When are we old enough to have an opinion?

Shae Slaughter

In the last few weeks, we have seen an uprising in opinions, demonstrations and protests by the youth of this country. To me, this change is both welcomed and encouraged, but to others, these new voices seem to be disruptive and useless. Children, teenagers and young adults have finally decided to speak up, and instead of being commended for doing so, they are told they are just too young to have an opinion. So, my question is, what age is the right age to start speaking up?

A lot of the young voices that have arisen over the last month or so are attempting to combat gun violence or are urging for more gun control, but those topics, though important, are not the point of this particular question. They do represent a perfect example of the problem, though. I am much more interested in the “adults” who are telling the teenagers to basically “shut up” because they’re too young. Or, if they’re not being told to shut up, they’re being told that they’re being manipulated to have the views that they do. 

I’ve experienced this problem firsthand and more than once. I’ve been told that once I get older and pay taxes, I’ll stop being “so liberal.” Of course, this statement was incorrect when it was made because I had already been paying taxes for a few years, and I have had no qualms about losing some of my money if it means helping people. Even now that I am supposedly “older and wiser,” the greater good of society still matters to me, whether that’s infrastructure, social programs or some other cause.

So maybe, just maybe, these kids and young adults actually have opinions and maybe, just maybe, they know what they’re talking about. I’m not saying that every person advocating for increased gun control knows every gun make and model or exactly which gun laws each state enforces or every minute detail about gun laws in general, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed to speak up. Of course, I don’t advocate for vocalizing opinions that are completely unfounded, but we also can’t expect people to know every single little detail about every single cause before they can weigh in. The world just doesn’t work like that. 

People should do research about things they really care about, especially if they want to push for change, but age is not a discriminating factor in the ability to do this. There are plenty of people who are considered old enough to have an opinion who also spew false or misinformed sentiments. A lot of the kids speaking up now have taken time to research what they want to say, or they’ve actually lived the experience they’re trying to stop from happening, evident in the case of the Parkland school shooting survivors. 

The thing is, we could all always be older. We could have had more experiences, more education and more knowledge, but for where we are right now, our views make sense. Yes, they might change as time changes, but the same could be true for anyone. Personally, I know that a lot of my life experiences have contributed to how I view the world today, and though I’m only 22, I can speak to a lot of our country’s problems. No, I am not a trained politician or government official who might know the ins and the outs of all of our political actions, but I can still tell you when I think that something is wrong. 

Ultimately, some of the “grown-ups” in this country need to stop pretending that anyone under the age of 25 can’t have a valid opinion. They should also stop acting like young people can’t understand the Second Amendment just because they’re young. It’s only 27 words, for crying out loud. Having a voice and being able to use it is a crucial part of this country’s foundation. Eliminating our young adults’ ability to speak up is the last thing we should be doing.