Teenage Rebellion as a Failure of Society

2012-09-24 01:26:01 by Blackhole12

Historians have noticed that the concept of teenage rebellion is a modern invention. Young adults often (but not always) have a tendency to be horny and impulsive, but the flagrant and sometimes violent rejection of authority associated with teenagers is a stereotype unique to modern culture. Many adults incorrectly assume this means we have gotten "too soft" and need to bring back spanking, paddles, and other harsher methods of punishment. As any respectable young adult will tell you, that isn't the answer, and in fact highlights the underlying issue of ageism that is creating an aloof, frustrated, and repressed youth.

The problem is that adults refuse to take children seriously. Until puberty, kids are often aware of this, but most simply don't care (and sometimes take advantage of it). As they develop into young adults, however, this begins to clash with their own aspirations. They want to be in control of their own lives, because they're trying to figure out what they want their lives to be. They want to explore the world and decide where to stand and what to avoid. Instead, they are locked inside a school for 6-7 hours and spoon-fed buckets of irrelevant information, which they must then regurgitate on a battery of tests that have no relation to reality. They are not given meaningful opportunities to prove themselves as functional members of society. Instead, they are explicitly forbidden from participating in the adult world until the arbitrary age of 18, regardless of how mature or immature they are. They are told that they can't be an adult not because of their behavior, but simply because they aren't old enough. The high school dropout and the valedictorian get to be adults at exactly the same time - 18.

Our refusal to let young adults prove how mature they can be is doubly ironic in the context of a faltering global economy in desperate need of innovative new technologies to create jobs. Teenagers are unrestricted by concepts of impossibility, and free from the consequences of failed experiments. They don't have to worry about acquiring government funding or getting published in a peer-reviewed journal. They just want to make cool things, and that is exactly what we need. So obviously, to improve student performance in schools, our politicians tie school funding to test scores. You can't legislate innovation, you can only inspire it. Filling in those stupid scantron forms is not conducive to creative thinking. Our hyper-emphasis on test scores has succeeded only in ensuring that the only students who get into college are ones that are good at taking tests, not inventing things.

Young adults are entirely capable of being mature, responsible members of society if we just give them the chance to be adults instead of using a impartial age barrier that serves only to segregate them from the rest of society. They are doomed to be treated as second-class citizens not because they are behaving badly, but because they aren't old enough. Physical labor and repetitive jobs are being replaced by automated machines, and these jobs aren't coming back. The new economy isn't run by office drones that follow instructions like robots, but by technological pioneers that change the world. You can't institutionalize creativity, or put it on a test. You can't measure imagination or grade ingenuity.

So what do we do? We cut funding for creative art programs and increase standardized testing. Our attempts to save our educational system are only ensuring its imminent demise as it prepares kids to live in a world that no longer exists.

The most valuable commodity in this new economy will be your imagination - the one thing computers can't do. Maybe if we actually treated young adults like real people, their creativity could become the driving force of economic prosperity.


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2012-09-24 01:57:29

I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one who really got it.
There is a difference in teenagers who rebel just for the sake of rebelling (who are retarded), and teens who rebel because they're awake and aware of what is going on and how it needs to be changed.
Part of the tragedy is that everyone of the older generation groups them all together as one clusterfuck of retard that needs to be taught order and control through punishment.

The enactment of punishment and convincing humanity of its necessity is a great deal of why we're in the fucked up situation we're in. There is a change, an evolution, mentally and spiritually that began this century and is accelerating too fast for the old order to stop. Eventually there will be a global meltdown in the economy and all developed societies. From there, humanity will split between the hell on Earth that is "New World Order"... and the rest will belong in the unimaginable paradise that is for all who awaken to their true selves, with divine love, shaping the new world with thought and intention.


2012-09-24 01:58:28

You sir...
...are a Hero.

I dub thee The Thinking Thoughts God.


