Lately I’ve been pondering the idea of what our society considers youth. I’m not sure if it was the recent reading of “Where Have the Good Men Gone?” or just my general observations of the wasted potential in America at large. The fact that Americans now consider the 30s to be young seems a bit misguided. Our bodies were meant to be thriving in a profitable enterprise during the teenage years and early 20s. If you are passed this age, and this offends you, it shouldn’t. I’m passed my early 20s now, and believe me, it’s hard to stare this reality in the face. I also realize that in our over-educated, over-entitled, over-coddled culture, nothing is going to change unless an economic crisis of enormous proportions occurs. I have no real data for my mere opinion. I do, however, have some observations that should make us reconsider allowing young adults to spend their best years in the most idle of places.
First, with the exception of late 20th century and the current 21st century Western culture, almost every other culture begins adulthood at an earlier age. Am I committing the bandwagon fallacy? Perhaps. But maybe this bandwagon is heading to a better destination. Would I rather have this upcoming generation have the tech-smarts that they currently posses or the integrity and common sense wisdom of our progenitors? Easy choice.
Secondly, after observing hyperactive, hyper-sexed teenagers on a daily basis, I can’t help but wonder where all that energy could be going? Has anyone ever considered that once we started elongating the school age (early part of 20th c.), that’s when sports really came to rise in America. Kids who are stuck in a classroom at this precious age have to be given an outlet. If we could use those middle school years more profitably, kids could finish at least two years earlier. They could truck those pulsing hormones right out that government-run school and actually make a profitable contribution to society–not putting a ball in a basket. I know many of the experts would say this thought is absurd: Those middle school years are so tough that students are happy to just sustain. I don’t believe that for a minute. Perhaps they are so tough because of all the idle time that students have to sit around, learn to bully, and become involved in sexual experimentation.
Third, our bodies are screaming, “We are ready!” to work, to marry, and to live during the late teens and early 20s. Again, I’ve heard many fellow educators debunk this by saying, “Yeah–they’re physically ready, but they’re not emotionally ready.” First, I believe that God created us purposefully. He did not create us with such a lapse between our physical and emotional make-up. This is the effect of sin on our society. We have allowed ourselves to become emotionally immature in our desire to be lazy, irresponsible, and frivolous.
So exactly what do I suggest? I’m not calling for a complete overhaul where we pull teenagers out of high school. That would be insane. I’m asking that we consider baby steps. Instead of supporting a kid who is playing three sports and going to four summer camps (all of which would be good things in moderation), why not introduce him to some adulthood, life skills?