Thursday, July 28, 2005 - Views - Straight Talk - Teen Sex and Media Hype - Views - Straight Talk - Teen Sex and Media Hype: "Once, teen-agers weren't a demographic: They were 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 since sometime in the mid-20th century, the role of teen-agers has been different, as a recent article by Thomas Hine in American Heritage magazine points out:

'Young people became teen-agers because we had nothing better for them to do. High schools became custodial institutions for the young. We stopped expecting young people to be productive members of the society and began to think of them as gullible consumers. We defined maturity primarily in terms of being permitted adult vices, and then were surprised when teen-agers drank, smoked, or had promiscuous sex.'

No longer adults-in-training, teen-agers became part of their own social class, on the one hand indulged and sheltered, on the other viewed as juvenile, oversexed and somehow dangerous. In fact, far fewer teen-agers were shouldering adult responsibilities. Instead, they had a new, increasingly cosseted role as high school students, social butterflies (and outcasts) and consumers.

Increased sexual activity, research indicated, was directly related to increased schooling and decreased responsibility. Teen-agers may be busy with teen activities, but not with adult responsibilities, and it shows.

Hine is right. We have infantilized teen-agers, and then we act surprised that they behave immaturely. "

This is why I would rather work with college students than High School Students: the first harsh rays of reality are breaking into the dark cocoon of modern youth culture during the college years.

Michael Barone put it like this:
"Because from the age of 6 to 18, our kids live mostly in what I call Soft America--the part of our society where there is little competition and accountability. In contrast, most Americans in the 12 years between ages 18 and 30 live mostly in Hard America--the part of American life subject to competition and accountability; the military trains under live fire. Soft America seeks to instill self-esteem. Hard America plays for keeps."

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