TED Conversations

Rebecca Cutts

Member of Youth Parliament,

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Do young people have a valid role to play in national and international politics?

Do you think that young people actually have a role to play in politics?

Many people look down upon young people who try to have an input as being to young to know what they are speaking about or to have an opinion in the first place.

What is your opinion on this?

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  • Sep 12 2011: To respond directly to your question. NO. As a young man (in the U.S. at least) I am consistently told to sit back and accept what someone who will not be affected by these decisions... AKA OLD PEOPLE, decides to do with MY future. Political outlets are there and real, yet only real in the eyes of the youth who have been told their ideas and opinions count yet have been acted towards in a completely different manner. What's worse than not being listened to? Being listened to and then disregarded.
    • Sep 17 2011: Your mistake is thinking that you are told that because you are young. You believe that old people are more likely to be heard, understood, and followed. Right here, if you didn't tell us that you were a young man, we wouldn't know. Your ideas would simply be judged on their merits. But you may never see the effects of your ideas. You are influenced by your friends, your family, by everyone you interact with in face-to-face social networks and in electronic social networks, and all of them, in turn, are influenced by you, whether they admit it or not. Perhaps the influence isn't in the direction you intend. You may inspire opposition as well as support. Call it the butterfly effect. Call it "It's A Wonderful Life." You will have an influence whether you try or not.

      There are a couple of sayings that come to mind. "Think globally. Act locally." and "All politics is local." You change opinions one person at a time. And then they change others opinions. And if it's a good idea, in a little while, someone will tell you about a great idea he heard, and it will be your idea coming back around.

      People who disagree with you will tell you that your opinion doesn't matter. If they convince you, then they win. You ask, "What's worse than not being listened to?" Saying nothing.
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        Sep 17 2011: I LOVED reading this exchange of ideas, Brandon and Mike! They were both honest and heartfelt and they give us a window into 2 valid viewpoints. I hope you will both keep posting and sharing your perspectives on TED conversations (and listening to each other!)
  • Sep 22 2011: You don't need to be old to be wise.
    Everybody have their own opinion no matter how young or old.
  • Sep 17 2011: Once in a while I get amazed all over again by our ability to turn simple questions into complicated ones.

    Politics and economics are extraordinarily complex and intertwined networks of problems and solutions. These networks are much more complex than the natural sciences because their elemental particles are not electrons, screws or genes but humans in all their non-linear psychological glory.

    Young people (generally speaking of course) just don't have the experience necessary to grasp these issues. They are still, in many ways, raw material. They can obviously have their opinions, but one should remember that there is not much depth behind them.

    After all - who here doesn't chuckle when remembering his opinions as a teenager?
    • Sep 18 2011: Adults are proving that they know less than is necessary to cope with the demands of world society.The passion of the young has to be welcomed into the decision making process. A fresh approach is mandatory for the survival of all life on this planet. Time is running out for all of us.
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      Sep 18 2011: People younger than around 13 generally speaking, then I mostly agree, but over that age, if they are given enough of the right information, they can have good judgements on a situation. They also have a unique perspective over many adults - they can offer ideas with much less pessimistic logistical restrictions - hence more raw creativity - which offer new angles and ideas worth thinking about.
      Most young people haven't had their creative freedom drilled out of them yet.
    • Sep 18 2011: "They can obviously have their opinions, but one should remember that there is not much depth behind them."

      This is true of many political commentators and even some political candidates. Young people, at least, usually acknowledge that they are still learning and that they don't know all the answers. Many adults make their decisions purely on emotion. Young children are always asking, "Why?" Adults rarely do.
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      Sep 18 2011: You must need to be inspired by a TED talk on this topic, Hanno! I think that John Hunter sees it differently.

      http://www.ted.com/talks/john_hunter_on_the_world_peace_game.html

      When my kids were young and reeling from some craziness perpetrated by some adult, I used to tell them "Just because people are in big bodies does not mean that they are really grown up inside." My eldest son knew at 13 that he would be a Canadian diplomat. He overcame obstacles (like no one in our family ever having worked in government) and flew like a directed missile to that position so that he can make a difference in the world. He became the youngest ever hired by DFAIT.
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    Sep 14 2011: Rebecca,

    My opinion is that young people have a critical role to play in politics.

    The challenge is how, where and to whom youth voice their concerns, focus their energies and express their abilities.

    In some environments direct engagement of politicians and policy-makers is apropos, but engaging the powers-that-be in a debate can be rife with obstructions for persons of any age. Input by way of organized, unavoidably public invitation that draws all to join young people's causes--preferably in ways that garner positive press--can be exceedingly powerful in attracting leaders attention.

