Give teens tools

There must be something in the genes of teenagers that make them such harsh critics—of the world, of themselves, of each other. Part of that is the lack of experiential context—they haven’t been around to know how much better, in general, they are than their parents probably were. Sure, there are still the rebels who are experimenting with drugs, bad behavior and risky sex, but when you get right down to it, the statistics show that teens today are generally better behaved than their parents were.

That said, the world must be a very frightening place for a teen. Can you imagine being in high school and listening to these state higher education budget discussions? It’d be hard not to imagine that your life and future will be undermined by the craven actions of Nevada’s lawmakers.

It’s good that college students and teachers are finally getting together to demand sanity of our legislators, as they did Monday when more than a thousand gathered in Carson City to protest the governor’s plan to cut state support for colleges and universities by $162 million over the next biennium.

As one of our high school interns pointed out, the things that we ancient adults think teens thrive on are also very frightening. It’s easy for a 30- or 40-something to feel obsolete, as though the technological world is passing us by. It seems every day, there’s a new technology that we must learn, and it’s difficult to keep up. Freshmen in high school never knew a day when there was no texting. Twitter turned five this week. But there’s nothing about the teenaged mind that allows them to adapt to new technology faster or easier. How scary would it feel to need to constantly learn new skills just to feel relevant and competitive with your peers—especially when it seems the government is working to undercut your ability to compete with peers from other states?

The idea that adults are mucking up the world with their nuclear disasters, wars and unconcern for the environment just as teenagers reach out to take control of their own lives would make anyone feel a bit pessimistic. One thing a U.S. citizen should be able to count on is a good education, since it’s the foundation upon which an individual’s future quality of life is built. But a good education is likely to be a thing of the past in Nevada, if lawmakers have their way.

No wonder teenagers feel they’ve been written off: They have been.

It’s cliche to say young people are the future, but it’s the absolute truth. If Nevada and Nevadans are to have a future, we’ve got to stop turning our backs on young people. We’ve got to start giving them the tools, through education, through positive activities, through simple consideration when times are difficult economically to ensure they have a present and a future as good as the ones their parents looked forward to.