By: Ila Wilborn
As we advance through our lifetimes, we subconsciously hit benchmark ages that measure our maturity with each coming years. At the age of ten, we are excited to be in the double digits club. At thirteen, we are officially teenagers and are considered mature enough to see those cool PG-13 movies. At the age of sixteen, we are encouraged to get a driver’s license. At eighteen, we are then considered young adults and are able to register to vote and enlist in the United States Army. When we get to twenty-one years old, we officially become adults and are able to purchase and consume alcohol… legally that is.
In modern times, it may seem as though each generation of America’s children have less and less time to enjoy childhood. In fact, it is quite common to see parents soothe, or somewhat hypnotize, a screaming child with a colorful touch screen game.
Unfortunately, the young children of America have witnessed some of the most heinous crimes with their own eyes, and in the most unthinkable places: our learning institutions. One would never anticipate going to school and becoming a victim of gun violence, such as the massacre at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University which claimed the lives of 32 students and administrators and the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which claimed 26 lives.
In February, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students witnessed 17 lives taken in their school when a student used a semi-automatic rifle to kill his fellow classmates and administrators in what became the deadliest high school shooting in America.
After the tragedy, many students at the school demanded stricter gun laws by calling out the politicians who offered condolences to them and their families. In a push for change, the students traveled from Parkland to Tallahassee and met with the students at Leon County High School.
The students marched to the Florida State Capitol, and as a result of their protests and social media call to action with the #NeverAgain movement, Florida legislature signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act into law.
Because of this story, an argument can be made that the voting age should be lowered strictly because America’s youth made a change in legislature after experiencing their own tragedies.
Noah Brown, an engineering student at Florida A&M University, feels as though the voting age should not be lowered. In his opinion, younger teens can easily be influenced, which could make risky voters. “It could cause a weird dynamic where minors are voting at odds with their parents,” he said. “It makes a very complex dynamic to me when you are still considered their dependent.”
Brown also expressed concern about other elections, specifically “ things that may not directly impact them monetarily like income and taxes,” he said.
According to a study by Sara B. Johnson at the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, the brain’s functions such as “planning, working memory, and impulse control, are among the last areas of the brain to mature.” In her findings, Dr. Johnson describes how higher cognitive processes are coordinated by the prefrontal cortex which produces executive functioning, otherwise stern decision making.
At a younger age, a sixteen or seventeen year old could experience a lower level of executive functioning, which in turn could lead to, “difficulty with planning, attention, using feedback, and mental inflexibility, all of which could undermine judgment and decision making,” according to Dr. Johnson’s research.
Jack Levine, advocate and founder of 4Generations Institute, expresses that while he is a passionate advocate, he is also a practical one. “I believe that we should not bite off more than we can chew when it comes to reform around voting age,” he said.
In a slightly different approach, Levine is an advocate for younger teens to vote for some offices. “The two offices in Florida which have the most direct affect on young people, particularly students, are school board members and superintendents,” he said.
Levine believes that “students are particularly interested where they are direct participants in the policy, and of course they are the direct recipients of all the decision making made by school board and superintendents.”
So for now, it seems as though science, advocates and students feel as though the voting age should stay the same.
Ventress Johnson (TXSU)