    I was deeply impressed and inspired by what young Israeli and Arab people did by organizing 1000 Tables, a public held dialogue carried out in 30 cities with 100s of tables set out for people of diverse beliefs, ages, ethnicity and experiences. to convene and discuss civil concerns.

    A blog that covered the event as a "society transforming itself:" http://davidehg.wordpress.com/2011/09/10/1000-tables/

    Though this is entirely different than trying to meet a political leaders on their terms, and indeed, politicians themselves aren't really the change-agents here. But young people, by engaging with communities in catalyzing ways like this can communicate their concerns through highly relevant public venues.

    Culture change, which is most effective carried out in publicly evident culture rather than institutionally isolated chambers, is what can "persuade" politicians and influencers to change their tunes. When they see masses gathering to create change, they are more likely to engage, too.

    Young people have special skills and energies for such massive movements, as much history proves. The challenge is to understand what audiences can convey the concerns and transform early momentum in unmistakable and easily adaptable ways that lead to social contagions to build and sustain more of the same.

    Andrea
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      Oct 7 2011: What an intriguing example of how young people can make a statement without being involved in policy decision-making. Thank you for bringing it up.

      I think what's important to stress here is the fact that with the energy young people possess, they can create things -- physical objects, debates, peaceful demonstrations -- that can be remembered, because of their visual impact. We sometimes don't even pay attention to what politicians are saying, because there is nothing visually memorable about their speeches. But we will remember acts like 1,000 tales.
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    Sep 12 2011: I hear the art of politics is saying what needs to be said.
    I like to express how I feel and speak clearly.

    do you reckon i have a chance? i am nearly 19.
    ha.
    • Sep 12 2011: I am always getting told that the art of politics is complaining about something and then doing something about it. As long as you can do that then you are well set up.
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    Sep 12 2011: Seems problematic, dosnt it. when they are young they can be full of passion and are craving for change and willing to work hard for it, but they sometime lack the wisdom of experience that comes with age.
    On the other hand, when they are older and more experienced, they tend to bend to the rules of the game, and they become part of the system and loss interest in changing so badly. maybe they get tired, maybe they loss heart and maybe they see things arent so easy as they imagined it would be. whats clear to me (this days at least) is that we have to raise the young generations to understand they are the future and they most understand it well because it looks like a complex future and we still have much to do at preparing.
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    Sep 11 2011: Yes, young people should play a role in politics -- but politics, policy-makers, and institutions need to find a way how to show young people that they could play this role at all. Most young people don't even know how they could be heard if they wanted to express their opinions, because the communication channels are not adapted to young peoples' needs and technological knowlege. So right now, young people don't play a role in politics: not because they don't have anything to say, but because they don't know how and where they could say it.
    • Sep 12 2011: I have got to say that I agree with you wholeheartedly on this. It is often the very people who should be standing up and taking notice that feel it is acceptable to sit down and do nothing, choosing only to listen to people with views and opinions similar to their own.
  • Sep 11 2011: Absolutely "YES". according to stats youth comprise of 40% of total population. we have some of the brightest minds in the world in politics today but alongwith that there are some people who are really stupid to be honest. The flavour that youth bring to the world today can be seen by some of the examples like Xiapfeng Peng the green king of China and maybe the best exponent of green energy today, Larry Page the co founder of google, Mark Zuckerberg etc. They are all great minds and there are more that keep cropping up each day. I feel that politics has become a game of Shoe throwers and abusers without any work getting done. We all need some kind of jolt that can provide the stimulus for the politic machine to start an era of partnership and relationships between the governments. I also feel that our president Mr. Obama comes in between the youth and the golden oldies. He has got some flare in the way he talks and goes about his business of a youthful person but then he is surrounded by lot of old people who still live in the primitive era. For me youth can change the way we think and live and they can certainly provide the fodder for innovation in politics
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    Sep 23 2011: I certainly believe and know from my own experience that young people often bring an uncluttered objectivity to debate which is most welcome and helpful, because it challenges us in our assumtpions and beliefs. Reflecting on my own beliefs, however, I have been interested with the passage of years to see how my assumptions and beliefs have been modified by experience and how I see now that the beliefs I held as a teen and young adult were a little too 'black & white'
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    Sep 23 2011: Young people need a voice - they have an essential perspective on life that many adults have been educated out of.
    My project is about getting young people to shape theirs schools - primary and secondary. By getting young people involved in decision making, we give them responsibility, which stops them just being passengers and turns them into active thinkers who learn how to change their own lives and the world around them. If this sounds like something vaguely interesting, check out this temporary site:
    http://changethefuture.co.uk

