December 26, 2012

"Putting kids together and sorting by age also created that dysfunctional creature, the 'teenager.'"

"Once, teen-agers weren’t so much a demographic as adults-in-training."
They worked, did farm chores, watched children and generally functioned in the real world. They got status and recognition for doing these things well, and they got shame and disapproval for doing them badly.

But once they were segregated by age in public schools, teens looked to their peers for status and recognition instead of to society at large.

31 comments:

rhhardin said...

That's a bad theory because it didn't happen to kids in the 40s and 50s, who were sorted by age.

Oso Negro said...

The chronological sort, like all social experimentation, had its unintended consequences. The creation of "teen" culture was surely one of them. I have noted that my children's friends who are home-schooled are much better at interacting with adults than the self-norming public schoolers. The adoption of texting and private phones means that the teen culture NEVER gets switched off, either - no break for strictly familial interaction. We will all pay for that eventually.

traditionalguy said...

Foe males the variable is not peer group temptations. The variable is fathers exercising authority or chosing running away and abandonment of their sons.

It was the father's authority cited as the old way of raising 12 to 18 year olds. Schools borrowed that father's authority until the early 1960s. Then they gave up and the SCOTUS threw a party to celebrate what they had destroyed.

edutcher said...

Very good point. In fact, most teenagers married almost as soon as they felt the urge to merge.

MadisonMan said...

The adoption of texting and private phones means that the teen culture NEVER gets switched off, either - no break for strictly familial interaction.

What a bunch of bull.

Parents (looks at self in mirror) do tell children to shut things off. It's all part of my work to elicit that's not fair!!! from my kids. Usually they just think it.

Michael K said...

Teenagers in my era of the 1950s had plenty of chores, even in the city where my parents' home had 67 windows. I know because I put up storm windows in the fall and took them down to put up screens in the spring.

We also, when not doing chores of homework, played outside. We played football in the fall until it got too dark, then indoor basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. My family didn't have a TV until I was in 8th grade.

YoungHegelian said...

@MadisonMan,

Parents (looks at self in mirror) do tell children to shut things off.

Maybe some do. But many seem not to. And the number of very ugly public scenes I have witnessed between parents and children over texting indicates that "shutting off" is a frequent & painful bone of contention between them.

Also, is just my sometimes not-so-latent misogyny or, in this matter of texting, are the girls worse than the boys? It just seems to matter more to the girls to be always "in the loop".

Skyler said...

I always thought it strange to expect children to learn how to be an adult while being forced to almost exclusively associate with children.

Renee said...

Why would any adult child leave home, if they have their own bathroom?

In my home, my husband and I do not bring our cellphones upstairs in our bedrooms. Everyone's bedroom is electronic free, except for lights and alarm clocks in the morning.


We also put the elderly in their own housing, instead of keeping them at home. Does that factor in as well?

john said...

The girls (of any age) are worse than the boys. And sometimes evening meal admonitions to put the damn phone away are cut off by mom who just has to answer some text right away before she passes the potatoes.

Larry J said...

rhhardin said...
That's a bad theory because it didn't happen to kids in the 40s and 50s, who were sorted by age.


Except back then, you didn't have nearly so much of this taking place. Actual education was more important than indoctrination.

Larry J said...

edutcher said...
Very good point. In fact, most teenagers married almost as soon as they felt the urge to merge.


The life experiences of young people back then were much different than most kids today. As an example, my parents got married at age 18 in 1946. Their childhood was known as the Great Depression and their high school years were better known as World War II. They grew up working on farms in the rural South, so they were no strangers to the hardships of life. I dare say that your average farm kid is far more mature (if less worldly) than your typical city or suburban kid of the same age.

Moose said...

Now they're 30 year olds...

Gahrie said...

Like I tell my students, childhood is a modern invention, and pretty much one restricted to the developed world.

ndspinelli said...

One of the many traits female middle school teachers have that is counterproductive is treating students like grammar school kids. Children always crave to be like the "older kids." Well, it's incumbent on adults, specifically teachers, to treat them like they're young adults. It's my experience it's somewhat more important w/ boys. Girls mature more quickly..boys need guidance, and an occassional kick in the ass.

DADvocate said...

Another example of two things:
1)The law of unintended consequences.
2)How the government can screw up almost anything.

