By: Azzurra M.
We live in a world where responsibility is granted with age. The older you are, the more, according to today’s society, responsibility you should have. This is a fact that I never questioned. I never questioned this normality until a few weeks ago, when I watched a TED talk on this very subject. I must state before I go on, that I am the last person to sit at home a watch TED talks. I’m the last person to watch the many shared videos on Facebook, but, for some reason, call it fate or sheer procrastination over my IB deadlines (sorry Ms Alexander), I sat through the whole 13 minutes and 38 seconds of this TED talk.
The talk delivered by Kate Simonds under the title “I’m 17” talks about the respect, or lack of it, that teenagers receive from adults. It highlights that students’ ideas are not respected merely because of their age, and therefore lack of real world “experience.” One of the first lines that stood out to me was:
“Any adult that fights for a cause is deemed courageous and a hero, but because I’m seventeen I’m naïve and ignorant.”
Why did this particular line interest me so much? Why, as soon as I heard this, did I decide that this wasn’t just any TED talk but instead a talk that was appropriate to my own life? The words “naïve” and “ignorant” resonated with me. Kate then goes on to speak about education, she highlights the fact that “as students we have no say in what we learn, or how we learn it,” because adults would simply respond with the comment: “you don’t get it, you’re 17, you don’t deserve to have the control over what you learn.” Finally, to end her talk, Simmonds emphasizes the fact that the lack of validation of students’ ideas transcends beyond just adults, but students themselves. Teenagers’ minds have been manipulated in a way that they no longer believe in themselves to make a change.
Over the last four years of being part of the performing arts at Marymount, I never once felt that my roles were dictated by my age. Every actor is judged on the talents and commitments to the arts. In grade 10 I took on the lead role of Ms Johnston in Blood Brothers and I was respected by my peers for having earned that role. This idea can also be seen in sports, where the best player isn’t necessarily the oldest but rather the one who can run the fastest or shoot the most goals. So why is it that the moment you step off the stage, or the pitch, that validation is given through age and not earned through respect? I’ve been fortunate enough at Marymount that I have very rarely felt that my ideas were not considered important, especially by teachers, but that doesn’t mean this prejudice doesn’t exist. Young adults, who are one day expected to rule the world, are being sheltered from expressing their ideas merely because of their age. But, what defines an adult? Will these ideas instantly get respected the moment someone turns 18? Or, do teenagers have to wait until they one day get power to express the way they feel?
I knew when picking my topic for this article that it may be considered “controversial” or “rebellious.” Adults may peg this article as a teenager rebelling because she doesn’t always get what she wants. Yet, this idea extends beyond my own personal experiences. I know that the adults in my life, if reading this, may question me, and my intentions with writing this piece. That is the very point of this article. I’m not here placing blame on every adult in this world; instead, I’m asking adults to think. Have I disrespected a teenager because of their age? Do I always allow a young adult to express their opinion without stopping them because that’s what society asks me to do? And to any students reading this, who at any point understood the fact that sometimes they subside their own ambitions because society tells them they have to wait until their an adult, stop. Your ideas, your thoughts, your beliefs are all as valid now as they will be in 10 years time. So according to the words of Katie Simonds, that I know completely stand by: “Teens you need to believe in your voices, and adults, you need to listen.”