Opinion: Why this week proves children are better than adults

Emily Writes for The Spinoff

This week, and pretty much all the time, young people are putting to shame the aged moaners among us, says Emily Writes.

OPINION: I'm of the opinion that generally children are better than adults. This week has thoroughly cemented this view for me. and it's only Thursday morning.

I don't know what it is about becoming an adult, or getting older, but it's a fact that a good many of us become grumpy, cynical shitheels as we age.

I guess it's understandable that if you're an old jerk who spends your days complaining about "kids these days" on Twitter, you'd of course feel confronted by intelligent, lively, hopeful young people making themselves heard.

We have seen this play out over and over again in the last few weeks with the Student Strike for Climate Action - withered old talkback dinosaurs lamenting their irrelevance in the face of our tamariki who are passionately imploring us to help them save the planet.

The overreaction to young people standing up and being heard is comical. But luckily, kids these days don't seem too bothered. Instead, they're just getting on with it. And they're not just making themselves heard on climate change either.

And of course, many, many adults are standing with kids, encouraging them, supporting them and listening to them. They can see that our future lies in young people. They can see they're intelligent, passionate, and they want to act.

Here are the ways kids have been owning adults over the last few weeks

Standing up for each other with pride


It's Pride Week in Wellington this week and young people will be front and centre for the Pride hīkoi from the waterfront side of Waitangi Park to the Te Ngākau Civic Square.

Protesting prison conditions


Year 11 students from St John's Hastings, James Barr and Ishan Parmar, locked themselves in a cage to protest against poor living conditions for those in New Zealand prisons. They'd read the 2017 Ombudsman's report into Hawke's Bay Regional Prison that said "there were shortfalls in the provision of clean bedding and clothing for prisoners and many mattress covers were stained and mouldy".

Insisting on access for all


Nicole Thornton, 13, presented a petition requesting access for people who have medical conditions to bathrooms. She appeared before the select committee to argue her case. The Lower Hutt teenager, who lives with Crohn's disease, made headlines last year when she presented a 3000-strong petition to then-Labour MP Trevor Mallard, asking for the right to use the toilets of any nearby workplace. Here's the just-published Select Committee report.

Getting vaccinated against the wishes of their parents


Reports from all over the world are suggesting young people are getting vaccinated in secrecy to protect themselves against preventable disease. With 26 confirmed so far in the wider Christchurch area, young people are rightly concerned and they're insisting control of their bodies. This is absolutely beautiful to me - Their body, their choice after all.

Starting a Consent Club


The Consent Club is aimed at changing "consent culture" at parties and festivals. They provide training for volunteers on how to perform bystander intervention with an aim to make partying safer. All of their work has been self-funded. Donate here.

Working to end gendered violence


Shakti Youth Network for Change host annual training for high-school students passionate about advocacy, activism and social justice. Shakti Youth are a group of young people from various Asian, Middle Eastern and African backgrounds working towards a violence-free future. They hold fundraisers and raise awareness about gendered violence.

Demanding change to reduce rubbish


Yeah, it's good that we don't have plastic bags anymore - you know who started demanding it years ago? Kids. Way back in 2017, about 50 six to 10-year-olds, including two dressed as straws, made their voices heard at parliament and demanded that we ban plastic bags.

Students from Paremata School in Wellington joined Imogen Yates-Aitken and Caitlyn Petrie from Carisbrook School in Dunedin to present a primary school student-driven petition to the House of Representatives requesting a ban on the use and production of single use plastic bags.

Now, plastic bags are being phased out everywhere - even at Pete's Emporium which is full of plastic crap.

Bringing Metallica to New Zealand


Mate, no dream is too small. William Bush, 13, created a petition that was signed by 7000 people and now they're coming in August.

Helping us understand the risks of avalanches and slips


Finnegan Messerli, 18, won the $50,000 Prime Minister's Future Science Prize for 2018. I'm not smart enough to understand any of Finnegan's research but basically with further development, the system of tests he has created could be used to predict flows in a wide range of granular materials, with potential for applications in the food processing, mining, pharmaceutical and geotechnical industries. Phew.

It's easy to sit back and scoff at the idealism of young people when you've given up all hope, but it's a truly garbage attitude. The idea that kids shouldn't have a voice, or are useless, until they reach a certain age is just colossally stupid. I don't know if it's based on Victorian-era attitudes of "kids should be seen and not heard" or whether they're just easy targets for assholes or whether lots of people just have shit for brains, but whatever the reason is, it needs to change.

Of course, many, many adults support young people in using their voice, and speaking up for whatever is important to them. I'm hopeful the rangatahi putting us to shame will hear the encouragement of those adults loud and clear.

I'm hoping it will drown out the relentless bitching and moans of "It won't do anything!" by people who feel called out for not doing anything. It's an uncomfortable feeling to have younger folks literally saying "What are you doing except complaining?" but it's something we should start asking ourselves.

I think even if the only thing Friday's protest does is remind adults that young people are angry with us for inaction - that's a good thing. They deserve to be able to express their anger, their frustration, and their rage. And they definitely deserve to be able to demand answers from their government because they're citizens too.

The assumption that we have nothing to learn from anyone younger than us is part of what got us into so much of the environmental mess we find ourselves in today. The belief we are not accountable to the next generation feeds into a greedy mindset that harms all of us, no matter our age, no matter where we live.

The kids these days are organised and they've got good ideas. They deserve to be listened to. They're a shitload smarter than they're given credit for, and they're definitely smarter than their detractors who can only point out that they're not doing anything but complain.

And if you can't listen, if you can't see what they're trying to do, consider that you're the problem, not them.

Emily Writes is parents editor for The Spinoff.