Why Are We Growing Up So Slowly?

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In light of my recent posts on self-reliance and individualism (1, 2) I came across a very interesting editorial in Newsweek that asks the question, “Why Are Teenagers Growing Up So Slowly Today?”

The article mentions author Dr. Joe Allen, who says today’s children aren’t growing up because adults simply don’t let them. In his troubling book Escaping the Endless Adolescence, he shows how modern culture has shun children away from real life.

Long ago we as a society decided that children should be in school for at least 13 years before they can display any sense of competency in the world. Allen writes:

“We place kids in schools together with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of other kids typically from similar economic and cultural backgrounds. We group them all within a year or so of one another in age. We equip them with similar gadgets, expose them to the same TV shows, lessons, and sports. We ask them all to take almost the exact same courses and do the exact same work and be graded relative to one another. We give them only a handful of ways in which they can meaningfully demonstrate their competencies. And then we’re surprised they have some difficulty establishing a sense of their own individuality.”

I think Allen would agree with me that modern society has reinforced a culture of dependency. Nowadays we look around and see child-minded young adults in their early 20s, early 30s; in fact, some don’t ever seem to grow up.

Some of the most common excuses we hear are that “teenager’s brains aren’t developed enough,” or “our world is more complex now, so we need more education.” While it may be true that teenager’s brains aren’t fully developed or that our world is more complex, what better way to learn than to step outside of the classroom and embrace this complex world head first (especially while our brains are most ready to learn).

As I mentioned before, many of my posts on this blog already address these issues and draw upon my own personal battles with formal education. In many ways this blog is a reaction to that whole culture. However, I want to hear your guys opinions:

  • What are your experiences with the current education system?
  • Can you name any particular instances where you felt your individuality was being suppressed?
  • If you could, how would you reform education in today’s society?

I also encourage discussion of this post over at Evolver.net.

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