The appropriately named Ralf Rüller hit the headlines this month by installing an anti-buggy device in the doorway of his Berlin coffee-bar. Apparently the area around the coffee shop is in the middle of a guerrilla cull of buggies, with red buggy prohibition posters popping up and buggies being burned as examples. Seriously. Some people actually have enough free-time to put up anti-buggy posters. Surely Germany of all countries should know putting posters up on shop windows is a pretty dangerous sign (no pun intended).
Now, you might think that Ralf is perfectly entitled to set strict rules for his patrons since he owns the joint. He says he’s set them so that people will respect his business. Yeah, because we all know that we respect people who force their opinions on us. Of course it’s annoying when a screaming baby ruins your lunch-break, but maybe it’s screaming because of the disgusting way you’re eating your sandwich with your mouth open. How can anyone get so much food in their hair?! , is what it might be screaming, for all you know.
It’s not just in Germany that people don’t seem to like kids. Inter-generational resentment is blooming internationally. The French ‘barrez-vous’ campaign is like an advert for Oats and More: get out kids, you wouldn’t like it here anyway, young people are told, before their parents sigh with relief that their jobs are safe. It seems grown-ups really don’t like it when young people express themselves- here in Britain we seem to have forgotten all about censoring a nine-year-old’s blog about school dinners.
I am rejoicing at the news that 16-year-olds will potentially be able to vote on whether or not their country should break off from the rest of the United Kingdom. Some adults fear that this will lead to a ‘Planet of the Apes’ style future in which unruly children, giddy with their new enfranchisement, rain down on people in Zimmer frames. Worse still, we might be subjected to a rash of silly laws- like ones making it illegal for parents to refuse their children anything.
Yes, I know plenty of 16-year-olds who don’t have the slightest idea that there’s a world outside the tiny hormone-filled microcosms they inhabibit. But I also know plenty of people in their twenties who are equally immature and self-absorbed. Turning eighteen does not make you politically savvy overnight, except in the eyes of the law. I heard one political commentator justify his opposition to broadening the franchise in a radio interview by saying that almost every other country in Europe has set it at eighteen. That’s a really lazy piece of argumentation, if you ask me.
However, I agree with those who oppose the proposition on the grounds that young people know nothing about politics. This is largely true: unless you make an effort to learn about our political system, you won’t know about it. It won’t be handed to you on a plate at school like reading and religion are. The Scottish curriculum states that all children must study P.E. and RMPS until the age of sixteen, but there doesn’t seem to be any value placed on teaching children about the political system in which they live. Scotland has a good record when it comes to leading the way with legislation (yup, we set smoking ban trend, go us!) so I’m not surprised it’s ahead of the rest of the UK on this one. Hopefully this means it’ll lead the way in education to help children to make responsible political decisions whatever their age.
Interact UK – http://interact-uk.org.uk