Age Matters

As people age, I hear many recite the old adage, “Age is just a number.”

Is age just a number? Are you sure?

Our society is FILLED with age restrictions and functions that are centered on age. From the time we start kindergarten at 5, go to certain movies at age 13 (PG 13) or 17 (NC 17), obtain our driver’s license at 16, vote at 18, drink at 21, run for president at 35, retire at 65, and the list could go on and on, I would argue that culture does not treat age as just a number, rather a critically important demarcation of what we should be doing, or have permission to do, in life at any given time.

It is with this understanding that I approach the issue of the youth generated movement, “National School Walkout,” which was inspired by the Parkland, Florida high school shooting, as a protest of contemporary gun laws in the United States. Many high school students took to both the streets and microphones to communicate their support of more gun control laws in the country.

I must confess to being in tension.

On the one hand, it is so awesome to see student engagement and learning from an early age that a democracy has to have active voices and engagement to work optimally –this aspect of the movement is exciting and shows promise. However, on the other hand, since we are an “age-centric” culture, at what age is one mature, educated, and experienced enough to have earned a voice in the public square? There are reasons we have age restrictions and permissions on nearly everything, whether you agree with the precise age or not.

So when I hear gun guy and rocker Ted Nugent say the Florida students calling for gun control have “no soul” and are “mushy brained children,” I am not altogether dismissive of it in the sense, well, they are, by definition, children. And I have never known Mr. Nugent to be a fan of anything remotely politically correct.

Nugent, a longtime member of the NRA’s board of directors, said survivors of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are wrong to blame the NRA and its members for mass shootings.

“These poor children, I’m afraid to say, it hurts me to say, but the evidence is irrefutable: They have no soul,” Nugent said. He added that the gun control measures the students support amount to “spiritual suicide” and “will cause more death and mayhem.”

It is not surprising the Parkland, Florida students demanded an apology from Nugent.

Good luck with that kiddos. You have a better chance of catching cat scratch fever (google it).

Now, please make no mistake: This blog is NOT about gun control or protest or school shootings or even the crazy motor city madman Ted Nugent. I have no opinions on any of these things at present. What I do find intriguing and opinion worthy is the issue of age appropriateness and its role in society.

I have taken notice that on social media that many are very critical of those, like crazy Ted, who are, in turn, critical of these kids. This criticism is often accompanied by a very positive evaluation of these teens speaking out for an important cause.

One of my social media friends and former student, Adam, now having earned his Phd from Michigan State and in whom I have a great deal of respect, wrote: “If you are one of these adults mocking children who are simply speaking their truth and experience you should be ashamed of yourselves. You may not agree with their opinions but you have not walked in their shoes and they deserve to have their voices heard. They don’t deserve petty attacks from adults. These are victims of a horrific crime not your enemies.”

I totally get that…and I do not believe any public discourse should include as part of its strategy, mocking. Yet the key word in this post is “children.” So I agree with Adam’s general sentiment, yet when children take it upon themselves to enter the very adult arena of the NRA, you are now playing in the adult big leagues –and it likely will not be pretty.

As I age, and I just turned 55 last month, I am confounded by the social admonition to “act your age.” What does that mean exactly? If one wants to posit that older folk such as myself should not engage in certain behaviors or activities because it would be inappropriate for a 55 year-old, should not the reverse be true as well? I mean, there is a reason we want our president to be at least 35 years old.

Neuroscientists now tell us our brains prefrontal cortex is not fully functioning until around the age of 25, and I prefer we enact social policy that reflects science. So is it too much to ask that our doctors, lawyers, educators, law enforcement and others, have, at the very least, a fully developed brain?

So, ironically and perhaps paradoxically, I want to develop the voice and passion of our young people while teaching the power of civic engagement, YET, I would prefer our children not have a say in creating social policy.

There will be a day when the children graduate from the kids table and earn a spot at the adult one.

Until then, let’s teach our children well.

Age is not just a number. Age matters.

 

 

jimmysintension

15 Comments

  1. Jimmy,

    Thank you for your article.
    It really was an enjoyable read.

    I agree with most of your article however I have one thought that I feel you alluded to that I would like to submit.

    I believe that age is a measurement for a spectrum of responsibility/ability to handle something in the risk versus reward scale that’s made in legislation. The examples you offered were varying levels of adult content in movies, ages to drive a car, vote, drink, and even hold public office.
    When it comes to expressing one’s self there is no age restriction, nor should there be. However, this is very different from trying to present ideas and push for legislation.
    While it is very different, I do not believe that there is an age limitation on the presentation of ideas or pushing for limitation. The public space should be open to all ideas no matter the age of the person presenting them.

    That being said, because these ideas and these pushes for legislation (which would have impact on the general whole of the public) are presented to the public, they must face the same scrutiny. Someone’s youth or victim status does not (or at least should not) give their ideas a special protection or importance.

