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.”

Bieber sees Anne Frank as ‘a belieber’

“Truly inspiring to be able to come here,” wrote Justin Bieber after spending an hour touring the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. “Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

 

Adolescent girls obsessed with the Canadian singer, who’s now 19, are known as “beliebers.”

I guess being a pop star rots the brain.

Anne Frank hid with her family and other Jews for two years in the attic of the house before they were discovered. She died of typhus at 15 in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in 1945. Her father, who survived the camp , edited and published it in 1947 as The Diary of a Young Girl. It must be one of the most assigned books in U.S.  schools.

High school is forever

High school is forever, writes Jennifer Senior in New York Magazine. Teens are stuck with an identity — nerd, princess, jock, brain, rebel — that sticks with them, in some form, even after they move into the adult world.

Until the Depression, most American adolescents worked alongside adults, Senior writes. Now they live in a world of adolescents that she calls “corrosive” and “traumatizing.”

Most American high schools are almost sadistically unhealthy places to send adolescents.

At the time they experience the most social fear, they have the least control; at the time they’re most sensitive to the impressions of others, they’re plunked into an environment where it’s treacherously easy to be labeled and stuck on a shelf. “Shame,” says Brené Brown, a researcher at the University of Houston, “is all about unwanted identities and labels. And I would say that for 90 percent of the men and women I’ve interviewed, their unwanted identities and labels started during their tweens and teens.”

In 2000, three psychologists asked tenth-graders which Breakfast Club they most considered themselves to be. At age 24, the self-evaluations were “immensely predictive,” according to Jacquelynne Eccles, one of the authors.

. . .  one datum was interesting: At 24, the princesses had lower self-esteem than the brainy girls, which certainly wasn’t true when they were 16. But Eccles sees no inconsistency in this finding. In fact, she suspects it will hold true when she completes her follow-up with the same sample at 40. “Princesses are caught up in this external world that defines who they are,” says Eccles, “whereas if brainy girls claim they’re smart, that probably is who they are.” While those brainy girls were in high school, they couldn’t rely on their strengths to gain popularity, perhaps, but they could rely on them as fuel, as sources of private esteem. Out of high school, they suddenly had agency, whereas the princesses were still relying on luck and looks and public opinion to carry them through, just as they had at 16. They’d learned passivity, and it’d stuck.

My identity was formed long before high school. People thought I was smart and funny. Since many of my classmates were Jewish, good students were admired, not teased. Middle school was socially challenging, but I survived. (I was voted “girl most likely to succeed” in eighth grade, though they didn’t specify in what.) High school was tracked, which I loved. I wrote for the school newspaper, yearbook, literary magazine and Student Stunts. Was it really that awful for the average kid? Perhaps I was just lucky.

How we ruined the Occupy generation

Oldsters “ruined” the Occupy Wall Street Generation with very bad advice, writes John Cheese on Cracked.com. It starts by telling everyone to go to college to get a good job, implying that the good job is guaranteed so there’s no need to worry about about paying off student loans.

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“A master’s in psychology? Pretty impressive. How would you say that qualifies you to answer the phone?”

In 1950, less than 10 percent of adults had bachelor’s degrees and only half had completed high school, he writes. “College was something that smart kids and people with money did.”  (When I was graduated from high school in 1970, it was above-average students and people with some money.) Now a bachelor’s is seen as the bare minimum. College graduates do much better in the workforce than people with only a high school diploma, but there’s no guarantee.

So when you finally take those first steps out of university life and enter the work field, it’s an absolute system shock to find out your $30,000 to $100,000+ bachelor’s degree doesn’t guarantee you a position in your field of study … possibly ever. At least 40 percent of you who get degrees will wind up in jobs that don’t require a degree at all. And the rest will wind up in jobs outside the field they studied.

Cheese adds other steps on the road to ruin, such as: Telling young people they’re too good for manual labor and adding another seven years to adolescence by telling young men it’s OK to live with your parents into your mid-20s.

A UCLA graduate in her mid-20s, working at an entry-level marketing job, told me she’s the envy of her former classmates.  One is teaching English overseas; others are working at Starbucks or still seeking that poorly paid dead-end job. UCLA grads with three years at Starbucks believe they’re seen as losers when they apply for entry-level career jobs, she said. Employers prefer shiny new grads. And not working makes you an even bigger loser. These are not slackers with “me studies” degrees from Mediocre College. They are top students whose parents don’t have connections to get them started.

Violence, sex and 'dark' lit

School reading lists are full of violence, wrote Justice Antonin Scalia in the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a California law barring the sale of violent video games to minors on free-speech grounds. It starts with violent fairy tales, Scalia wrote in the majority opinion.

Homer’s Odysseus blinds Polyphemus the Cyclops by grinding out his eye with a heated stake. In The Inferno, Dante and Virgil watch corrupt politicians struggle to stay submerged beneath a lake of boiling pitch, lest they be skewered by devils above the surface. … And Golding’s Lord of the Flies recounts how a schoolboy called Piggy is savagely murdered by other children while marooned on an island.”

I wonder how many high school students read Homer or Dante.  Still Lord of the Flies is still big on high school reading lists (no sex) and some complain that teachers are assigning or allowing students to read “dark” novels.

