On the ‘Edge of 17’

Edge of Seventeen, a new coming-of-age movie, is getting very good reviews.

Hailee Steinfeld’s Nadine plays an odd duck worried about losing her best friend to her golden boy brother. Nadine connects with her history teacher (Woody Harrelson), in what Ed Week calls a 1980s high school movie for the social media generation. There’s also the nice guy who wants to be more than friends.

Judy Blume: Teens ‘jump straight into sex’ 

Author Judy Blume, known for writing frankly about adolescent sexuality, wishes teens wouldn’t jump straight into sex, she tells Celia Walden, a  Telegraph reporter.

Judy Blume Photo: Jay Williams, Daily Telegraph  Pix by Jay Williams, Bristol, pix@jaywilliams.co.uk, 07770 576076 Pic shows Judy Blume at the Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Powys today Sunday 1-6-14

Judy Blume Photo: Jay Williams

“Rather than jump right into intercourse . . . I wish they would go through all the stages that we used to go through,” says Blume. “It’s really, really good to go through those stages: the hours and hours of ‘necking,’ ‘making-out,’ ‘kissing,’ ‘touching’ and going to the different ‘bases’.”

Blume had planned to be a teacher, but turned to writing when she was raising her two children.

Her teenager daughter Randy asked her mother to write Forever – or, as she put it: ‘A book where two nice kids do it and nobody has to die’,” reports Walden.

“The thing is not to be afraid, but to be ready,” she says. “If you wait until your kids are feeling those sexual feelings, it’s too late. Sex education should be an ongoing thing that starts with the very first question.”

In Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, the main character craves information about sex, notes Walden. Now “youngsters are swamped with it, thanks to the internet – and most of it pornographic.”

Blume is fine with “porn for grown-ups,” but says “it sends an awful message to young men and women. . . .  I think all you can do is talk to young kids and that isn’t happening enough.”

I’m too old to have learned about sex from Judy Blume. (Chapter two of The Group was very educational.) I enjoyed reading the Fudge books when my daughter was young.

Kids don’t want to grow up

Most of Michael Godsey’s high school students don’t want to prepare for college or careers, he writes in The Atlantic. Adolescence is fun. Adult life holds little appeal.

After years of teaching AP English, Godsey now teaches average students. They enjoy reading books written for or about teens, but appear “utterly bored” when counselors talk to them about “college pathways.” They’re not interested in exploring careers either.  They want to stay kids as long as they can. 

Technology lessons don’t appeal. His school’s “Bring Your Own Device Day” was a flop. Only five of his 150 students brought a device they wouldn’t otherwise have taken to school.

 One of the teens explained to me, “We like using our phones and laptops for games and talking to each other, but we don’t really want use them for school.”  

. . . A recent nationwide survey by NuVoodoo shows that while most people, regardless of age, use Facebook, teens say Instagram—which is used by just 16 percent of middle-aged adults—is their “most important” social network. My students for their part prefer to communicate through Snapchat, a photo-messaging application in which the messages “disappear” within ten seconds of being viewed. According to researchers at the University of Washington, most Snapchat users—59 percent—primarily rely on the app to share funny content like “photos of stupid faces.” Not surprisingly, Snapchat is used by just 4 percent of middle-aged adults.

Unless we can find a way to “make adulthood more appealing or adolescence less luxurious,” college and career readiness programs won’t reach their full potential, Godsey writes. That sounds like  job for parents.

Average (non-AP-taking) high school students typically enroll in a community college or not-very-selective four-year institution. Weak on academic skills and motivation, a majority will quit before earning a degree. Some will complete a vocational certificate in a technical or medical field and get a decent job. Many will find adult life just as difficult and unfulfilling as they’d imagined as teenagers.

U.S. “millennials” (16- to 34-year-olds) do poorly in literacy, numeracy and problem solving compared to young adults in other developed countries, according to a new ETS analysis.

Why teens sext

About a third of older teens have sent a naked photo of themselves, usually to a boyfriend or girlfriend, writes Hanna Rosin in Why Kids Sext in The Atlantic.

Why do teens sext? Because they’re stupid?

