When I saw this past week that Malala Yousafzai was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize I was deeply moved and overjoyed. I believe we are seeing the beginning of a what might be called "children's liberation." Over the past ten years or so we have seen an emergence of adolescents, even children - in the arts, sciences, and in the popular culture at large. From artists, musicians and entertainer, to hackers and entrepreneurs, from community organizers to activists, from politicians to revolutionaries, children are making themselves heard. This is not about child prodigies - there has always been the rare child genius - no, this is a cultural shift coming both as response and reaction to the obsession with youth culture that has dominated the west since the 1950's aided by developments in technology and the emergence of the internet.
With each passing day more and younger children are gaining access to tools and technology. After all, who do we adults turn to for help with our computers, tablets and cell phones? The young understand, appreciate and adapt to technology much faster than their elders. Toys become tools in their hands for making music, art, apps and for connecting to the world at large. Through this unprecedented access these young people see children. like themselves, in other cultures both struggling and succeeding. Their innate ability to empathize can spark them to action while their fearlessness makes them bold. Such is the case with Malala Yousafzai. That a young Pakistani girl of 15 could speak out for the rights of women and girls to an education, survive a brutal assassination attempt by the Taliban, and become a light and a voice for the rights of all children around the world, should give us all hope. Malala is the voice of and for billions who have no voice.
There is Jake Andraka, a fifteen year old boy who has developed a test that may help to diagnose pancreatic cancer in it's early stages potentially saving thousands of lives each year. Or Lorde, the sixteen year old girl from Iceland whose first album "Pure Heroine" is being lauded by critics worldwide for both it's honesty and sophistication. And there are many more.
A boundless capacity for empathy, a desire to learn, a facility with technology - this may be more than a cultural shift. It may prove to be a movement, a movement in the right direction giving new meaning to the idea that our children are our future.