Ageism on Campus

Ageism is something that no one quite knows how to address. On one hand sit the decades-old customs that, arbitrary as they might be, were put in place for good reasons. On the other rests a predicament. How do we change our thinking habits when it comes to young people who don’t fit our perceptions?

As a seventeen year old in college, this issue is blaringly clear to me, but most people don’t think about it. On a broader scale, there’s not much to be done. Ohio allows no emancipation process for minors unless they want to go to war or get married. If you’re not considered a legal adult, that comes with a restrictive set of limits when you get to college. Getting a job means having to have potential employers fill out even more paperwork, your student loans are exclusively connected to your parents, and depending on your bank you might not be able to get a debit card of your own, which at Kent means your laundry will pile up higher than your homework will.

There are also ramifications when it comes to your classes. It’s illegal to record a minor’s voice without parental permission, even though Ohio has one-party consent laws for recordings. If you have a multimedia project, your partner might not be able to record your voice for narration. If a student media source wants to get your opinion for an interview, they might have to ask elsewhere. Worse still is if a classmate wants to tape a class. They could be crossing legal boundaries, and there’s no good reason for your presence in the room to matter. It’s only because you’re underage. If you happen to be in a course that requires research participation, underagers aren’t allowed to register, despite being viable candidates for anyone wanting a college student perspective.

On top of all of that, everything you do is blown out of proportion because of your age. If you get an A on your paper, it’s because you’re a “wiz kid” and not because you pulled an all nighter with your notes. Every young person on this campus passed the same admission process that their classmates did. Even the PSEO students have high standards to meet.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t recognize it when teenagers really do amazing things. No one thinks that Malala Yousafzai is a stereotypical teenage girl. Jessica Ahlquist was just sixteen when she started to advocate for church-state separation. An eighteen year old named Joshua Wong was the face of China’s umbrella revolution. Stepping outside of the political realm, Christopher Paolini was just fifteen when he first drafted Eragon, and countless musicians have gotten their fame from their adolescent years. No one will argue that kids can’t do some absolutely incredible things, but if someone is seventeen and you’re twenty-two and you get the same grade on the test, you are equally as impressive, not any more or less.