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Author Topic: Adolescence Revisited. Are we going backwards in society?  (Read 66439 times)
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PokerDad
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« on: September 25, 2013, 09:04:09 PM »

After one of our beloved BK parents came across the following article in Psychology Today (an article more than 5 years old), and the UK Daily Mail ran an article on the same subject yesterday, I decided perhaps it was time to revisit this issue after refraining for a few months.

Please see my John Taylor Gatto discussion thread where the topic of adolescence was first debated. I decided it might be best to break the topic into its own discussion area, as Gatto has many ideas and is regarded mostly as a polemist (which can stunt discussion, perhaps responsible for the relative lack of interest in that thread).

First, Psychology Today. This isn't some fringe publication.  I had not heard of Robert Epstein prior to seeing the article and you can be sure that I will read at least one of his books within the next month or two. He parallels Gatto in this printed interview to a large degree. It's comforting to see, and yet perplexing why these ideas continue to behave like fringe ideas (as witnessed by the Daily Mail article)

In this post, I talk about Steve Martin, the comedian. In the mid 50s (1955-58) when he was 10-13 years old, he neglected his studies in favor of working at Disneyland; specifically the magic shop there on Main Street. It was there that he honed many of his entertainment skills and cultivated a love for entertaining. It paid off. My point in bringing him up is because his adolescent period would be impossible in today's world. The Psychology Today article discusses why.

Since I posted on the subject back in June, I've read no less than 17 books over the summer. This was mainly in part to my ailing back problems where I had to ice for hours a day lying prone on the floor. It afforded me the time to read a lot. Many of my reads were about education and education philosophy, and I've sure acquired a bit of knowledge from all those pages  yes

One hundred years ago in the United States, 8 grades of school was considered a decent education. Of adolescents aged 13-17 back in 1913, approximately 89.5% of them were not attending school but were mostly working in some capacity. Back then, a mere 2% of students ever went to college. Was this a problem?

In case you're tempted to think these were the medieval days in the USA, consider that Einstein's theory of relativity and his famous equation E=MC2 were well established let alone published. Back then, people could not keep teens out of participating in society and therefore their education years of 6-12 had high expectations. FYI, the proliferation of high school was an effort to give "everyone" a liberal education, and it was met with opposing views: those that favored intellectual cultivation, and those that favored a more practical vocational approach to education. When adding the two together, school became more viable for teens, and slowly more of them began to remain in school longer. Junior high emerged as a compromise between essentialism and utilitarianism as a way of segregating kids into career or intellectual tracks (hence why machine shop was taught in junior high); it was sort of like a mini-high school concept that would succeed given that very few went to high school.

Fast forward one hundred years and we've crippled our teens while deeming them incapable if they do not remain in school until "graduation" of high school (which is now a meaningless accomplishment). Those vocational opportunities, especially in middle school, are evaporating in a futile effort to make everyone an intellectual. Meanwhile, with the rise of credentialism, the self-esteem movement, etc, graduation standards at all levels have declined precipitously. The dumbing down of the youth is absolutely apparent among our younger teenagers. This is both an artificial and structural emergence.

In the last century, life decisions, careers, responsibilities and all that's concomitant have been delayed. Instead of facing these decisions at the age of 13, 14, or even 18 - they are not faced until a decade later in some cases and progressively more towards a decade and a half later!

Also in the meantime, the meme "they're just a child" referring to a 15 or 16 year old permeates the psyche.  This troubles me. It's not that I trust the current dumbed down youth, but rather I realize it wasn't always this way and it doesn't have to be your child.

It's not that I want to rant on and on about the subject, nor do I want to advocate abolishing schools or speeding up education unnecessarily. Rather, people really ought to rethink the legal, social, and societal standing of the youth. I personally believe that at least the top third cognitively speaking (and perhaps a whole lot more than that) are capable of so much more than is allowed or expected. Early learning is just the beginning of the demonstration of how wide the gap likely is.