    It seems that you alluded to this when responding to your prior student’s tweet. “yet when children take it upon themselves to enter the very adult arena of the NRA, you are now playing in the adult big leagues –and it likely will not be pretty”.

    Though someone’s ideas should be subject to critical analysis, this does not mean that comments like Ted Nugent’s are appropriate. While I couldn’t say much to my own belief in a soul, those specific statements made on the Joe Pags show were not tactful or tasteful. Here is a link for anyone who wanted to listen to the full interview. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PYz_e6PfaY

    In summary, Ideas should be allowed from any source. However, these ideas must face critical analysis and must not be allowed special protections based on a person’s age, race, hardships experienced, or any other characteristic. With all that said if all of this public discourse was done with civility it would refreshing to say the least.
    I don’t think these statements are something that we really disagree on, but maybe I’m wrong about that. If I am I’m all ears. If not I just wanted to make sure I got my thoughts out there.

    Also, thanks again for your article!

    -Chris (or Christian, or Jesus. Whatever works)

    • Thanks Jesus! I want to really thank you for this very smart contribution to the blog, though I would expect nothing less from my lord and saviour. Seriously, I genuinely appreciate it. I do believe we are saying the same thing and, as I did mention, this was not a blog about gun control or the appropriateness of Ted’s comments. I wanted to use Nugent’s comments as an extreme example of what people face when dealing with very “adult” issues. For the record, I think Ted’s comments were nothing short of insane…forget appropriateness, they demonstrated a lack of mental stability. How one could take a leap from desiring stricter gun laws to that position lacking a soul is just weird…agree or disagree with it. Yes, “children” do have a right to freedom of expression of sorts, though even this is limited. I know in the city of Redlands a children’s right to public free speech ends at 9pm…it is called a curfew. I do think it is the responsibility of adults to educate children in the process of public protest, though educate them as well on the possible consequences of this action, and on the strong backlash they will face.

      I do believe there is a reason that many famous childhood stars grow up to be wrecks…it is called “too much, too soon.” When I see these kids on news shows, I am impressed with their mature demeanors, yet this does not change the fact they are still minors and have not yet lived a life to adulthood.

      Thanks again Chris!

      • Thanks for the response to my comment Jimmy!

        I agree with the points you shared on children still not having that same lived experience as an adult. I also appreciated the example of the curfew which characterizes when someone’s free speech rights are curtailed in childhood, albeit not for the purpose of preventing their free speech.

        I do disagree with you on one point in which you called Ted’s comments “nothing short of insane”.

        I’m not sure if you have or haven’t listened to the interview, but for the sake of my position I’ll summarize the bit of the interview surrounding the controversial statements that he made, that were run by the major news outlets. The statements made by Ted were in response to a sound byte that was played by the interviewer Joe Pags, in which Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg are speaking out against politicians who take money from “Child Murderers”. If it’s not clear who they’re talking about when they say “Child Murders” they’re talking about the NRA of which Ted Nugent is a board member. With the given context I don’t see his own comments as insane. I just see them as an inappropriate emotional over-reaction.

        Admittedly I’m allowing my own personal biases slip in to this response as I’ve also engaged in the same debates that Emma, David, and Ted are in, with the result of being told I’m complicit in the murder of the victims of the Parkland shooting (as well as a variety of other unfounded accusations). Even though this method of response is immature in nature and akin to name calling, it still evokes strong feelings.

        In short I can relate to the desire to lash back at someone making a character accusation against me.
        On that note thank you Jimmy, for always presenting civil and logical articles and responses!

        I wanted to refrain from delving in to the debate of guns so I did, but I did want to engage more as far as Ted’s comments. But I know despite Ted’s comments being in your article they weren’t the focus of it.
        My apologies for taking our thread on a tangent.

        • Tangents?? I am the king of tangents! Remember the Golden Snake? Well, perhaps your “inappropriate emotional overreaction” is my way of saying, “insane.” I suppose the key word that my responses was based off is the idea of being “soulless.” First off, you have to believe in a soul. I guess I do not see what warrants this particular description. What does one not having a soul have to do with the claim of NRA members being murderers? I get you could call them misguided, wrong, ignorant, etc. even hateful….but soulless? Perhaps you can fill me in on this wonderful little tangent we have taken. 🙂

  2. Spot on Jimmy … Age is generally a measure of experience and experience is absolutely required to make intelligent decisions. I must admit that a lot of the decisions I see being made by ADULTS lately make me wonder if they are totally void of experience.

  3. Great article and a spot on juxtaposition of wisdom, experience, maturity, and age. It’s interesting to note that you mentioned several age restricting activities, but there was an important aspect that was left out: Parental approval. With parental approval, a great deal of your examples can be circumvented.

