Older Adults Should Let Younger Adults Be Adults

The title of today’s post is a slightly longer version of a tweet written in response to Nitin Pai’s excellent article on just this topic:

Why do I think Nitin’s article is an excellent one? I’ll happily admit to my bias – I think it to be excellent because I happen to wholeheartedly agree with it. As always, do read the whole thing, which is about a whole lot more than what I’m going to talk about in today’s post.

What am I going to talk about? These two paragraphs:

One of our recent interns told me that she had to get her parent’s permission every time she wanted to step out of her campus. The college was more than 2,000km away from where her parents lived. But this was not a problem at all. The students had a gate pass app on their smartphones that would send a request to their parents’ smartphones, whose approval would be relayed to the security guards’ smartphones, and the gate would open (or remain closed, depending on what kind of parent you had). It did not matter that she was a smart, adult law student—without Mom’s permission, she couldn’t leave the campus.
As a parent, I am of course concerned about the safety of my children. But I am unable to fathom how an adult who can legally sign a contract, take a loan, have sex, get married, drive a truck, fly a plane, fight a war and vote in elections cannot leave the college campus without parental permission.


Student’s marksheets being shared with parents, parental approval being required before students can leave the campus, attendance records of students being shared with parents – as Nitin says, it is time we stop infantilizing our young adults. My specific point in today’s blogpost – this is especially true and relevant on college campuses.

Me, I personally happen to be of the opinion that attendance should not be mandatory in classrooms. It is my job as a teacher to make the class interesting enough for students to want to attend. It is not the student’s ‘duty’ to attend 75% (or any other number) of the classes. Fun question for you to ponder today: is a minimum attendance requirement a minimum support price regime for us professors? What does microeconomics teach us about price floors and price ceilings?

But regardless of whether or not you agree with my point re: attendance, the consequences of not attending classes should be the sole responsibility of the adult in question. And the adult in question is the person in college, not their parents. You could argue that it is the parents – usually, in an Indian context – who stump up the fees, so they have a ‘right’ to know. But that is a conversation between the student and their parents, and I do not think the college need intervene.

The many other points that Nitin makes in his post regarding other nuances of this topic are also worth reading. But the point that resonated with me the most was the one I wanted to emphasize in this post: if you’re 18 and in college, this country thinks you’re old enough to elect its leaders. Surely then this country also ought to treat them as adults in all other respects. For if you’re deemed far too immature to decide for yourself if you should bunk classes or not, surely you are not mature enough to vote in an election. No?

And therefore I say: old adults should let younger adults be adults.

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