Please Don’t Talk Us Down

Our society is intolerant and suppressant of the voices of youth.

Individual prerogative and independent decision-making are virtues to be cherished, not detriments for adults to frown upon.

In this free American society of ours, “We The People” seems to have a faded asterisk attached to us: “*who are above the age of eighteen.” Age barriers are intrinsically written into our laws, preventing, discouraging, and stalling teenage and youth participation in a) the shaping of public policy, b) overall awareness of current events, and c) tolerance.

Society blames youth for many of its struggles. “These kids today” can’t and shouldn’t be trusted, they say. They’re all reckless and irresponsible, arrogant and inattentive. But why are so many teenagers inattentive? Because that’s the kind of youth that society fosters. The youth rates of literacy, political involvement, and kids who simply read the news would be unequivocally higher if our society was focused on encouraging us rather than admonishing us. But society is sanctimonious. Society is hypocritical. Paradoxically, while society is bashing teens and youth for our oh so foolish propensities, we’re also being held to a higher standard; a double standard.

Sixteen years olds can have jobs, therefore pay an income tax, but can’t vote: that’s called taxation without representation. Sixteen year olds can enlist in the army, therefore be handed some of the most dangerous and detrimental weapons known to man, butcan’t fight in combat. Sixteen year olds are allowed to drive motor vehicles, but they can’t watch R-rated movies.

It’s teenagers who stepped up and protested, bringing the 26th Amendment to the forefront. It’s teenagers who fill out colleges and universities. It’s teenagers who are the future of your country.

To society, teachers, parents, and mentors: please foster our voices, don’t muffle them. We promise not to push our homework-denying, fast-driving, music-blasting agenda on you.



14 thoughts on “Please Don’t Talk Us Down

    • Asking, no, begging, for public validation is not pretentious. Why are teenagers so out of touch from political discussion and current events? Because society has frowned upon youthful vulnerability and rebelliousness since its earliest days. Instead of allowing for free thought and trial-and-error experiences, teenagers are firmly directed instead of gently guided.

  1. Nice, but you seem to overlook the fact that most people your (our) age aren’t in a suitable position to shape policy, nor are they mature enough to. The fact is most people under 18 are uneducated enough to be considered unqualified for such responsibility. The age limit protects more people than it harms.

    • What’s your solution? What’s your proposed method of improving teen political awareness/”qualify” them for the responsibilities of voting and engaging in sophisticated discourse?

  2. 16-year-olds can watch R rated movies. They just have to be accompanied by an adult. That makes sense. And in any case, it’s not the law, just a rule enforced by theater owners. Also, you have to be 17 (not 16) to enlist in the Army — and then, only with parental permission.

    Still, I don’t find you pretentious.

  3. I sort of agree with Michael. A lot of America’s youth has very little knowledge and their vote can potentially harm our nation. If there was only a way to separate the smart from the dim-witted, but that’s unfair and un-American. As a youth the best you can do is propel your opinion to those who can vote.

    • All of this is true. I want to point out, though, that at no point in my post did I say that teens should be allowed to vote. I just pointed out the inconsistencies in our society, one of which is the double-standard to which we are held. Matt, that’s absolutely the best we can do. But what value does that have if adults/adult society shrugs off and disregards our public displays of opinion?

  4. So Ami, what exactly do you want us (people working with teens) to do about it?

    PS– In my experience, people in high school seem to be more mature and responsible than most people in college.

    • Great question, Alana. Ami, what (realistical) changes would you propose?

      I agree with Alana — to a degree. There are many teens who display great maturity, drive and depth. But I think probably those are the exceptions that prove the rule.

    • People who work with teens on a day-to-day basis should be fostering intellectual curiosity. Adults (teachers and parents alike) underestimate teenage curiosity and love of learning. Just because kids don’t like to do homework, doesn’t mean that they don’t love to learn. We do. We just need to be engaged in the processes. There’s an ideological difference (in theory and in practice) between reading in an American History textbook about the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, and actually going downtown and watching a “speedy and public trial.” Getting sixteen and seventeen year olds involved in the real sociopolitical world early will prove to be an invaluable tool (to you and to them) down the road.

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