Anthony said...

ndspinelli, it's not just their students they treat that way. Some of my friends are middle school teachers, and they treat most adults like 12-year-olds, too.

I notice that people still in school or college don't seem to mind.

Henry said...

"If children survived to age seven, their recognized life began, more or less as miniature adults. Childhood was already over. The childishness noticeable in medieval behavior with its marked inability to restrain any kind of impulse, may have been simply due to the fact that so large a proportion of active society was actually very young in years."

From A Distant Mirror, Barbara Tuchman's history of the 14th century.

David said...

My grandfather entered the work force in the year 1900 at age 15. Exited it on the day he died, 43 years later. His wife my grandmother got her first job at age 17, after graduating high school. She held full time jobs as a stenographer and then a railway clerk until she married my grandfather ten years later.

They postponed marriage until my grandfather was "established." He had started as a construction laborer but was a foreman and an estimator when they married. This enabled her to stop working and raise a family.

They had to work and be serious at a young age. There was no choice. Only the rich could afford the folly of being teen agers, and there were damn few of them.

Astro said...

Any excuse is a good excuse when you want to put the blame on someone else. Okay, so let's blame the school system. It sucks at everything else, so it might as well be the source for this dysfunctionality.

DADvocate said...

I'd bet that the increasing lack of fathers in households has had a much greater deleterious affect on kids than sorting them by age at school.

Surfed said...

Teacher Maxim #1 - Schools worked better when we beat the students.

Surfed said...

I have numerous students who have brothers and sisters fathered by differnt men. Quite commonplace.

Surfed said...

I also have taught three generations of children from one family grandmother, mother and child. I call it the 14-14-14 age bracket generation of birthing babies.

Gahrie said...

Teacher Maxim #1 - Schools worked better when we beat the students.

Every animal on Earth that raises its young uses pain as a negative reinforcer.

Surfed said...

Or how about a senior citzen (16 in 7th grade) I recieved in my class the other month. Complete with ankle monitor (I'm not allowed to know why the monitor is in place because that would violate the child's right to privacy). I asked him why he was there and he said attending school was required of his impending release (?) and while he was here he could alsways look for another "baby momma". He already had three. He seemed quite pleased with himself.

Surfed said...

Or how about LeCharles (not his real name) who informed the class that they had named their new puppy Cocaine. I asked LeCharles why in the world anyone would name their dog Cocaine. He replied - "Cause he always be sniffin' around". There was absolutely nothing I could say except turn to page 248 to read about the Legislative Branch of Givernment.

Robert Zaleski said...

I think you guys are all harping on a multitude of things that are culminating and exposing in our youth. I'd also like to point out many of these symptoms start showing up in 3 year olds. I can tell my 6 month old to stop doing something and he will look at me and know what I mean.

1) Lack of Discipline - It's not just school, many parents lack the conviction to do something, it shows early when they don't listen. Usually it's accompanied by lack of consistency in applying corrective measures.

2) Lack of Moral Compass - What's good and true anymore? My kids have that, but some would term me stupid or crazy for believing in God. Of course they believe nothing came out of nothing spontaneously, but that doesn't matter.

3) Break down of families - There are Psychological studies showing a male and female role model will give kids more balanced raising. I let my kids, especially my boys, roam freer, my wife hugs them when they get hurt. Break-ups and single parent families hurt this. Our society trying to tell us sex doesn't matter (In some cases rightly, in others not so much) clouds gender roles as well.

4) Lack of community support raising kids - I can't tell you how many parents I remember harping don't talk to my kid that way, or blaming the adult for the kids actions. I bet Althouse might have some stories herself about run ins. But some parents severely limit the help they get and deny their kid might be part of the problem.

There's probably more than these 4 issues, but they are the main ones I see over and over. Home schooled kids generally are contrary on all 4 of these too since the parents are generally consciously trying to achieve different/better results.

Methadras said...

Not to mention that teenagers in the US have no meaningful right of passage into adulthood outside of parties and turning 18. There is no real way to do that anymore, where there is a significant observance of when a teenager becomes an adult and is accepted into the fold as one. That went away after WW2 when coddling became the norm.

No tanks said...

Hear Hear.

No tanks said...

Hear Hear.