Young people all across the country are currently speaking out about gun violence in the U.S. Survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Fla. questioned lawmakers and representatives of the National Rifle Association (NRA) at a townhall and demanded a ban on AR-15 guns.
Additionally, students have formed March for Our Lives in order to organize a nationwide protest to demand that a comprehensive bill be presented in Congress to address guns and school safety. The march will take place in Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Lee’s Summit and over 490 other cities across the U.S. March 24.
This article is not about my opinions on an AR-15 ban or for a bill that presents possible gun restrictions. Instead, I am arguing that people should be supporting students and young people who are effecting change. Regardless of your opinion on gun control, it is necessary to thoughtfully consider the students who are fighting for change.
Young people have been effecting serious change for generations yet continue not to be taken seriously. Many people who attempt to shut down young change-makers assert that they do not have enough life experience or do not have all of the facts about the topic they are supporting.
These arguments do contain some truth. Young adults do not have as much life experience as middle-aged or senior citizens. This is obvious. However, they do have enough experience to be passionate about the topics in which they believe. If not, they would not be fighting so hard for those causes.
Young people may not know all of the facts pertinent to the subject that they are fighting. Expecting them to is hypocritical. People in charge, from presidents to parents, make mistakes all of the time. How can young people be expected to know every detail about a certain issue when their elders are not held to that same standard?
People always have something to learn. Young people are taught from birth to listen to and obey their elders, but those same elders are not expected to listen to the young people surrounding them. To some extent this is an issue of power. Young people questioning their elders and the status quo they have established threatens their power. Regardless, young people continue to effect change and change the status quo under which they are raised. These feats, challenging authority and changing the status quo, deserve respect.
Some of the most prominent American revolutionaries were under 25 years old in 1776. Marquis de Lafayette and James Monroe were 18 years old, Aaron Burr was 20 and Alexander Hamilton was 21. Although the revolutionary era caused them to mature rapidly, their young age at the start of the war is incredible. These are some of the men who founded our country. Soldiers and citizens alike respected their leadership and today we respect their insight.
In 1969, the Supreme Court sided with a group of students protesting the Vietnam War in “Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District.” The movement began when, in 1965, a group of high school students was suspended for wearing black armbands to show support for a truce in the Vietnam War.
When the students challenged their suspension, the district court dismissed the case on the grounds that the school district’s actions were reasonable in order to uphold school discipline. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court. Undeterred, the students appealed to the Supreme Court where the decision was 7-2 in favor of the students. This decision guaranteed First Amendment rights to students, ensuring that constitutional rights applied in schools. Additionally, the decision gave students the right to peacefully protest on school grounds.
Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani school girl, defied threats from the Taliban in order to campaign for girls’ rights to education. Despite being shot in the head by the Taliban, she continued her movement and has now become a global advocate for human rights and women’s rights to equal education. She attends Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford University, where she studies politics, philosophy and economics.
These are just a few of the many examples in which young adults took initiative and fought for the change they wanted to see. A majority of the time, the causes for which youths campaign are successful because of the passion and dedication that they have. Young adults have been successfully fighting for change for too long now to be told that they don’t know what they’re doing.
People will benefit from listening to empowered youth as well. Studies have shown that the brain is not fully developed until age 25. This is not to say that youth are incapable of informed decisions. Rather, young people are less set in their ways and opinions than those older than them. Because of this, young people are typically more willing to compromise with and listen to people who have opposing points of view. They deserve to be granted the same courtesy.
Young people are the future. They know what changes they want to better the society in which they have already begun to participate. They are told to vote and begin their adult lives at age 18 but still are not taken seriously when they try to change the status quo. Active participation in civic life and attempting to change it for the better is the duty of every U.S. citizen. Don’t shut young people down in their attempt to do just that. These change-makers are attempting to better their society. The least the public can do is listen to them and seriously consider the changes they are trying to make.
Photo courtesy of HelloGiggles/Joe Raedle.