The current trend in US society is to postpone adulthood later and later. The UK Daily Mail article is a confirmation of this trend; psychologists have now extended "adolescence" to the age of 25 for clinical purposes. Truth is, in the upper crust of society and perhaps the entire spectrum, many aren't starting their independent lives (career, family, independence, etc) until they're near 30 years old. In the not-that-long-ago past, age 30 was the elder of the tribe! Man's life expectancy wasn't much longer than 30. Today, we don't even get started until then.

I, for one, believe this is backwards, and I will not accept it for PokerCub, fait accompli.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts, dissenting or otherwise.
 big grin

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mom2bee
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« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2013, 12:47:00 AM »

I'm actually very interested in this exact topic and I would love to get a copy of your book list!
I have actually been thinking a lot and had recently began to formulate what I have felt is wrong for a long time, in my own life.
I feel that I've been artificially stunted, so its interesting that you should bring up this exact topic.

When I was younger (12-18) I had very ambitious plans for "accelerating" my young adult life, but I had no support from my parents in my ideals and goals so I have been forced by societal and legal expectations into a "standard" young adult hood, and I found that I lost a lot of my internal motivation and have become almost lax almost apathetic about my own youth and existence, yet it doesn't feel right to me. I have began to feel that college is a young folks home and have become increasingly frustrated with it.

I have long since known that my goal was to allow my own future children a more...traditional/natural/historically aligned development. I would like to put them in a position to start their "adult lives" what our society would term 'early', if they feel so inclined. I found my adolescence very frustrating to live through with all the "You Can Do That" from society, parents, legislation and now that I have the "green light" I just have no...enthusiasm? interest?

Anyway, I'd love to see your booklist PokerDad, seems like the perfect place to begin.



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Wolfwind
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« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2013, 02:33:45 AM »

This is very interesting, PokerDad.  I'm glad we can all profit by your months of reading!

I'm not sure to what extent I agree with you.  I do think that the idea that adolescence extends to age 25, and the fact that even 30 year olds are not meeting the definition of adulthood, are ridiculous.  Young adults ought to be treated as more capable than our society allows them to be.

On the other hand, I remember the comment Sonya made in the Gatto thread (I think): If people are ready to take on adult-like responsibilities at 14 or 16, that means they're ready to marry and bear children at that age.  (Sorry, Sonya, I know I'm misquoting!)  And I definitely don't accept that.  My religion teaches that we are not ready to date until age 16 and not to form exclusive relationships until 18.  In some ways, that may be the result of society - the way they're treated, teenagers cannot become mature enough to handle these things earlier - but I don't want to picture my daughters making the decision of who they will spend their lives and all of eternity with at a younger age.  Picking a profession, studying it, practicing it - that's different.  That can be changed at any point, and probably will be at least once.  Marriage shouldn't be changed, except in very specific situations.

So to me, adolescence is an opportunity to take on nearly-adult responsibilities with a safety net in place.  They can decide what path they want to go down and start experimenting with it, knowing they still have their family to support them if it doesn't work out.  By college age, that safety net should be mostly withdrawn.

That's not hugely different than my own experience in life, and it's definitely not what Epstein argued for.  But I don't agree with him that adolescents should be treated just like adults.  I think one of the benefits of our longer lifespan is that we don't need to start functioning as adults at puberty.  And we have so much more to learn!  I mean, yes, as he says, other mammals are reproductive adult society members at puberty; great.  The rabbit has learned to hop, eat grass, and hide.  The chimp has learned slightly more complex behaviors, but still.  Our lifestyle is completely different from that of other mammals.  We have a longer childhood before puberty to learn important things, and we have some time after puberty to start our forays into the adult world without it being irrevocable.  That's what it's for.

Of course, I'm in favor of giving youth more choices and freedom during that time; the "factory-system" education is not working that well.  And if youth have properly supportive parents, they can do a lot, even in the current system.  His argument is for the kids who don't have that support.  I guess my problem is seeing our current peer-raised youth suddenly emancipated because they passed some test; I think the fallout would be even more horrendous at first than the current college scene.  OK, maybe not much worse than that.  I guess it's the idea of seeing even younger people making decisions that will affect their entire lives without proper education.  By 18 I hope they've picked up something, somewhere, to help them.  If Epstein were arguing for changing the way we raise and treat teenagers first, and then giving them more freedom, I might agree with him.  But it sounded to me like he said we should just give them more freedom and that would correct all these problems.  I can't accept that.

