I received an email this morning from a high school student in Chicago asking me about my thoughts regarding curfew laws. Here’s what I sent her, plus some:
I want to start by acknowledging that curfews don’t violate an essential human right; however, as with many poorly concieved age-discriminatory laws in the US, they do compromise the ability of children and youth to fully realize their rights as citizens of this country and their responsibilities as members of families and communities. Curfew laws do this by restricting the ability of young people to travel freely between and within borders, and by unjustly limiting the movements of people simply because of the arbitrary markers of age, rather than their personal capacity.
What these arbitrary markers do is label entire segments of the population as incapable simply because of their age. While many opponents of eliminating age limits insist that brain science justifies their discrimination, it’s important to remember that age barriers such as the right to vote, the right to choose whether to attend school, and the right to travel freely were started in Victorian times, long before any legitimate brain science was started. Couching illegitimate discrimination in legitimate science is the best adultists can do. Brain science has continually demonstrated the increased capacity of the human brain to more than we recognie at younger ages. Let’s pay attention, acknowledge, and capitalize on that reality, and stop infantalizing children and youth.
While mainstream media and many government officials justify this infantalization of young people with brain science and testimonies of parents, teachers, and even youth themselves, these are almost always biased analyses based in adultist, ephebiphobic perspectives. Without honest, open conversations throughout our society about the roles of young people and the effects of curfews and other discrminatory acts, we’re going to keep getting get what we’ve supposedly been getting for a long time: generations of apparently apathetic, seemingly disconnected citizenry who don’t vote, don’t volunteer, don’t rally, and don’t create the change our world so desperately needs.