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Give children “the vote when they’re seven, and the world will be a whole lot better”, says lecturer, child counsellor and neuroscience educator Nathan Wallis.
Speaking to Simon Bridges on the latest episode of Stuff’s long-form interview podcast Generally Famous, Wallis explained why he thinks the younger generation should have a say in choosing our next PM.
All the reasons people say an 8-year-old can’t vote “are the same reasons they gave for why you couldn’t give black people the vote, or women”, Wallis says.
“They weren’t valid then and they’re not valid now. I don’t expect everybody else to agree with me though.”
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Bridges, a former MP who pointed out that his son Harry is 8, replied: “I don’t know where to go with that one.”
Wallis continued: “People say that you can easily influence them [kids], but the rest of us are all easily influenced as well. It doesn’t stop us from voting. You could say Harry doesn’t know enough about it, well most people are ignorant that vote, they know nothing about it.”
Eighteen is the most common minimum voting age around the globe, but some countries, such as Argentina, Austria, Cuba, Malta, Nicaragua, Scotland and Wales allow 16-year-olds to vote in at least some elections, while 17-year-olds can vote in Timor Leste, Greece and Indonesia.
Last year, the New Zealand Court of Appeal rejected a case to lower the voting age from 18 to 16. Those who campaigned for the change said the younger generation deserved a say in their future and that a denial of voting rights contradicts how 16-year-olds are perceived elsewhere in the law – for instance, they can drive, get married, apply for a firearms licence and must be paid the minimum wage.
Meanwhile, there are no restrictions on the maximum voting age in New Zealand or elsewhere around the world, apart from in the Holy See, where those voting to elect a new Pope must be under 80. In some countries, such as Singapore, Samoa, Tonga, Tokelau and Cameroon, only those 21 and above can vote.
Wallis says he just wants politicians to think of the future by "respecting" young people more, and gearing society towards helping people in the first few years of life. And he believes allowing caregivers more time to focus on their children in the early years will help build Aotearoa’s future.
“Eldest children statistically grow up to be higher qualified and earn more money – obviously not all the time, but it’s about the development of your frontal cortex… on average you speak about 20,000 words a day to your first-born child in the first year of life, on average you speak 15,000 a day to all the other kids.”
To put it simply, he says: “The more words you speak to your child in the first year of life, the more money they’ll be earning at 32.”
To listen to the full interview, in which Wallis also discusses the dangers of devices and why primary pupils should have the vote, go to stuff.co.nz/generallyfamous.
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