Michelle Obama: Advice to my teen-age self

Michelle Obama: Advice to My Younger SelfWhat advice would you give to your younger self? People asked Michelle Obama.

“Stop being so afraid!,” she replied. “That’s really what strikes me when I look back – the sheer amount of time I spent tangled up in fears and doubts that were entirely of my own creation. I was afraid of not knowing the answer in class and looking stupid, or worried about what some boy thought of me, or wondering whether the other girls liked my clothes or my hair, or angsting about some offhand comment someone made to me in the lunchroom.”

I would love to go back in time and tell my younger self, “Michelle, these middle and high school years are just a tiny blip in your life, and all the slights and embarrassments and heartaches, all those times you got that one question wrong on that test – none of that is important in the scheme of things.”

When my daughter entered her teens, I shared my hard-won wisdom. “Other people don’t care about your hair or your clothes. They’re worried about their own hair and their own clothes.”

After college, parents still pay

Most college graduates aren’t financially independent — at least not right away — reports a survey by Sallie Mae. Nearly 85 percent of parents plan to offer their children monetary aid after graduation.

Almost one-in-three parents plan to provide their grad with financial assistance for up to six months, and around 50 percent plan to foot bills anywhere from six months to more than five years.

Tough love will help young adults grow up — and protect Mom and Dad’s retirement, advises Dennis Miller on MarketWatch.

Nothing can screw up retirement plans like supporting adult children after you’ve shelled out tens of thousands of dollars in college tuition, shuttled them back and forth for Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, and maybe purchased a new computer for all that research and writing they did (or maybe didn’t do) over four-plus years.

It’s not just the lousy job market, writes Miller. “Social norms have shifted so that accepting help from Mom and Dad well into your 20s is ‘OK’.”

Parents, do not borrow to pay for your child’s college education, advises Robert Farrington on Forbes. If it’s necessary to take out loans, the student should do the borrowing.

Via Cost of College.

Inventing the teenager

Teenage is a documentary based on Jon Savage‘s book Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945.

Puberty — in 1955

Remember movies in Health class? (I always thought it should be called Vice.) A 1955 movie teaches teens about puberty.

Let adolescents grow up

Let’s give adolescents a chance to grow up, writes Ted Kolderie of the Center for Policy Studies in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  Adolescence “infantilizes” young people, he writes, citing psychologist Robert Epstein, author of Teen 2.0, on adolescent stupidity.

Deny them serious responsibilities, keep them out of real work, give them virtually no contact with adults, tell them they have no function except to be schooled (and marketed to): Why wouldn’t they behave as they do?

(Check out School punishes sober driver.)

High schools are filled with disengaged students, writes Kolderie. “Though not everyone’s aptitudes are verbal/conceptual/abstract, today only academic success is rewarded.” There are few vocational schools or opportunities to learn from experience.

Young people can do amazing things when they’re challenged, he writes. “In his history of the Battle of Britain, Michael Korda writes that by late summer 1940, more and more of those flying the British Spitfires and Hurricanes were, in our terms, high school seniors.”

How could we tap the talents of the young?

We’d begin by changing school to let young people advance as fast and as far as their efforts and abilities will take them, in every field.

In traditional school, students are sorted by age and “instructed” as a group. Most students move a grade a year, however much (or little) they’ve learned.

If learning were personalized, those who needed more time would get more time and would learn more. Those who could go faster would go faster and would learn more.

. . . Finland, much praised for its students’ success, ends compulsory education at 16. Students move to “upper secondary,” almost half of these into vocational school that leads on to postsecondary “polytechnics.”

A competency-based system would let young people “test out” of conventional schooling, Kolderie suggests. Some might start college early. (“Dual enrollment” in college classes is a growing trend for high school students.) Others might start learning a job, like young Finns.

Brits: Adolescence lasts till 25

Adolescence lasts till the age of 25, British psychologists have decided.

Parents insulate their children from “real-life experience,” says Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Kent. “So you have this kind of cultural shift which basically means that adolescence extends into your late twenties and that can hamper you in all kinds of ways, and I think what psychology does is it inadvertently reinforces that kind of passivity and powerlessness and immaturity and normalises that.”