Opinion: No One Should Be Surprised That Teenagers Are Changing the Status Quo

Washington D.C. Birmingham, Alabama. New Haven, Connecticut. Parkland, Florida. These are American cities throughout history where teenagers have risen up to protest for their rights. Washington D.C. was home to protests by young suffragettes in the early 1900s. Birmingham saw young black students performing sit-ins in the ‘60s. New Haven’s Yale students protested racism on their campus in the early 2000s. Finally, Parkland –– where high school survivors have created an entire movement surrounding gun control. History has consistently been changed by young adults throughout America’s past –– yet there are people out there that continue to be shocked that teenagers are capable of sparking change.

Students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have achieved what others have failed to do in the wake of other mass shootings in the country by creating a movement that has attracted thousands. In the two weeks since the shooting, the students of MSD have protested at Florida’s Capital, they’ve inspired school walkouts, stirred Governor Scott to propose a bill on gun control and encouraged companies to pull support from the National Rifle Association (NRA). These students are creating change when their adults have failed them.

However, there are adults that are shocked that these students are acting on their own. What people fail to realize is that young adults have been making waves since the beginning of our country. We can look back as far as the Sons of Liberty all the way up to just a few years ago when students were protesting immigration laws. History has been made by our youth –– and isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

Every generation is brought up to believe that they are going to change the world, yet the second that a generation tries, there is always some form of backlash. Adults say that teens are “too young” or “don’t understand.” I disagree. It’s this generation that understands this world’s trials the best because they were the ones that had to grow up in it. Seniors in high school would have been born at the earliest in 1999. That means this generation of high schoolers grew up in a post-Columbine world. A world where school shootings are the norm and nearly 20 years of legislation have failed to protect young adults. I’d say that would make teenagers the authority on gun control.

I want to make it clear that there should be no misconceptions about the power of teenagers. Generation after generation continue to underestimate the power of young people, and I can’t fathom why. There was a point in history when adults were teenagers and when they were the ones making changes and questioning the status quo. Without young adults resisting the norm, women wouldn’t be able to vote, and people would still be segregated on buses.

Young adults are just now finding their voices and it’s an adult’s job to listen to those voices. I’m not surprised that students, such as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, are creating change and you shouldn’t be either. Those students are smart, passionate and driven. They’ve made their voices heard at an unprecedented speed and have petitioned for what they wanted. Students across generations have done the same and its always been at times of great discord. It has always been young adults who’ve been influencing history. The next time someone questions the authority of a teenager, tell them to open a history book.