    Sex reassignment surgery would probably be the most controversial out of the many parent approved activities. Given that you mentioned and cited that the brain isn’t fully developed until 25, it would seem logical that it shouldn’t be allowed until someone is 25. However, sex reassignment surgery and the associated hormones are better applied at a younger age. Essentially, the transition at 25 or older would be much more difficult. How would age apply in this matter and other parental approved decisions?

    In my opinion, the parent should be level-headed and use their experience and wisdom to make the proper decision on behalf of their child, but this is not always the case. Sometimes it can permanently damage a child’s growth and limit/harm their future. Especially in regards to sex reassignment surgery and the possible reconsideration or regret that may occur later in a child’s life. Is this a possible exception or flaw within the “age is not just a number” argument?

    • Thanks Ian! Hope you are well. I would need to see your source that states sex reassignment is dangerous after age 25. Transgendered woman Georgia Lee Mcgowen, who just spoke to our campus this week, had the male to female surgery at the age of 71 (if you are reading this Georgia, feel free to correct the age if it is in error…if so, it has to be damn close to 71.). If your premise is true, I think Georgia would agree with me that before undergoing such a drastic surgery, it would be a good idea to have a fully operational prefrontal cortex….regardless of what the slight increased medical risks may be (if indeed there is one). Thanks Ian!

      • Unfortunately, I can’t find a decent source. All the sources I can find are on the psychological ramifications. However, from personal experience, I have a friend that went through the process and he, along with his doctor, claimed that it was easier to alternate from estrogen or testosterone before the age of puberty. This makes it easier to transition from one sex to another, because it prevents/halts/obscures or someone affects the development process and helps the individual become the other sex.

        This doesn’t mean that it’s not possible at any age though. There are 70 year olds that have gone through the process and people who have gone through menopause even.

        My main point was beyond this though: Parents are supposed to more experienced than children. However, some parents make terrible decisions on behalf of their children that can permanently hinder their lives. Is there a way to explain why parents unintentionally harm their children’s lives? There are younger folk that know better than them and have less experience.. so what causes this division?

  4. Kids haven’t lived enough life to contribute on such levels however I think its good to let them learn the importance of having a voice even though life experience contributes to maturity and knowledge. The idea that age brings wisdom and maturity is what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they spelled out in the Constitution that the president must be at least 35 years old.

    • And if you think about it, life expectancy was only around, like 50ish? In today’s standard that 35 year old rule would translate to like 60. Thanks Maegs!

  5. I don’t think age is just a number, this quote comes to mind, ” As a 40 year old, I see why I thought the way I did at 20 . As a 20 year old, I could never imagine thinking the way I do now” (Woody of the Woody Show). While I do believe when teenagers step into the adult arena punches should not be pulled, the bigger problem is in our inability to have respectful debates. Ted Nugent was out of line, no more out of line than if he would said it about “grown ups”. Our society has lost to the ability to learn and grow from opposition. We now are faced with people in authority (right and left) that bully those who disagree. This is the real travesty. These kids are now getting a front row seat in how to bully in the big leagues. Instead of being taught the respectful way to debate, we teach to debase. What we need to remember is that they are kids, their minds are not developed. It is our duty to give these kids this platform, and teach them how do stand up with respect. I’m not saying these kids where disrespectful, before someone has a heart attack, but this one experience does not give them life experience. It does not make their minds anymore developed.

    • There are places for civil dialogue though you really have to search. I find the greatest discussions through podcasts (Sam Harris, Joe Rogan, Freakonomics, etc…) Thanks for the contribution Jessica!

  6. I personally believe that age most definitely does matter, but I must say that adults should take in consideration the ideas and opinions of our younger generation. While older people do have more experience and wisdom, we should ask how adults may have been conditioned to believe certain things and may not be open minded. The younger generation may bring in new and possibly better ideas then our current ones despite their brains not being fully developed. Without listening to our younger generation’s ideas how can we progress?

  7. Based on your article, I believe that children should not be able to partake in such political movements like the school walk outs because of the simple fact that they are minors. Therefore, they are not allowed to do really anything they want like an 18 year old is entitled to. I think that the schools should have cracked down more on the students because it is against school policy to just “walk out”. Now as for Ted Nugent, he is clearly in the wrong for making such horrible and snarky comments about children. THE BOTTOM LINE is that, children are innocent and still developing, as you explained with the brain development facts. So therefore, adults should never bash on children. Period. No matter how bad they may be, or if they do something that any adult may not like, the same respect should be given to kids as do to elders. As a matter of fact, no matter what age, people should just respect people, in a perfect world that is.
    The whole “freedom of speech” thing gets taken advantage of too often now a days, its time for people to respect people for who they really are. We are all just humans living on the same planet trying to survive and be loved, too. Don’t you think that you deserve the same amount of respect as the next person and so fourth? I think so.

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