Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Great Article on the Artificial Extension of Childhood

I hadn't read about this book before. Looks like it just was published in March. From an article at Psychology Today:

Trashing Teens
Psychologist Robert Epstein argues in a provocative book, "The Case Against Adolescence," that teens are far more competent than we assume, and most of their problems stem from restrictions placed on them.
[ . . . ]
In recent surveys I've found that American teens are subjected to more than 10 times as many restrictions as mainstream adults, twice as many restrictions as active-duty U.S. Marines, and even twice as many as incarcerated felons. Psychologist Diane Dumas and I also found a correlation between infantilization and psychological dysfunction. The more young people are infantilized, the more psychopathology they show.
[ . . . ]
Teens in America are in touch with their peers on average 65 hours a week, compared to about four hours a week in preindustrial cultures. In this country, teens learn virtually everything they know from other teens, who are in turn highly influenced by certain aggressive industries. This makes no sense. Teens should be learning from the people they are about to become. When young people exit the education system and are dumped into the real world, which is not the world of Britney Spears, they have no idea what's going on and have to spend considerable time figuring it out.
[ . . . ]
Studies show that we reach the highest levels of moral reasoning while we're still in our teens. Those capabilities parallel higher-order cognitive reasoning abilities, which peak fairly early. Across the board, teens are far more capable than we think they are.
[ . . . ]
What's the worst part of the current way we treat teens?
The adversarial relationship between parents and offspring is terrible; it hurts both parents and young people. It tears some people to shreds; they don't understand why it is happening and can't get out of it. They don't realize they are caught in a machine that's driving them apart from their offspring—and it's unnecessary.
[ . . . ]
I believe that young people should have more options—the option to work, marry, own property, sign contracts, start businesses, make decisions about health care and abortions, live on their own—every right, privilege, or responsibility an adult has. I advocate a competency-based system that focuses on the abilities of the individual. For some it will mean more time in school combined with work, for others it will mean that at age 13 or 15 they can set up an Internet business. Others will enter the workforce and become some sort of apprentice. The exploitative factories are long gone; competent young people deserve the chance to compete where it counts, and many will surprise us.

Boy that makes a strong case for homeschooling, doesn't it? Not to mention other changes in the way we treat people under 18 legally. I've asked the library to purchase the book--can't wait to read it, so I may have to buy it anyway. :)

The author has an article called "Let's Abolish High School," too, at Eucation Week.

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Karen E. said...

Found you through Lissa -- interesting post! I agree about the artificial extension of childhood -- will have to take a look at the book.