    There will be a proper pitch website here in a couple of months, so please bookmark this if you're interested and come back to it :)
  • Sep 22 2011: Countries definitely need to let young people have a say in politics, living in Australia where voting is mandatory, I find it reidiculous that some adults are forced to vote when they don't know or care about politics, while the opinions of young people who genunely care about the issues are essentially ignored
  • Che Cho

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    Sep 21 2011: I think young people always played a role in politics. If you look at big revolutions and wars, you will notice that these are only possible when there are enough young man to fight. A demographic pyramid with a big base of young males seems to be necessary to certain political developments. Take for example the spring revolution this year in arabic countries, you will find a lot of young people there, or the population of germany before the two world wars. The question wether young people decide about political issues or not, is another discussion, but at least they affect these decisions, by just "being there".
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    Sep 16 2011: Of course they do. They are the future leaders of tomorrow. The more innovative a young person is the better because they can create new standards, new laws etc...They can relate to those in their generation and try to serve in their interest. Now I am not saying that 18 year old's should be running for office or being part of the Parliament but having a foundation for them to cultivate their political and leadership skills would be a great opportunity for them.

    But more important than that is teaching them the right values.
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    Sep 12 2011: The young generation do not play (a major) role in politics is because of credibility and knowledge. Less of the credibility but more of the knowledge, not knowing what they're going up against, the facts and reasoning for their beliefs. Because politics has become such a stage where the statement "because i think this is the right thing to do" never works. If the "right" generation has any interest besides "I never want to go into politics, because nothing is ever what it seems", then politics wouldn't have such a bad name. I think they need to be educated from at-least starting of high-school. This way they know what is the value of sitting in a class room of a public school. They'd know where the money comes from, how the money is distributed and how the political cycle works in to play its parts (sometimes to do good and others times negative).
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    Sep 10 2011: Yes, absolutely young people have a role to play but not necessarily the same role as when they reach the age of majority.
    Their role at this point in their lives, in my opinion, is to learn and to grow in their understanding of the issues. They have great skills with which to challenge the story as it is given. They can be the new investigative journalists. They can challenge the standard line. They can write papers evaluating the parties, their positions, their pro-social stances and their programs which are ultimately bad for people and they can get them published. It would be pretty tough for any politician to refute well researched and well expressed papers by young people who have harnessed their own clear thinking and integrity to undertake an improvement in the system. By taking this time of their lives to study the ways and means of politics and to develop their own ideas of how to improve things, they can become our eventual leaders based on knowledge and a decision to be better than what has gone before.
  • Sep 10 2011: Young people don't play a role in the big game, but they do have a chance to do that later. Politics is always about experience you won't get through learning and often - about personal connections you acquire all your life long.
  • Oct 9 2011: No certainly not, young people do not have a role to play in politics. A new ageing gene soon to come on line will solve this problem for those kids who might think that they have some change making contribution to make for society. It will be given as a vaccine to the early teen populations. Contrary to what most people believe initially about this idea, it will in the end prove as a great and positive time saver for the new teen generation. Rather than wasting ten, sometimes twenty years fooling themselves into believing that their life changing work is going to manifest change, we have the technology now to redirect this wrongthink and save them the disillusion experience whereby they awaken into a disempowered life. Lets save them that discomfort shall we and keep the dream alive? Thats right, the only place to dream the dream presently is in sleep..so lets just persue that, breathing, in dream, thats keeping the dream alive. ZZZZZZ
  • Oct 9 2011: I am a teacher, and my students feel that their opinions and feelings don't matter, that they will never be heard, or listened to, that their future is already decided, as far as politics goes. That being said, they cannot develop an interest in government, politics, world events,....so, how do we get them involved?

    They have to know their voices will be heard. Why don't local politicians come in and talk to young people on a regular basis, let them know exactly what they are running for, and how what they want will help the students and their families get what they need, etc.. Then, follow up with accountability talks..."Ok, this is what I told you I'd, see, the system works."
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    Oct 8 2011: 1 word: Zuckerberg.
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    Oct 7 2011: Politics is about to change. Young or old, democracy is a beautiful lie and I think people have had enough of lies and spin and rhetoric.

    Power to the People!
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    Oct 7 2011: Being a member of the youth body, I feel as though we should, only to some extent though. Maybe one should be required to have an IQ of a certain level, then maybe if there are multiple actions that could be taken on the situation then there would be a vote between the eligible. After the votes were tallied they could be discussed and/or averaged with the Adult's votes.
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    Oct 7 2011: Two weeks ago, in Denmark, we elected a new government. Average age is 42.8 years. Our Minister of Finance is 26, and Minister of Health is 28.
    I don't no what young people is to you, but this is young relative to any other european government. Good or bad? We don't know yet, but I'm sure it will be different, and I'm really excited to see what they're going to accomplish.
    My guess is that courage and creativity will play a larger role in the decisionmaking processes.
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    Oct 3 2011: This is rather hard to answer.

