Why we should ignore teenage advice on political issues • Troy Media

Reading time: 4 minutes

By Mark Milk
and Martin Mrazik
The Aristotle Foundation for Public Policy

The war on Ukraine unleashed by Russian President Vladimir Putin should remind us that adults, their experiences and their judgments matter, that is, to think about whether we want to go to war against Russia.

As obvious as it may seem, in recent years — on other politics — politicians, CEOs, celebrities, and journalists have routinely embraced the opinions of famous teenagers.

A case in point is teenage activist Greta Thunberg who, before COVID-19, traveled the world preaching about carbon emissions. Thunberg was received by heads of state, including then German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. She addressed the parliaments of UK, France and the European Union.

Marc Milke

Martin Mrazik
Martin Mrazik

Thunberg was also invited to speak at the United Nations climate change conference in New York in December 2018. He was here that she gave the assembled crowd her now famous “How dare you?” speech, decrying what Thunberg – then 15 – claimed was political slowness in what she saw as an epic environmental crisis: the effect of carbon used by humans on the climate.

CNN big title perfectly captured the dynamic but, more generally, the political and elitist reaction to the Swede: “Teenage girl tells climate negotiators they’re not mature enough.”

Thunberg is an example of a modern but unnecessary phenomenon: politicians, CEOs, diplomats and journalists seeking and receiving political advice from teenagers who, by definition, have virtually no life experience and expertise. , yet are celebrated as if they were Albert Einstein, Henry Kissinger or Warren Buffet – none of whom were asked for their opinion at the age of 15.

Certainly, children or teenagers can display an early glow. Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his first composition at five years old. Joan of Arc was 16 when she first led French soldiers against the English and 17 when she won a famous battle at Orléans, sending the English and their allies across the Loire . Or meditate Akrit Jaswalwho began reading and writing at the age of two and began Shakespeare and books on medicine at the age of five.

Admiring the achievements of young people is one thing, but using them to advance policy is another. After all, politicians are responsible for issues ranging from education and energy to a country’s finances, foreign policy, diplomacy and war. The reason teens are not to be abused for their agendas is simple: brains are still developing throughout the teens and into their early twenties.

The frontal lobes of the brain remain more “plastic” or open to experience during adolescence and do not connect until early adulthood. This indicates that the developing brain is more adaptable to experience, but is also prone to more errors and is easily influenced by emotional factors. In theory, this maintains the ability to learn from mistakes before being wired.

Studies Measuring frontal lobe executive functioning/maturity provides strong evidence that adolescents make significantly more errors in problem-solving tasks and reveals that the maturing young brain is particularly sensitive to impulsive tendencies and grounded responses. on emotion. Teenagers, left to their own thinking, are at risk of making bad decisions because they are only developing the insight and perspective necessary for their well-being.

It’s also why critics of people like Thunberg should direct their anger not at teenagers like her, but at the parents and politicians who put young people in the public and rhetorical line of fire. It is the latter who are at fault. (Also, a 15-year-old may have very different opinions 10 or 30 years later.)

The idealism, passion and energy of teenagers are irresistible. Yet, it is paramount during adolescence that young adults are positioned so that they can gain an appreciation for the history, wisdom, and knowledge of older generations. It requires a framework.

But today’s court at the executive level of teenage celebrities such as Thunberg mistakenly assumes the opposite – teenagers mentoring adults.

It’s not fair to them. Turning young people into instant celebrities ignores teens’ need for adult guidance during a pivotal developmental time when their brains need space to reflect, refine ideas, gain knowledge and learn from experiences. .

Encouraging young people throughout their development is fundamental to the well-being of the next generation. But that’s different than asking teenagers for advice and input on affairs of state.

Nor is it fair or wise to citizens who really need Solomon’s wisdom and not the whims of a 16-year-old. Embracing teenage views on politics should be abandoned by politicians, CEOs and journalists.

Mark Milke is the president of the Aristotle Foundation for Public Policy, a new think tank slated to launch in late 2022. Martin Mrazik is a professor of education at the University of Alberta with a specialty in neuropsychology.

Mark and Martin are Troy Media Opinion leaders. For maintenance requests, Click here.

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