Much of young-adult literature invites teenagers to wallow in ugliness, barbarity, dysfunction and cruelty, writes Meghan Cox Gurdon in the Wall Street Journal, defending an earlier commentary.

It is true that so-called problem novels may be helpful to children in anguished circumstances. The larger question is whether books about rape, incest, eating disorders and “cutting” (self-mutilation) help to normalize such behaviors for the vast majority of children who are merely living through the routine ordeals of adolescence.

Siobhan Curious, who teaches 17- and 18-year-olds worried about going too dark in choosing a book list for a class on personal narrative.

When preparing the list last year, I hesitated over a couple of titles, including Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss (about the author’s consensual adult sexual relationship with her father) and Alice Sebold’s Lucky (about the author’s brutal rape and its aftermath).  In the end, I decided to include Lucky on the list, and when I presented the book to the class as one of their choices, I told them about its subject matter and my hesitations.  I warned them that certain passages were very graphic, and that they should keep this in mind when deciding whether they wanted to read the book.

Almost every girl and about half the boys put Lucky on their list.

. . . many readers said that they found the book upsetting but rewarding.  Many of the boys who read it said it helped them understand the effect rape has on a woman; many girls said it allowed them to see how, after a terrible and scarring experience, someone could struggle on and make use of their suffering to help others.  But mostly they said that it was a really good read.

Adolescence is a dark time for some kids, counters Linda Holmes on NPR blog. She “took an entire class in high school where we read books about killing your family, double suicide, drowning, being murdered in your bed … it was called ‘Shakespeare,’ I believe.”

I was troubled by the murder of MacDuff’s family in Macbeth, the tortures of sinners in The Inferno. And poor Piggy.

Violence, sex and ‘dark’ lit

School reading lists are full of violence, wrote Justice Antonin Scalia in the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a California law barring the sale of violent video games to minors on free-speech grounds. It starts with violent fairy tales, Scalia wrote in the majority opinion.

Homer’s Odysseus blinds Polyphemus the Cyclops by grinding out his eye with a heated stake. In The Inferno, Dante and Virgil watch corrupt politicians struggle to stay submerged beneath a lake of boiling pitch, lest they be skewered by devils above the surface. … And Golding’s Lord of the Flies recounts how a schoolboy called Piggy is savagely murdered by other children while marooned on an island.”

I wonder how many high school students read Homer or Dante.  Still Lord of the Flies is still big on high school reading lists (no sex) and some complain that teachers are assigning or allowing students to read “dark” novels.

Much of young-adult literature invites teenagers to wallow in ugliness, barbarity, dysfunction and cruelty, writes Meghan Cox Gurdon in the Wall Street Journal, defending an earlier commentary.

It is true that so-called problem novels may be helpful to children in anguished circumstances. The larger question is whether books about rape, incest, eating disorders and “cutting” (self-mutilation) help to normalize such behaviors for the vast majority of children who are merely living through the routine ordeals of adolescence.

Siobhan Curious, who teaches 17- and 18-year-olds worried about going too dark in choosing a book list for a class on personal narrative.

When preparing the list last year, I hesitated over a couple of titles, including Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss (about the author’s consensual adult sexual relationship with her father) and Alice Sebold’s Lucky (about the author’s brutal rape and its aftermath).  In the end, I decided to include Lucky on the list, and when I presented the book to the class as one of their choices, I told them about its subject matter and my hesitations.  I warned them that certain passages were very graphic, and that they should keep this in mind when deciding whether they wanted to read the book.

Almost every girl and about half the boys put Lucky on their list.

. . . many readers said that they found the book upsetting but rewarding.  Many of the boys who read it said it helped them understand the effect rape has on a woman; many girls said it allowed them to see how, after a terrible and scarring experience, someone could struggle on and make use of their suffering to help others.  But mostly they said that it was a really good read.

Adolescence is a dark time for some kids, counters Linda Holmes on NPR blog. She “took an entire class in high school where we read books about killing your family, double suicide, drowning, being murdered in your bed … it was called ‘Shakespeare,’ I believe.”

I was troubled by the murder of MacDuff’s family in Macbeth, the tortures of sinners in The Inferno. And poor Piggy.

Teen werewolves in Texas

San Antonio high schools have the usual cliques: Cheerleaders, nerds, jocks, Goths and werewolves, reports  KENS5-TV.  Would-be werewolves wear contact lenses to make their eyes yellow, fangs, chains and tails sewn to their jeans. (High school officials have banned the chains and tails as disruptive violations of the dress code.)

. . . movies like Van Helsing and the Twilight series have captured the attention of teenagers. They may not be mutating from man to wolf, but Northside school district counselors warn these teens are experiencing transformations of their own: from childhood to adulthood.

They’re not trying to be scary, wolf pack members say. They’re “family.”

A boy named Dei wears a leash.  “His mom has a leash on him too,” reports KENS. Pam Manley keeps Dei tethered to family, his chores and his studies.

“As soon as he walks in the door, he is supposed to take out the fangs, lose the lenses and put his hair back,” Manley said. “They’re good kids. And it takes some courage to stand up and be who you want to be and be able to express yourself in this way.”

However, 23-year-old Wolfie Blackheart is being investigated for cutting off a dog’s head — she says the dog was dead before she started — boiling it and posting a photo of the skull online.   “I would never kill a canine,” the amateur taxidermist told the local newspaper. “I am a canine.”