THE TUMULTUOUS TEENS

There is probably no age more completely understood than this one, even though every adult can vividly remember it. There is no age more important in laying the foundation for life. It is an exciting time in which to live, a painful time as well. The modern high school simply has no way to meet the needs of these very important people.

If you are fourteen years old you have lost interest long ago in examining every little fluff of dust, you couldn’t care less about trivial bits of knowledge that used to be such a great fascination. You don’t carry about worms in your pocket. You don’t hate baths any more. Rather, you wash your hair every day, preen in front of the mirror, worry about what others think of your clothes. Your body is changing rapidly, your voice deepens, body hair emerges, and you must cope with it. Members of the opposite sex view you quite differently than before. Many things embarass you which never did before. You become devastated by the terribly injustices you see in the world and you want to rectify them. You do not see your parents yet as people, you still want them to be role models, but the flaws in their characters begin to appear, and you find this horrifying.

In some societies the age of thirteen or fourteen is the time of initiation into adulthood, the age of marriage for girls, of apprenticeship for boys.   In our society it is high school where such people are supposed to sit still and listen to the teacher, where no real job training is offered, where every hour you must go to a different class, where it is more important to be popular than to get good grades, where teachers still expect you to be subservient. You are still told what to do and you find it intolerable.

In actual fact some mathematicians have done their finest work at this age. The greatest chess champions are nearly at their peak of performance. Great musicians, great dancers are well on their way.   Artists come into their own quite early. In fact, for many of the arts it is necessary to begin quite young. Gymnasts and other sports enthusiasts are quite capable. They condition their bodies in the earliest years, gather knowledge in the school-age years, are ready to go in adolescence. If they were adults they would be worrying about marriage, mortgages, money and the like.

Yes, adolescence has its place in life, the importance of which is underestimated. Society needs their energy. Mainly the troublesome part is emphasized, the part that is troublesome to the adult who simply is not ready, who doesn’t seem to understand at all.

If children are encouraged to learn with their hands their hands will be extremely capable in these years, their art will be outstanding, they will be mechanically astute, able to help uncle Ed fix the car. They will want to be in on everything still, but in a different way. Most adults find them tiresome, the occasional adult who listens becomes truly inspiring.

Teenagers are forming a philosophy of life, built on former experiences, but looking forward to the future, a future their parents never seem able to foresee. How could they possibly?

Teenagers are practical. They want to know about the world of jobs, the place of money in life, how to earn it, how to spend it. They love the outdoors, glory in expeditions into the wilderness.

 

by Marietta Rawson