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« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2013, 07:26:56 AM »

I analysed the article in terms of my own children. One of whom has turned 10! So that puts her just shy of adulthood. Yeah but NO WAY! I am overprotective and I know that it isn't helped by my even more overprotective partner I know but we are only just getting to the point of sleepovers! Today's society is dangerous. I is no place for an early teen to be negotiating working conditions that are fair and just, it is no place for a 12 year old to be catching the bus home from a trade at night, it just isn't the same safe and thoughtful world I grew up in.
I had a job actually I had had a number of jobs by the time I was 14. I had ruled out landscaping as a career after a few holidays of hard labour. I had ruled out fruit farming in the same way but determined I could make a living out of it if I chose to later. Then I fell into restaurant work and LOVED IT. I would have been 15... I was part of the Thai family that I worked for. We did performances, went to their weddings...It was as much my business as there's the way I thought. I took subjects at school and did a university degree and built a career on it. Managing multiple coffee shops for many years. I would LOVE my kids to have the same opportunities but clearly they can't. They are not allowed to work until 14.9 years. By then they have already selected their study subjects. I intend to find SAFE ways for them to explore the workforce before they hit high school but I can't see it being as in depth as what I did. Career wise I think it is probably possible to emulate the old days but it will cost parents. It isn't going to be as easy.
Education wise the only option to being an adult early is perhaps homeschooling, distance education, or maybe some charter schools perhaps. There is no way a 12 year old would be considered an adult anywhere in school. And as a teacher I just couldn't treat them like one. They just arnt! They spend far too much time around same age peers to ever grow up.
Adulthood starts earlier here in Australia. Most kids are adults at 18. A very few hang on until their degree is complete at age 21-22. I haven't met any 25 year olds who are still teenagers. Though I have met a number of 25 year olds who need to grow up! no its not the same thing, one is a capability one is an attitude it think.....

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« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2013, 09:29:17 AM »


Some facts. There are data that 2000 years ago human lifespan was 30 - 40 years.
http://longevity.about.com/od/longevitystatsandnumbers/a/Longevity-Throughout-History.htm

The situation was different in pre-agricultural times. It is hard to get datas but there is some evidence that paleolitic people lived 60 - 70 years.
http://www.highaltitudecrossfit.com/Life_Expectancy_in_the_Paleolithic.pdf

In Africa, there still are tribes which lifestyle is similar to paleolitic or neolitic. They are hunters-gatherers, and their lifespan is 70 years.
http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Ancient_History/Human_Evolution/Neolithic_Age
I also read somewhere that they marry at 20.

Genetically, human is not much changed during the last 2 millions of years. We are geneticaly designed to hunter-gatherer lifestyle and  to 70 year lifespan smile


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« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2013, 08:19:17 PM »

I second Manda's opinion about Australians growing up a little younger. Well a little younger than Americans. Nearly everyone I grew up with left home when they were 17 in Australia. They graduated highschool and went away to Uni, (this wasn't a Dormitory situation). Or they got an apprenticeship. Or they just entered the local labor force.

Most Americans are still in  highschool until they are 18. And then when they do leave home and go to college many enter into a dormitory situation.  I have very few friends that left home as soon as they graduated highschool. Most of them stayed at home until they were done with college.

Most of my Australian friends also settled down a lot earlier. Many of them were married at had kids in their very early 20s. Page large majority of my graduating class are parents to preteens and teens.



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« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2013, 05:40:52 PM »

Thank you all for your insights.

From Frukc's first link:
Quote
Comparing the proportion of those who died young, with those who died at an older age, the team concluded that longevity only began to significantly increase (that is, past the age of 30 or so) about 30,000 years ago – quite late in the span of human evolution.

I really threw the statement into my original post for illustrative purposes.

