At a Queensland high school a student threw a (sanger) sandwich at Australia’s prime minister. A lot has been said in the media about behaving in a civilised way and respecting the office of the highest minister in the land. That is, no matter how you feel about the current incumbent, it’s the office that deserves the respect. I hadn’t noticed the same being said when former Prime Minister John Howard had a shoe thrown at him and the tosser (and I mean it in every sense of the word) was considered a hero. I guess that in recent times we have become selective about what we consider civilised behaviour.
Julia Gillard, when interviewed about the flying sanger, described the student as ‘naughty’, an adjective more appropriate to a primary school child, not some hormone riddled high school student. Local P and C President Michelle Campbell followed this incident up by telling News Ltd [that] she was ‘disappointed’ in the kid’s behaviour…”But kids will be kids”.
I don’t agree. Kids take their cue from parents and other adults within their orbit. Kids who are raised to understand about consequences don’t throw things at the Prime Ministers or anybody else. No one seems to have taught these consequences to the ‘kid’ who threw the sandwich or else (and this is most likely) he knows nothing will be done about it in the long run. I don’t agree that it’s acceptable for kids to behave the way that this one did but I do agree that high school students are still in that state of limbo before the gritty world of adulthood hits them fair square in the kisser. That used to be 21 and there was a song about being given the key to the door that people sang to those emerging blossoms. Some bright spark, probably a politician said that if you can go to war at 18 you should be able to smoke, drink and vote at eighteen. My suggestion to that blight on our landscape would have been that you shouldn’t be able to go to war at 18, or vote or smoke or drink or be called a man or a woman. If 16 year olds get to vote, we are going to have to call them men and women. Has anybody thought that through? What a mess. Some 16 year olds will still be at school when the above privileges are accorded them, others in the workforce. All will have different life experiences but few will know what to do with them.
I’ve brought this up because most recently there has been a push for lowering the voting age to 16. This has been driven by youth organisations and the Australian Greens party. My guess is that despite the high flown rhetoric about empowering 16 year olds and their human rights, politicians understand that teenagers are malleable, easily swayed. Teenagers who are still in the thrall of all those hormones are incapable of seeing things in different shades of grey. My respect for self-serving politicians, already at an all-time low has plummeted. I think this idea is wicked.
Professor McAllister of the ANU Research School of Social Sciences says that ‘16 and 17 year olds are more mature than they were twenty or thirty years ago.’ They dress differently, that’s true, and 16 and 17 year olds have information available to them that they didn’t 30 years ago. But most can’t necessarily process that information.
Many teenagers still live at home. They don’t have to worry about food and board, often they don’t clean up after themselves, neither are they expected to make any real life decisions. At least not all on their own.
Those 16 year olds who have dropped out should be encouraged to drop back in. They might have more of an idea about the real world, but they wouldn’t have time or the energy for politics. They’re busy trying to survive because they because the more unqualified the work the less in their pay packet. It’s possible that many of them are still living at home because they can’t afford to shift out. Not voting material yet.
Last but not least, experts are constantly telling us that children’s brains are not totally formed until they turn 25. I can only conclude that the advantage of lowering the voting age belongs to the politicians not the teenagers soon to be called adults. Down with all politicians.