Emma González and David Hogg have become household names in recent weeks alongside many of their classmates from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Today, they continue to speak out against gun violence in the U.S. In addition to the nationwide dialogue and demonstration the students have inspired about gun control, they also pose an interesting question to the rest of us: How do we critically acknowledge the views of teenagers who have valid experiences but can't vote yet?
We have seen, on the national stage, recent instances of adults approaching this problem irresponsibly. In some cases, adults are quick to dismiss the experience and viewpoints of these student survivors because of their youth. Some adults are quick to either embrace or renounce their views without engagement. And others, still, have levied personal attacks against these teens, as if they are mature, adult political actors whose whole lives deserve ridicule.
One of these strikes was at the hands of Laura Ingraham, a conservative television and radio talk show host known for her show on Fox News, “The Ingraham Angle."
Ingraham drew criticism for the following tweet, “David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA...totally predictable given acceptance rates.)” that accompanied an article from the The Daily Wire summarizing Hogg’s admissions decisions.
Triviality aside, criticizing Hogg for not getting into a few schools adds absolutely nothing to the ongoing conversation. Apparently, a large number of companies tied to “The Ingraham Angle” agreed, and more than 20 have since pulled their advertisements from her program. Ingraham apologized and took a previously planned vacation, condemning the liberal bullies responsible for the backlash shortly after her return on-air.
The youth of the Parkland students — and other adolescent activists — should not scare us. We should not dismiss them because of their age, nor should we ridicule them in spite of it.
In fact, it could be beneficial to widen the scope of authority on policy-making. This week’s hearings with Facebook Executive Mark Zuckerberg have shown that several of our esteemed senators and representatives are unfamiliar with the basic tenets of Facebook, social media and how the internet works. Perhaps it would be useful to allow younger people a voice in the conversation, especially when many of them have experienced firsthand the consequences of inadequate firearm policy. Digital natives are as critical to the construction of internet regulation as school shooting natives are to the debate around gun violence in the U.S.
We should treat the Parkland students as kids because they, like the rest of their peers still growing up, are our country’s future and should be given a fitting degree of attentiveness. We should treat them like adults in the sense that their ideas, as close to their hearts and experiences as they are held, must be assessed critically if they are to drive the national dialogue. But most importantly, we must treat them with compassion, as they have lived through an immense tragedy that few of us will ever know.