Historically, young people have always been the smallest demographic to vote and become involved in the political atmosphere compared to their older counterpart. Less than half of Americans ages 18-24 cast their vote, even in presidential elections, according to a Harvard study on educating America’s Youth.
While this might not be surprising historically, these statistics are disheartening. Lately, however, it seems as if the voter turnout for the youth demographic has gradually begun to increase and the number of young people becoming involved in politics has exponentially grown.
This is a step in the right direction, as young individuals need to make their thoughts and opinions on political issues heard. Older generations, however, continue to demean younger generations for participating in politics, which is something that should not be tolerated.
In light of the current controversy regarding gun violence and the staggering rise of school shootings, many young people are unwilling to watch these tragedies unfold and have begun to participate across the country in a variety of marches and school walkouts.
Thousands of high school and college students from Texas to Maine to Washington D.C. have walked out of their classrooms in an act of protest against the current weak enforcement of gun control, according to Time Magazine. While past shootings were dismissed several days after the occurrence, students from tragedy in Parkland, Florida are adamant that there needs to be immediate reform. These individuals are attempting to limit the number of mass shootings to something comparable to other developed nations.
Despite the peaceful and nondestructive protests conducted by thousands of young people, older generations have used the protesters’ age and status to ridicule them and convince others that their voices do not deserve to be heard.
In response to several Florida students crying over a gun control bill not being passed, Dinesh D’Souza, a bestselling author, commented on Twitter, “Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs,” which received over 16,000 likes.
While this might seem like a joke, this was told to students who were just involved in a school shooting, leading to the deaths of 17 beloved students, teachers and coaches. This comment was cruel and only belittled the victims solely on their age.
Age should not factor into someone’s opinion on a political issue being taken seriously. As long as the individual is educated on the topic they are discussing and respectful in the way they present their argument or stance, there is no reason to discriminate due to age.
D’Souza, however, is not alone, with several superintendents, specifically in Texas, vowing to suspend students who participate in a school walkout, according to ABC news.
Even with these threats of trouble, it is essential that young people’s voices are heard in politics, whether it is about gun control or any other controversial issue. It is not a new occurrence for people in positions of power to try to suppress those who desire to speak out against injustice, but that does not make it right.
Young people deserve to have their voices heard as much as those of any other age group because they are still people, regardless of age, color or identity. The discussion of gun control is only the beginning for young people who want to become engaged in politics and positively change the world.
Anybody can make an impact, and it is essential that the youth know that they can as well.