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Youth voices should not be silenced

They might not be old enough to vote, but youth across the country and around the world are no longer content being seen and not heard especially about issues that affect their lives.
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They might not be old enough to vote, but youth across the country and around the world are no longer content being seen and not heard especially about issues that affect their lives.

Probably the best known youth activist in recent months is Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, who took on a solo mission to protest outside Sweden’s parliament last year. Her mission was to raise awareness about climate change.

Her cause inspired youth around the world to stage their own demonstrations and earned her a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Last week, Cochrane students joined a province-wide protest against the Alberta Government's intention to change the legislation enacted by the previous NDP government that guaranteed students' ability to form Gay Straight Alliances (GSA) in schools. The changes would also remove the stipulation barring school staff from informing parents about their child's membership or involvement with a GSA.

Whether its standing up to be heard about their beliefs on climate change, GSAs or gun control - which has been seen in the United States in recent years - our youth are no longer content to be shoved into a corner and ignored until they are old enough to cast a ballot.

This surging political activism debunks the idea that our youth are disengaged and don't care about what is happening in the world around them beyond what shows up on their social media feeds.

What is discouraging is how dismissive the adult community is when youth take to the streets. Many criticize them for having "uninformed opinions," or claim they just do it to get out of school for an hour. Still, others find more nefarious reasons for their activism such as liberal indoctrination of students. However, that theory was smashed when the United Conservative Party cruised to mock power following the provincial student vote that took place in schools around Alberta.

We're not saying all youth are well-informed on all the issues, and that none of them protested for a chance to get out of class, but similar can be said about many adults – there is no shortage of adults who carry their ignorance with pride when stating an opinion.

The fact is the youth who are protesting – the percentage that are serious and informed – will shape the culture and leadership of this province, country and our world in the future.

With that in mind, it is incredibly shortsighted to dismiss their opinions especially when one youth in Sweden was able to spark a global following.

The decisions that are made by government affect us all, young people included, and they deserve to have their voices heard as much as any one else.

Many criticized the school-hours display of the most recent protest, but it can't be denied the action did what every good protest aims to do and that is to get people talking.