Thursday, 29 October 2009

Junior Citizens

Notice seen outside a teashop - 'Welcome to all our Senior and Junior Citizens'.

My teenage daughters were struck by the words on this sign; 'Junior Citizens' sounds so much more respectful than the usual 'Young People', especially when coupled with 'Senior Citizen'. My daughters think 'Young People' is  patronising and has connotations of anti-social behaviour. It was never meant that way, the term 'Young People' came into being to recognise that teenagers are different to children. However my daughter's day to day experience is that young people are generally not trusted - imagine the outcry if newsagents put up signs saying 'only two pensioners at a time'.

The fact is that a minority of the whole population are badly behaved - adults, women, men young adults, older people as well as teenagers, but the overwhelming majority of all ages are decent citizens. Actually it is the teenagers who are giving most back to civil society - over half of all teenagers do some sort of voluntary work every month, a far higher percentage than any other age group.

'Citizen' means 'a native or naturalized member of a state or nation who owes allegiance to its government and is entitled to its protection'. The definition says nothing about age. In fact anyone under the age of majority (18 in the UK) deserves greater protection because they do not have the resources and rights (as well as the responsbilities) that adults do. Our children, teenagers and young people are just as much members of the UK as adults, we could remind ourselves of that by calling them 'Junior Citizen's'.

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