Large numbers of school students have gone on strike today to protest about global inaction on climate change. This action has been met with a lot of huffing and puffing to the effect that students should stay in school and leave politics to adults.
Ideally, this would be the correct view. Part of the social compact of democracy is that the adult voting population should take account not only of their own interests but those of children who currently can’t vote and of future generations.
For those who have dependent children of their own, this isn’t a very demanding requirement. There’s no sharp distinction between your children’s interests and your own.
For older voters, the social compact is a bit more demanding. They cannot benefit directly from policies that make the world better for today’s and tomorrow’s children (a group that may or may not include their grandchildren). But they are morally obliged not to vote selfishly, taking advantage of the fact that they are enfranchised, while the young are not.
Sadly, the last few years have seen numerous instances where a majority of the old have violated this social compact. They have voted against the interests of the young out of a mixture of self-interest and cantankerous dislike of change, on climate change, Brexit and support for reactionary demagogues like Trump.
Having been let down by their elders, young people are fully justified in protesting against them, and ignoring their hypocritical expressions of concern about missing out on education.