By CHARLEY JACKSON
Recently, political leaders have made multiple remarks disregarding the political opinions of young adults. However, this is not just a recent occurrence. Over and over again in our society, young adults are silenced by authority figures. From political settings to the classroom, the youth’s opinions are being disregarded by those in power, and this needs to stop.
Silencing student opinion has the opposite effect of education. Instead of creating active, educated participants in a democratic system, society is invalidating their opinions on the basis of age, as opposed to content.
Following the Marjory Stoneman-McDouglas High School shooting, politicians have been disregarding the high school students’ opinions on the basis that they are too young to fully understand the gun control issue. One even went as far as to say, “why would I take advice from the generation that was eating Tide Pods a week ago?” While this may seem humorous at first, this belittling of young victims discourages their political activism in the future. Bold statements such as the aforementioned dismiss not only a select few, but an entire generation of young people.
These high school victims are almost of voting age, and considering what happened to them, politicians should be eager to hear their ideas about school safety and gun reform, even if they disagree. The most important task our education system has is to prepare children to lead not only America, but also the world. By dismissing them immediately, politicians are effectively creating a barrier between generations, further dividing us as a nation. This is an ever-growing problem as young people keep getting louder and older people continue to plug their ears.
The polarization of values in our society will create massive conflicts when it comes to passing legislation and functioning as a country in the future. There will come a time when these teenagers will occupy government offices and hold congressional seats, and when this day comes, they will be met with great opposition. Unless both sides can listen to each other and compromise, our society is doomed to an unproductive and confrontational future.
While politics is the most pressing example, the disregard for student opinion starts from a young age. With reasoning from teachers and parents being “because I said so,” children are culturally taught from a young age that an adult’s word is the final word. This discourages children from challenging authority, which, granted, may be the point of the hard-lined attitudes in the first place.
Constantly telling children that they have no say in matters lowers the child’s self-esteem and gives unprecedented amounts of power to adults. This will ultimately end in one of two ways: either the child will grow up to being overly dependent and leaving others to do their problem solving, or the child will grow with no concept of compromise, something that is essential in a democratic system.
Perhaps adults silence children simply because they do not want to deal with the inevitable change the youth brings, as this new generation (Gen Z) brings a new challenge to society’s conventional ways.
Ironically, adults tend to contradict themselves quite often about the role that young people should play in society. When young adults misbehave, or exhibit poor judgement, they are told that they are practically adults, and should behave as such. However, when they speak their mind and challenge the norm, they are told they are still children and do not understand. Adults should not pick and choose when to treat young people like adults and when not to at their convenience.
Ultimately, authority figures should be encouraging young people to speak their mind and engage in world issues, to not only create a better youth, but a better tomorrow. We, as a collective society, need to begin validating young people’s opinions and making their voices heard. After all, they are the next lawmakers, educators and most importantly, voting citizens.