In the United States today a citizen must be 18 years old to vote in any federal, state or local elections. How many of you out there believe, as I do, that the voting age should be lowered to fourteen? A crazy idea? Let’s explore it, shall we?
The cons are easiest to start with since most adults would instantly say them: Fourteen-year-olds aren’t mature enough. Heard that one before? Fourteen year olds aren’t smart enough. Fourteen year olds aren’t educated enough. Fourteen year olds are just kids and they don’t have any life experience to go by. How about this one – if we let them vote, they’ll get to sit on juries. Then what’s next – they drop out of school and join the work force? That would cheapen the adult workers because non-union kids would work for less and take jobs away from adults! And if they can vote, they’ll want to drive cars and join the military. That would undermine the entire social fabric because we’d have a bunch of immature kids on equal footing with mature and capable adults. Are these arguments sound? Do they seem reasonable to you? Is it idiotic to allow fourteen-year-old kids to “be” adults and participate fully in the adult decision-making world? Maybe. Maybe not.
How many of you out there are aware that in 45 out of 50 states, juveniles as young as fourteen, sometimes thirteen, are already considered legal adults? You didn’t know this? Oh, maybe that’s because the adult voters in those states decided that juveniles are adults in only one way – when they get in trouble with the law. In every other way, hell no, they’re just immature kids who don’t know anything! But when it comes to crime, to life in the streets, to gangs and their overreaching influence, to resisting peer pressure – suddenly and magically they become adults. But only for that moment when they made the bad choice. Oddly enough, when they do something good or positive for society, they’re still just punk-ass kids who know nothing and should be seen but not heard, and sometimes not even seen unless they’re good-looking or get good grades.
Make sense to you? How many of you out there truly believe that thirteen or fourteen-year-olds can be an adult today to get caught up in a crime, but not be an adult tomorrow to sit on the jury to hear that crime, or to vote on the very laws that “adultified” them in the first place?
I have spent my entire life working with kids, particularly teenagers. And they’re not adults. Not yet, even though many states like to pretend they are when they get in trouble. Kids don’t have the experience to process feelings like we do, and they can’t reason things out as well. It’s not built in yet. This country wants to pretend children are adults so we can put them in prison when they screw up because we are too lazy and caught up in ourselves to give them a second chance, or a third, or even a fourth. Kids screw up. That’s been the case throughout all of human history, and when they do, those kids need adults to help them become better so they don’t keep screwing up. They don’t need adults who just want to toss them into prison, out of sight and out of mind.
Too many adults in this country want kids to be magically grown up so they don’t have to parent them and role model for them and set good examples for them, but the bottom line is children are children and need to be allowed to be children. Children can’t, and never will, think and feel like adults because they aren’t adults. Not yet. And the adult society in this country has a throw-away mentality. If the kid screws up, throw him away. We’ll just get another. That’s like the farmer who leaves the barn unlocked and his horse escapes and tramples his crops. Farmer’s solution? Shoot the horse and just buy another. After all, it was the horse’s fault right, for trampling the crops?
So we return to my original question – should fourteen-year-olds be allowed to vote and by extension sit on juries to hear the cases against them? I say yes. If, in our collective idiocy, we are going to pretend they’re adults for doing something wrong, then they sure as hell can be adults to do something right! Or are we, as country, simply afraid of our young people? We seem to be incarcerating a vast number these days, so the answer would appear to be yes. But are we even more afraid of giving them the power to decide laws, to elect presidents and representatives, to pass or reject propositions that would seek to criminalize them just for being kids?
I say if fourteen-year-olds are adult enough to commit a crime then they are more than adult enough to vote! Who’s with me? C’mon, people, let’s start a revolution. . . a children’s crusade for equal rights. . .
Sir Lance says, “I’m fourteen-years-old. I can go to prison, but I can’t drive a car. Crazy, huh?”