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Negative sentiment toward youth is proving worrisome

If you're like me, you've been closely following the controversial curfew debate. While I find this discussion interesting, I've been deeply disturbed by a surfacing sentiment within a sub-population of the adult community.

The other day I walked into one of my favorite local restaurants. It's a great establishment, like many in our area, and I frequently eat there after school. The weather has been warming up lately, and after I paid for my meal at the counter, I asked the manager for a cup I could fill with water at the soda fountain. He obliged, but with an undertone of remorse, and as I walked towards the fountain, he added, 'I'm watching you.' It took me a minute to understand what he meant by it, but once I sat down with my meal and my water, I realized he was assuming that I was going to steal soda. I understand people have interests to protect, but as a teenager I shouldn't have to spout off my résumé for someone to know that I, like my fellow peers, am a responsible citizen.

It's this sentiment towards my age group that hurts me the most. I'm 18, so theoretically I shouldn't really care whether this curfew law is changed. However, with some of the recent adversarial opinion pieces from several adults regarding the issue, I can't help but voice my opinion because this issue is apparently about more than letting kids out late.

'Non causa pro causa' is Latin and literally means 'non-cause for a cause,' and I find it to be a pattern within many of these misinformed perceptions about my age group. To argue for curfew based on others' poor decisions is a false-cause fallacy, where one misidentifies the cause of something. The reason there is a fraction of a percentage of teenagers who make poor decisions is because we let them out late, right? Wrong, the reason there are some kids my age who do stupid things is because they don't have good role models in their lives, and it's the same problem that happened years ago to the adults making poor decisions today. Profiling, mistrusting and disrespecting teens doesn't remedy the situation, it only makes it worse (and believe me, some of the recent opinion pieces that argue with hostility have been nothing short of a catalyst to this problem). So where do we go from here?

Although my experience in life is relatively short, I've found that some people who are reluctant to change must be challenged to action before any change really occurs. Well, here it goes: To anyone in our community who is opposed to changing the curfew law or who has negative perceptions towards teens, I challenge you. I challenge you to get involved with my age group. I challenge you make a difference in someone's life. I challenge you to leave your comfort zone and come to the high school, speak to our classes, work with our sports teams, or mentor a student, but most importantly meet the outstanding kids there who give Lake Oswego High School the amazing academic and social reputation it has.

I know this community has been extremely generous to the school foundation, and I pray that continues because it has made visible changes at our school. However, as helpful as donations are, they don't teach us values or skills. If you make a genuine effort, you can make a real difference; all some of the most influential people in my life had to give was time. Giving young students someone positive to model themselves after will reduce the odds that they'll make a mistake, and it strengthens our city and the bonds within it. If you accept my challenge, you're going to find that my peers aren't mischievous, naïve and foolish, but rather the positive, sophisticated, and responsible young adults you dream of having in your community.

Josh Friedman, Lake Oswego, is a senior at Lake Oswego High School.