    They do not have any official way to truly impact national politics, but whenever a group of young people gathers to protest or do something amazing, the media points their cameras at them. The primary weapon we youngsters have is inspiration and shock. For example, when the Diner Sit-Ins first started in the early 20th Century, they were powerful not only because of the symbolic action - although that undoubtedly played a role - but because of the fact that it was all started by a group of young college students who had enough and decided to take action.

    We can't expect big shot politicians and lobbyists to regard 15 to 20 year olds as serious, opinionated individuals, but we can expect the 300 million citizens that vote for them to be inspired by our actions. Regardless of how rebellious you may want to be, if you want to change the system, you need to use your head. Take what is given and use it to your advantage.
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    Oct 2 2011: The young have a role to play. Period. And a very important one too!
    Each one is key in the fabric of life, and the young take, by their very nature, what is useful to them from the old and apply it to their own times. They choose tools, make new ones, and help this big machine of existence to continue on. In politics, as well as everywhere else, their eyes are open, their ears tuned in, their hands ready to do what it takes.
    The hope is that they will problem solve better than their predecessors, that they will lead the way to world cooperation and peace, and that they will not instead become the first do die in the front line of archaic wars, weather 18 year old navy seals or children soldiers in Africa.
    Young people hold the key!
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    Dave R

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    Sep 25 2011: A third-grader has been accused of hacking into his school system and changing passwords and other information. Luckily the police are not pressing charges here and are leaving it in the school districts hands. My only hope is they see this as an opportunity to educate and promote the boys talents instead of punishing him. Most the time when kids do these things it is because they are really smart, and really bored."

    ok my personal thoughts on this matter are:
    -that when this generation takes control of society, we are just gonna hafta trust them..
    -i see a better world in the control of us who are wise beyond our years
    -it has already started (look at how the internet went from an idea to a way of life.)
    -the current powers that be are old school and afraid of change/anything they do not understand
    -the mind raised with the truth of infinite possibilities (provided by the internetz) will understand far more than those who have tried to understand (yet are working from a foundation of out-dated ideology), so how can you truly understand unless you have experienced it?
    -the minimum voting age SHOULD be lowered as there are TOO MANY great mindz without a voice (maybe have under-agers pass some sort of aptitude test to allow for them to be able to vote... further on that thought- have EVERYONE have to pass some sort of skill testing question in order to be "priviledged" to vote..
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    Sep 24 2011: I definitely believe so. I don't feel like your age has anything to do with if you should have input or a say in national and international politics. If you feel a certain way about issues in your homeland or across the sea, why not speak up? Furthermore, I'm just saying, if we are old enough to vote at the age of 18, why can't we say anything until we reach some age? (I'm 22 btw lol)
  • Sep 23 2011: To watch and learn how things are done.
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    Sep 23 2011: In my opinion the young people need to be able to have input into the political discussion and decision making process of any country. Having an input will hhelp them understand that problems of politics, social engineering, and getting along can be very complex and that a simple answer is not always the best answer. It must be tempered with neutral guidance that helps the understand the future economic, social, and political impacts of their decisions. An example is the discussions about green jobs and environmental protection. In california they cut off the water to the central valley to protect a fish that could have been protected in a different way. Farmers lost crops, many low payed people lost jobs, farms were lost and the area became a dust bowl. Now that elections are coming suddenly water is available to farmers. Young people can learn valuable lessons from this and may have sought different solutions that would not have had such an economic impact if they had been shown the impact of the decision to shut down the water. They might have not come ot a political decision about how to protect their times in office but could have seen it as how to protect both groups of life. Yes, I agree they have a definite place in politics and not just as worker bees but as people asking questions and finding answers.
  • Sep 23 2011: In my personal opinion, This is no longer our world, it is theirs, If they are not allowed to have input into the world that they will have to work with, we will not be making any progress, we need to start fixing their world today, so they do not have to fix their children' world tomorrow, we could be the generation of live longer than any before us, but they will be the generation that lives even longer than we do, through advancements in all fields, lives are lasting longer and longer, and at the rate that tech is changing, who is to say that within the next 50-100 years we will not living over 100 easily, these things need to be brought into consideration when it comes to their futures, though now they do not fully understand the world that they live in they soon will, and using their input to guide our decisions will make it easier for future generations to save the planet, save our species, maybe even solve the problems of the universe.