I have enjoyed reading the editorial letters of local high school students these last several months. They are intelligent, well-written, reasoned exercises debating a wide range of current topics. Most importantly, these letters remind us all of the promise of youth. This got me thinking about some incongruities in the law regarding the age of young people.
At age 16, the law says you are still a juvenile, yet old enough to drop out of school (don't get any ideas, that would be a big mistake!) This is a throwback to agrarian societies when farmers needed their children's helping hands on the fields. At 16, you can also legally engage in consensual, sexual relationships and get a driver's license to handle 2000 pounds of metal at speeds of 70 mph.
At age 17, just about everywhere in America you can go see a violent or sexually explicit movie by yourself. In Georgia, with a few exceptions, the criminal laws treat you as an adult when you turn 17 (actually the day before you turn 17), often meaning prison rather than probation for boys and girls still in high school. If you don't believe me, Google "Genarlow Wilson."
In the U.S., you must first reach age 18 to vote in any local, state or national election. These restrictive ballots often include proposed Constitutional amendments and other referenda affecting the lives of all people, young and old. At 18 you are also old enough to serve and die in a war, whether drafted or serving as a volunteer. You may at 18 purchase a rifle or shotgun. But you must be 21 years of age to be legally mature enough to purchase alcohol or a handgun.
I do not suggest that we should lower the age for purchasing alcohol or handguns. And even 18 seems to tender an age for our sons and daughters to go to war.
But it seems to me there is something wrong with denying young people the right to vote for the politicians who make the laws in our society, even while our laws tell young people they are adults in so many other areas. Lowering the voting age could be a new frontier in the quest to spread freedom and democracy at home. "Young people of the world, unite!"