Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Weekly Sneak: A Little Provocation

I was reading this HuffPo story about this kid who is already politically articulate at the age of 12, and I thought that was pretty fantastic. Of course he's probably an exception, there's not many 12 year olds I know who are into politics but he did give me an idea. What if?
"What would happen if we lowered the voting age dramatically to, say, maybe 14? Or even 12? By that time most children have experienced some primary school, and if surviving school isn't an political education then nothing is. This suggestion probably sounds horrifying to most readers, but there might be something to it. Children are generally much better behaved than adults are, being used to the bottom rung of the social ladder. Their sense of fair play hasn't had much time to be corrupted by the world. They would infuse any democracy with some much-needed idealistic energy."
 I am only half doing this to mess with our notions of age-based hierarchy. I know quite a lot of greyheads (not all, but some) are going to clack their dentures together and say that I have finally lost it, poor child. But if we can make soldiers out of children, and we do so far too often on this continent, then why not make them voters? It isn't beyond the capacity of 12-14 year olds to choose between political candidates, folks that age have opinions. Young people are intensely perceptive and hardly moved by the same concerns that allow us older folks to be corrupted so easily. 

I was also inspired somewhat by my older nieces. The eldest one couldn't vote in the last election, but I thoroughly enjoyed hearing her trenchant views on the various candidates and she gave me invaluable intel about her constituency. The others are far too young as of yet, but judging by the level of inquiry they tend to subject me to I can't help but believe they would do a better job of grilling candidates than most journalists.

Besides which, its a suggestion that's putting an extreme spin on 'democracy'. I don't really know why we shouldn't allow young citizens to participate in elections especially as they are the most vulnerable group and suffer most from failures in the healthcare system, in the education system of which they are the primary users, etc. For the people, by the people, even if they're shorties.


  1. It is true Elsie, that the most vulnerable groups are the ones that do not have a say in who gets elected. I see it all too often here in Kenya. We are just coming out of a crisis in which teachers are on strike because of poor pay, while the political elite are enjoying preposterous levels of remuneration. And no one cares. If the voting age were lowered in our country, none of these guys responsible for education here would be re-elected.

  2. Which is good enough reason to keep kids off the polls, lest we have to respect their views and their decisions. Sigh.

  3. Not wanting to rain on a rather good parade here, but wouldn't that make rural teachers even more powerful political operators than they are now? I mean fine to make well-educated nieces of sassy bloggers into voters: I can just see powerful pols squirming in their seats when asked very directly by a cute young girl exactly why the govt signed a contract with Richmond DC, and exactly why no-one has been prosecuted since. But all those rural kids? On the other hand, when the likes of Mwinyi tell today's youth to just stay at home, and be good boys and girls I'm inclined to think: go for it!

  4. Heh. the nieces are cute... but that's besides the point. used to come across rural kids all the time back in my NGO days. I though they had more than enough potential and dynamism that was going to waste precisely because they had no formal power to exercise. Morphing them into voters might upset the social mango cart and give them some power even over the schooling system. Of course, on paper the education structures are all very democratic and participatory... but as we know, what's that got to do with anything in practice?


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