In the days since University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe stepped down amidst protests that included the school’s football team, the media landscape has been inundated with thinkpieces from the left and right. In general, those on the right see the student demonstrations over racial tension at the school as yet another sign of the PC culture in this country run amok. Meanwhile, many on the left, despite unease with the way members of the media were treated by some of the protesters, see this as a seminal moment in civil rights and social justice.
On Thursday, libertarian professor and founder of the Instapundit blog Glenn Reynolds decided to toss in his two cents with a column published in USA Today. In Reynolds’ opinion, not only are the protests at Mizzou and the outrage over offensive Halloween costumes at Yale both childlike and unnecessary, but the actions by students on those campuses is a clear indication that young adults should not be allowed to vote in this country. Apparently, young people today are just too fragile and in need of constant coddling and “safe spaces,” and, therefore, shouldn’t be trusted with any real responsibility as they can’t think for themselves.
Reynolds points out that the minimum voting age was lowered to 18 (from 21) in 1971 during the Vietnam War era, when 18-year-olds could fight in combat but not vote for their own self-interests. While he says he agreed with it then, he doesn’t think that should be the case now.
But now I’m starting to reconsider. To be a voter, one must be able to participate in adult political discussions. It’s necessary to be able to listen to opposing arguments and even — as I’m doing right here in this column — to change your mind in response to new evidence.
But now the evidence suggests that, whatever one might say about the 18-year-olds of 1971, the 18-year-olds of today aren’t up to that task. And even the 21-year-olds aren’t looking so good.
As Reason’s Robby Soave notes, student demands for “safe spaces” boil down to a demand that universities fulfill the role of Mommy and Daddy. In the old days — this practice, interestingly, ended about 1971, too — colleges stood in loco parentis (in the place of parents) and, as Soave writes, exercised extensive and detailed control over students’ social lives, sleeping hours, organizing and speaking. Now, he observes, the students are “desperate to be treated like children again.”
Well, OK, I guess. But children don’t vote. Those too fragile to handle different opinions are too fragile to participate in politics. So maybe we should raise the voting age to 25, an age at which, one fervently hopes, some degree of maturity will have set in. It’s bad enough to have to treat college students like children. But it’s intolerable to be governed by spoiled children. People who can’t discuss Halloween costumes rationally don’t deserve to play a role in running a great nation.
Likely, Reynolds is just being purposely provocative in order to spur conversation and court a bit of controversy, something of a specialty of his. Still, the whole thing just comes across as him yelling “Get off my goddamned lawn and get a real job!” while shaking a rolled up newspaper at those dang whippersnappers with the long hair. I can understand the view of some who feel that the outrage at college campuses over racism might be a bit over the top, even if I don’t agree with it. But to then take that frustration and say that we need to raise the voting age by seven years in response is patently ridiculous.
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