Maria Montessori said that what you do for your child instead of them doing for themselves effectively robs them of the opportunity to grow. My personal opinion is that, on the whole, parents, society, et al (I'll just say "we") do too much babying of our youth. I'm not trying to say that they ought to get married at age 14 or something silly like that (though I do acknowledge that even today this is how it works in some parts of the world). My personal opinion is that we cripple our kids and that perhaps we should rethink some of it. Of course, going on a diatribe here on the BK forum is sort of like preaching to the choir.
 big grin

I do believe that some of this adolescent period is necessary because society has become more complex. As complexity goes up, time to develop/adapt/prepare/become successful in said environment adds time to the growing phase. In other words, some of this extension is necessary due to the ever increasing complexity. From what I can tell, however, the extensions of youth are more than this though and are at the crippling end of the pendulum swing.

I'll add a few books that I've read lately that might (or likely aren't) related to the subject here.
Thanks for the discussion!

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« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2013, 06:57:08 PM »

This conversation reminds of this TED Talk by Jack Andraka who at 15 found a very cheap solution for testing patients for pancreatic.  If you watch his talk, you learn all the amazing obstacles he had to overcome including the stigma of his age.   
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/VehHPwAVL9g&rel=1" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/v/VehHPwAVL9g&rel=1</a>

So what kind of family created this awesome, resilient kid?   Jane Andraka is his mother, and she did a nice Ted Talk on "HiJacking your kids' education." 
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/ZSRaJIMY-Ms&rel=1" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/v/ZSRaJIMY-Ms&rel=1</a>.    In this talk, she talks about her oldest son, Luke, who won $96,000 in prizes at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2010, with a project that examined how acid mine drainage affected the environment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Andraka).   How do two amazing kids come out of this family?   She talks about practical things that she did for her sons in the TED Talk.   In the wiki link above, she also states that she always had science magazines lying around, and they talked about the new ideas found in the articles and ways they could explore those ideas more or how they could do it differently. 

I truly believe we are babying our children, and Jane Andraka demonstrates the possibilities that we could provide our children in a world that treats children as babies.  There are many choices I can not make for my children because society has made them for me.  I can't let my kid walk to the library by themselves until they are twelve because the library requires a child to have parental supervision until they are 12.   

I can look for opportunities that are there for my children to do "grown up things" and Jane Andraka makes some great points on how to do this.    I love that she offers such practical advice.   Sometimes we get so wrapped up an idea, and then we are at a lost of what it looks like in the world we live in right now.  The Andraka family shows how to do this even in a public school format.  Here is another article with practical tips.  http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnnosta/2013/02/25/the-genius-of-raising-brilliant-kids/

If you don't watch the first Ted Talk, you are really missing out (IMHO) because he really takes you step by step through his journey of how he accomplished something so amazing in a world that only sees him as just a kid.   His parents don't think that their children are geniuses or anything like that.  They seem to carry an attitude that all kids could be this amazing in the right environment.   This is very encouraging to me.   

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« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2013, 08:22:02 PM »

Excellent! Enjoyed both videos. That's one exceptional family, and it was done within the confines of traditional public schooling (though frankly seems as though they did quite a bit outside of the school environment as a family).

The idea journal is one that I've been considering the past few days. I used to do something like that more than a decade ago, but I think it's time for me to get it going again. She mentioned it in her talk.

I live within bike distance of the city's main library; out of curiosity, I'm going to see what sort of age requirements there are. At age 9 I used to ride my bike all over town to get places, and that included very busy intersections. Nowadays, I doubt too many responsible parents allow their kids that age to go off alone all across town like that.

Speaking of intersections... did I ever tell you guys about the time when I was 3 and a half and my mom was taking too long at the bank? I decided to walk home, crossing an intersection with stop lights and such (I remember this vividly, even remember the guy on the motorcycle stopped at the light among the cars). We lived in an apartment complex and when I got there, I realized that I didn't know exactly which building was ours, so I turned back, went back across the intersection, and to make a long story short, the cops picked me up only to bring me less than a block to where my mother was furiously and frantically waiting for me.

