Judgment call

Kerry Knudsen

Kerry Knudsen

Here is a fun history question. When, since the dawn of time, has the social/economic structure of a country stop everything, look around and say, “Hey! Let’s ask the children.”?

Never.

Or, at least, never until 1970, when Canada, in its wisdom, lowered the voting age to 18. Also, lest we take too much credit, we were trying to beat the Americans to the punch, just as we did with the metric system. The Americans already had several states with kids voting, but they needed a full constitutional amendment to make it national, and that took until July of ’71. The move is credited to youth activism and the anti-war sentiment – the youth of the time having been blissfully protected from war for their entire lives, and thereby knowing squat.

I would like to know whether a single thing in the social/economic structure of North America has been advanced one iota (Cdn) by the under-21 vote in the last 45 years.

The argument at the time was that 18-year-olds were old enough to be drafted (U.S.), so they should have a say. Their other slogans were to never trust anybody over 30 and NHWD (no hope without dope), tune in, turn on, drop out, and so on…. Not exactly Sophocles.

Certainly, there have been prodigies, but, by-and-large, kids need parents because kids lack judgment. I will not “dis” the military. I did not serve and have no standing. However, such military virtues as valour and loyalty do not seem to require judgment or discernment. As immortalized of soldiers by Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Ours is not to reason why. Ours is but to do and die.”

For something a little more current, check with your automobile insurance agent. Insurance companies keep statistics on the judgment level of age groups, and reflect that research in their rates.

Am I entertaining myself by abusing children? Not at all. I am asking society why we look to the youngest among us for advice.

For example. Back in the misty past, in the days before the www.*, there was a new “science.” First it was computer science, then data technology, then information technology …. you get the drift. Back in those days, the young turks were led by Steven Jobs, Bill Gates and a dozen others, all of whom became richer than any robber baron before by being parasites on business. The wisdom of the day for data technicians was to get in with a company, structure its entire info-structure on their own info-code and tele-retire to their basement offices with pay for life (Cdn) and annual new earbuds. (Actually, I made that part about earbuds up.) Without their code, your company was adrift. Gotcha.

I was recently at a conference for magazine people. Of all professions, I think ours has been the most loyal audience of the techno-kids. Run over here for internet. Run over there for MySpace. Turn communication upside-down to accommodate spoiled brats that want to capitalize only the second letters of proper nouns (iTunes, iPad, eCom, eTc.).

Why? Every parent of a teen or former teen knows. “Idunno.”

And what you didn’t know…. buy Facebook’s IPO. In time, it should outpace Nortel and BreX. Also, invest your life’s savings in anything that ends with .com.

The fact is, the advice of the kids has not been that good for us.

I have another issue with our treatment of children: rights. Who gave “rights” to children? Oh, yeah. Psychologists – the profession that can’t help anybody that can’t help themselves.

The media is saturated with children using their rights to free expression. Television is saturated with children exercising their right to work. I wonder how long it will be before that news gets to the Canadian Auto Workers.

In my view, children have the right to good parents. From there, it’s the parents that have the right to expression, etc. It relieves the kids of the flip-side of rights, which is responsibility. Kids can’t be responsible, legally. They can’t sign contracts. The reason is because of their judgment.

Our magazine guys said we should learn to communicate with the kids, because the kids are controlling communication. They own Facebook and Twitter and read all the important stuff about who got Kim Kardashian pregnant, when and where is he now? To top it off, they are going to elect Justin Trudeau as leader of the Grits.

In the ‘70s, kids gained a certain amount of control. However, when they controlled telecommunications, their parents unplugged the phone. The best way to avoid work at that time was not video games; it was music. A few made millions, but the field was littered with the famous dead: Jim Morrison, Janice Joplin, Jim Croce, Jerry Garcia and half the drummers that ever made the Top 10.

Each of the examples above is involved in communications, whether it’s music, telephone, internet or magazines. Communication is the most powerful tool in the human arsenal. Like blasting caps at a construction site, communications tools attract children. It does not follow they should have them. Society has to pay for the damage.

This is not an anti-kid rant. I love mine; I assume you love yours. The thing is, should we continue to turn over the keys to politics and the economy to the young without a better show of performance? Will Twitter really be your free PR path to prosperity? Should your IT guy have the power to lock you out of your office? For that matter, should 18-year-olds vote?

For today, I think not. I think more communication among people with knowledge of the value of consequences is in order. I was not around during WWII. However, that was my parents’ generation. Their old high-school friends would return and have a serious, aged view of life, as if they had seen something they could not communicate. Friends would say, “He was at Dunkirk,” or “He was at Hong Kong.” But those identified as having experience did not speak of it. Not to us. They had been loyal, and they had been brave, but they had crossed over to judgment and discernment, as if there is a time to every purpose under heaven.

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