November 19, 2006

Yes, Virginia, You Can Vote!¹

Two recent studies indicate that children are much savvier than what you might think. Jacqueline Woolley, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, and her team, studied the responses of children, aged from 3 to 6, to imaginary and fact based stories read to them. The findings showed that the children started learning to separate fact from fiction sometime between the age of 3 and 5. That's much earlier than previously thought. In a country where a majority of the adult electorate, including many congressmen, congresswomen, and senators, often confuse fact with fiction, we find these results really surprising!

In another study, researchers Candice Mills and Frank Keil of Yale University, found children as young as 7 years exhibit a healthy attitude of cynicism. A group of children, aged 5 to 11, were read stories in which people, when evaluating events affecting their interest, variously made statements that are consistent with or against their self-interest. Although the children aged less than seven were expectedly gullible, 7 and 11 year old children discounted statements aligned with self-interest. Paraphrasing an illustrative example from Miller and Keil, if Joe belonging to the Crocodile Party were to allege that Jim from the opposing Monkey Party would raise taxes, but he wouldn't, the six year olds may applaud him, but the 7 and 11 year olds will chuckle and say, "Yeah, right!"

Following the findings from these two studies, I propose this amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and appropriately modified amendments to the constitutions of democracies in the rest of the world:

Amendment XXVIII

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are 7 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

If the realists and the cynics, who Ambrose Bierce described as the blackguards endowed with the vision "to see things as they are and not as they ought to be", could not vote, then who could?

1The title for this post was inspired by a reply from Francis P. Church, Editor, to a letter from 8 years old Virginia O’Hanlon, first published in The New York Sun in 1897.
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