"Gee mom, can't a kid just go home if he doesn't want to wait in this God-forsaken line?"

 LOL  LOL  LOL

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Korrale4kq
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« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2013, 05:39:07 AM »

My mum and I have had a lot of discussion about this. It is hard to "let go". For example it took me longer than usual to let my son come out of his room in the morning before we woke. So I had his door shut and left the potty in his room. Now he is 3.5 and he just comes out, uses the bathroom and plays quietly or reads book before we wake.
When I was that age I was getting up, getting dressed, getting something to eat and playing on the farm outside by myself.... With the dog of course. smile I had farm chores. Letting the chooks out, collecting eggs, tending to the garden.
I just can't fathom my son doing those things yet. At least not on his own.

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« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2013, 05:50:34 AM »

Love the idea of having parents do the hard years for their kids. The reality is the kids who succeed usually do it with strong parental support.
Yes an ideas book is a great idea. I have a kid who does that with stories she writes. Unfortunately she is often discouraged because her Mind goes faster then her hands can write or type. I need to do the hard years to encourage her to get her typing speed up. Then perhaps I will suggest she puts more onto paper than just her stories. It would teach her to value her ideas and not ignore her questions too.
Honestly if I met a kid who had done that many instruments, sports and activities I would have written them off as flighty! I would have been hard pressed to consider them still looking for their passion! Eye opening ideas in there for sure. Time to hone in more on my kids strengths. It's a difficult concept to grasp...honing in on their strengths while I still don't consider their basic education complete. I wonder which I should focus on....do we need that basic education covered with strength in order to chase their passions or can I leave that to the school and spend the time where they love to spend it? I doubt we would have time for both just now since their passions are really time consuming and all three have different passions!


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« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2013, 06:32:41 PM »

I just listened to "The Sign of the Beaver" book on tape and was struck by the fact that in this story, set in the early 1800s, a thirteen year old boy goes off into the wilds of New England with his father to settle a patch of land.  When they get the cabin built and the crops planted, Dad goes back to get Mom and little sister, leaving said 13 year old alone for at least two months in the middle of nowhere, expecting that he will be totally able to take care of himself.  I don't know if that is historically accurate, but it doesn't particularly surprise me in context.  It seems like that's how teenagers might have been treated.  He wasn't expected to go settle by himself the way Dad could have, but he could maintain the settlement for a summer after having been carefully taught.  Obviously not how we think about teenagers today.

Also, I just read that the idea of "toddler" was also a 20th century creation.  Market analysts suggested that differentiating toddler clothes, gender-specific toddler clothes to be specific, would get parents to spend more.  Before that, there were babies and kids.  That was a very weird thought for me.  How much of our understanding of "development" and, yikes, "developmentally appropriate," was started with spurious distinctions?  (There are obviously some very not-spurious distinctions about the toddler years, but is the idea that it's a separate stage a self-fulfilling prophecy?)  Sometimes "teenager" seems the same way.  (Don't even get me started on "tween."  I still refuse to accept that one.)

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« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2013, 07:36:59 PM »

Teenager didn't exist until the 1950s.
Judy Garland sings a great song from one of her old films about how she is an "in between" she is 14 or 15. Too old for toys and too young for boys. Not a kid, but not a woman yet.

Preschooler (the age between toddlerhood and being school a aged kid) is a relatively new term also.

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« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2013, 07:39:30 PM »

So with all these distinctions childhood proper seems to only be 4 years.

0-1 infant
0-2 baby
I-2 toddler (walking age specifically.) Clothing wise however toddler does go up to 5T.
3-5 preschooler
6-10 child
11-12? Tween
13-19 teen
20-25 young adult!

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« Reply #14 on: October 05, 2013, 03:40:15 AM »

Wolf wind, children of that age in Australia were certainly expected to do that at that age. And since we are a new colony that was the expectation LESS than 250 years ago!
 Along with the deadly snakes! They would also have been expected to hunt for their meat and tend the livestock. If their horse died they were completely stuck inthe middle of no where. And no where in Australia really means NO WHERE!  yes

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