Thursday, January 12, 2006

From Cheddar to Stilton

"Young people are much more mature now than they were when I was 16" says Eric Martlew, MP for Carlisle, in support of a recent Early Day Motion.

Did he genuinely mean this or was he appeasing the young 'uns with vacuous compliments? I wonder what evidence he has to back up his definition of maturity?

A dictionary definition offers "The state or quality of being fully grown or developed." As I've noted before, important parts of our brains are still developing at the age of 21. Many teenagers have their growth spurts around the age of 16 and after. Most 16 and 17 yr olds haven't experienced the realities of living independently, and as such, unlike in the 'olden days' often have no idea how to maintain a house, provide their own sustinance or look after a child. Rates of truancy, crime, drug use, drunkeness and violence are higher than ever. The yoof of today have not experienced the hard times of war, rationing and economic depressionthat our parents and grandparents have. What is Martlew's definition of maturity?

I listed Sudan as one of the only countries in the world to have a voting age lower than 18. Despite being a barely literate generation, I would be happy for 16 yr olds in that country to have the vote - the elder sister who has looked after her younger siblings since her parents died of AIDS, the young lad who was kidnapped for the army, escaped, and tried to make a living for himself in agriculture. These are the life experiences that matter, not that a 17 yr old so-and-so who likes their opinions to be heard can drive a car.

Maturity comes through time on this earth, but also through experiences. It's not something that improves in each generation because of better technology or an egalatarian education system. The 21st century teenager isn't forced to grow up too fast, he/she has the leisure to enjoy life during these educative, formative years without real responsibilities. This isn't a bad thing. It won't be long before they mature enough to hone good life skills and attitudes, and it won't be long before they will have the opportunity to vote.


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