advocate for cultural awareness, body positivity, and equality all while maintaining an impressive career at 21 years old.
This list could go on forever—amazing young people have been around since the dawn of time. The point I'm trying to make here is that our youth are valuable and can be just as intelligent, well-spoken, and informed (if not more so) as adults.
Why then, when it comes to teens fighting for societal and political change, is it acceptable for adults to write them off as ‘just kids’ who couldn’t possibly understand what they’re talking about?
You’ve probably heard of the March for Our Lives: an anti-gun-violence event held in Washington DC and several other major cities organized by the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.The horrific events that took place in Parkland, Florida spurred this group of teenage survivors to act, pushing for gun reform and taking politicians to task.
I don’t want to even get into my own political stance on this particular topic (to summarize: anyone who thinks AK-47s and AR-15s have any place in civilized society is not a person I want to associate with, but I digress).
These incredible, resilient young Americans have come under fire from countless adults, from faceless internet commentators to downright rude politicians and news anchors. Their main argument? Their age.
You can disagree with someone politically. You can offer intelligent counter-arguments if someone else’s stance doesn’t add up or check out factually. Debate is good—healthy, even.
What you can’t do, however, is write off the viewpoint of an entire segment of the population because you’ve decided they haven’t reached the right age yet. Telling a group of teenagers who lived through a school shooting that they don't understand gun violence or how to fix it isn't just incorrect, it's disrespectful.
The youth of today become the voters of tomorrow in the blink of an eye. It won’t be long before those who choose not to hear them out come to regret it.