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Port: Still not convinced we should listen to teens on policy

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Rob Port
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MINOT, N.D. — I've spent the last week getting roasted over a previous column belittling Greta Thunberg's obnoxious political movement predicated on the policy expertise of dumb kids.

You're not supposed to call kids dumb despite our society treating them, often with force of law, as the immature and inexperienced people they are.

The law gives parents dominion over their children.

The law circumscribes the ability of children to sell their labor. It prohibits their use of things like alcohol and tobacco and pornography and mandates school attendance. It doesn't allow them to vote.

The criminal justice system holds children less accountable for their actions than adults.


Children do not have careers. They don't own businesses. They don't shoulder the burden of paying for the government as adults do.

Still, some insist we must listen to the kids on complex public policy questions like climate change which have dramatic implications for our economy and the cost/size of government.

They hold up Thunberg like she's some sainted, infallible prognosticator.

Really she's just a pint-sized Al Gore mouthing all the same unserious, politically-motivated hysterias to which we've grown accustomed.

"It's for the children" is a tired trope not worthy of the attention of serious-minded people.

Among the roasters were the usual Port-must-be-fired crowd, a faction of my readership who vow to stop reading me every few weeks for supposedly perpetrating some new outrage against their myopic sensibilities.

Then there were the dozens and dozens of kids who wrote to me.

The impetus for most of those responses was classroom assignments, it seems; which makes sense because most ill-informed kids aren't paying all that much attention to the news.


The responses were, with few exceptions, nearly identical missives regurgitating the talking points their teachers hit on in class.

I'm glad the teachers made the assignments. While I'm dismissive of a child's point of view as a consequential barometer for policy debates, I do think kids should be encouraged to pay attention to what the adults are talking about and think.

Once they've had some practice at that sort of thing, their conclusions will matter more.

It was clear that most of these kids wouldn't have written to me if their teachers hadn't told them to. Few had original thoughts of their own on the issue outside of a sort of general self-righteous indignance.

What teen, in all of history, has liked being told they don't know much yet?

The critics also pilloried for calling Thunberg a "dead-eyed Swede" and a "ranting muppet." They claim she has some sort of disability. I wasn't aware of any disability when I wrote my original column, and I'm not sure why that matters.

For all the fault I find in her politics, Thunberg seems very capable to me. I treated her as I would any other political activist spouting buffoonish and hysterical things.

Thunberg's handlers want her age to be a shield against serious criticism of her activism. We shouldn't be inclined to let them get away with that.


Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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