Emma Gonzalez

Time for students to patronize adults; not the other way around

So many adults think that it is so cute, even enlightening, when a student such as Emma Gonzalez at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School calls out adult for speaking “B.S.”

“Isn’t she wise for her years? She speaks truth to power. We need more people like her.”

There is an underlying premise that as we get older, we get wiser.  Here’s the problem. That just may not be true. It’s essentially impossible to measure, because who knows what “wise” is. Also, is it possible to have more than one version of wisdom? Maybe that which bright high school students regard as insight is more accurate than what the wizened professor thinks. Or, maybe they both have views that are equally valid, but substantially different.

Adults have the upper hand by virtue of their power. There are no high school students who own television stations or cable outlets. Few have more than an individual presence in social media. For these reasons and many more, it is easy for adults to stand in judgment of high school students.

Adults hold the power over students as to what options they have for their future. Grades, letters of recommendation, determining who makes the sports team, who gets the lead role in the play, who qualifies to be hired for a job; it’s the adults who have control over the students.

There is good reason for this when kids are young. But as children get older and move more into their adolescent years, the imbalance of power becomes more questionable. The fact that adults still hold the purse strings over adolescents does not mean that the adults’ judgment is better.

This takes us back to Emma’s words about B.S. One might posit that those who have the most wisdom are those who are the best B.S. detectors. Listen to the students from Stoneman Douglas. Few dance around the gun issue. They know that putting more guns in schools, even if in the hands of security guards, only puts everyone in the building further at risk. They know that the balance of power between “good guys” and “bad guys” is less important than the number of weapons that they collectively have at their disposal.  They know that if anyone is going to have a gun, there needs to be a thorough background check in advance. They know that in a civil and civilian society, there is no need for any high-powered gun. Some even know that there are countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia where it is virtually impossible to get any kind of gun, and the rates of gun violence are virtually nil.

So, adults, let’s not patronize these students and praise them for what they understand. Instead, let’s think about where we as adults have gone wrong; where we became a society in which guns are okay, B.S. has become the currency of much of the land, and dysfunctional is the best way to describe our political system.

It’s probably too late for those of us who are adults. It seems that the older we get the more difficult it is for us to change (except for the inexorable movement towards conservatism that seems to occur with each generation).

What is needed is to find ways for today’s adolescents to not commit adultery – to not become like the adults of our generation and most past generations. Let them keep their B.S. detectors and their insight into absurd adult behavior.

This is not impossible. A few suggestions might be diminishing the role of college, placing less emphasis on credentials, and having people hold one another accountable for losing the B.S. detection skills they once had. This is all difficult, but if we are a society that almost gave Donald Trump a majority of the popular vote and which allows guns to run rampant, we need considerable fundamental change. Time for adults to stop patronizing students when “they get it right,” and let students give modest kudos to adults when they choose a language other than B.S.