Saturday, September 24

Act Your Age

Violence, sex, and bullying. They have been around for a long time. They were present when I was in high school decades ago but certainly not on the scale of today. What happened? Every time a kid commits suicide, shoots up a school or underage girl gets pregnant - everyone is alarmed, shocked and stunned at their occurrence. When such behavior occurs among adults there’s hardly a shrug. What’s the difference?

There are lots of simple reasons that combine to create a complex problem that needs to be untangled to be  addressed. First of all we have to stop referring to teenagers as children. They are still maturing physically, neurologically and emotionally but they are not children. They should accurately be called adolescents; a mid stage between child and adult. Full maturity is a slippery thing so 18 has been fixed as the magic number for legal  adult hood but it’s not. From the adults point of view they are still small children; innocent, vulnerable against the adult world. From the adolescent point of view they believe they are old enough to navigate that world. Teens engage in play acting in order to figure out how to be  adults.

An adult gets angry, gets a gun and goes postal at work. An adolescent takes a gun to school and shoots all the mean people. They learned that from adults. Sex is forbidden - so they do it. Since getting pregnant is grounds for entering adulthood without permission they engage in anal and oral sex to a degree that shocks the clueless adults. A teenager is bullied relentlessly at school and adults do little or nothing to stop it. They see the hazing as a rite of passage - It’s supposed to toughen you. Then everyone steps back in surprise when the adolescent commits suicide. Maybe they were too soft everyone wonders and therefor failed the test. After all school are designed to be microcosms of society. (schools as factories, producing factory workers).

The willful ignorance of adults and the deliberate hiding of adolescents of what’s going on here has created a dangerous disconnect between the two. Adolescents want desperately to be grown ups and adults desperately want them to remain in a romanticized childhood. The big difference is that with age, one develops the emotional tools to deal with bullies, the complex nature of sexuality and an understanding that violence is an act of last resort.

The infantilization of adults has resulted in their being increasingly unable to deal with real issues while the same complexity of modern society is placing demands of earlier maturity on adolescents.

Some ideas to change this will be offered in part 2. Feel free to offer your own thoughts.

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