2012-09-24 02:24:07

Agreed....but you can't keep fighting it forever. I used to think the same way as you, and that's when i realized that the anger and depression didn't come from school at all (despite being treated like a lab rat for 12 years). It came from fighting that treatment.
By simply accepting \that i was being treated unfairly, i was able to reverse the negative view by treating others fairly.
The point im trying to make is: Unfairness, inequality, and generally bad things are impossible to stop from the outside, because of the little control you have over it. However, you can stop yourself from creating it on the inside, therefore stopping this endless cycle.

(Updated ) Blackhole12 responds:

I'm 22. I'm in my last year of college. I'm respected as an adult because of my age, not because of my thoughts. This is not a rant of a high school student who is frustrated with his peers, but of a college student aware of how broken society as a whole is. I am not saying school by itself is causing this, I'm saying it is society in general. It's the attitude of our entire culture that is causing this, and it needs to stop.


2012-09-24 02:54:34

I appreciate your idealism, I really do. However, in reality-land, it is only a vast minority of adolescents that fit the image you've created. I don't know how you could say that teenage rebellion is only a modern society problem, in past societies there is documented rebellion, but it was dealt with swiftly and harshly. We don't do that today, ergo, more instances of rebellion. However, I think the term rebellion is a little strong anyways. It elicits imagery of some remarkable act, and very little most teenagers do is remarkable. Again, we're speaking between majorities and minorities. By the way, no matter what you think, you won't "find your place in the world" until AT LEAST your mid twenties, sometimes later. And last, the greatest injustice young adults face is that they can be recruited to die in the military at 18 but can't have a beer to celebrate. That is woefully corrupt. I'm not saying lower the drinking age to 18, but we should raise the military age to 21. But then the military wouldn't like taking in a bunch of recruits who have 3 years of real life experience and more developed egos and aren't likely to break emotionally during boot camp.


2012-09-24 02:57:47

And sorry, I just had to add that your idea of what runs the new economy is indicative of your misplaced ideals. I'm not being insulting, just saying that all the resources that you use as a base for your creativity are not handed to you by an elite few that are creative inventors. If that were the case, you would be limited to only having the resources that are immediately available within probably 50 mile radius or so, depending on how far you are willing to hike.

Blackhole12 responds:

You do realize that your assertions of "You won't know where you are until you are at least 20" and "most teenagers don't do anything important" are circular arguments caused by taking our situation as the ground truth, instead of considering that, perhaps, our treatment of teenagers and the general failure of the educational system is precisely what causes this? I found my purpose when I was about 17. I am unusual in that regard, but its a testament to what is possible if we stop letting our preconceived notions get in front of us.

I find it amusing when people call me idealistic simply because I do not make unsupported assumptions. You are simply assuming that these facts are true and immobile because you haven't seen any alternative way of raising children. That doesn't mean there ISN'T one, it just means we haven't found it yet.


2012-09-24 03:08:10



2012-09-24 08:44:04

You also forget that not many are creative in the first place.

You expect the young mind to be experienced in other matter in life, whereas knowledge and experience comes hand-to-hand.

Not everyone can do the "meaning-less" jobs you imply, until they are able to know how to do it.

Like managing a business. Or healing patients. Or working on taxes.

These tests also show the student what they are good at. Don't expect an artist to take out that tooth of yours, just as much as an accountant to create and direct a new movie.

I agree with most of your point though.

Blackhole12 responds:

The notion that creativity is limited to artistic endeavors is one of the most frustrating persistent delusions I come across. Creativity is the ability to come up with innovative solutions to problems, be it engineering, math, science, programming, even managing a business or working on health care. Almost every job that isn't suffering from widespread cutbacks involves problem solving, which requires at least some creativity.


2012-09-24 09:15:13

The source you cite seems to counter the idea that teenagers rebel because they aren't treated as adults. Rather, the source cites the increase in personal autonomy as the cause of the existence of the "teenage" phase.

Further still, the only reason kids are in school is the end of child labor. That is, prior to being in school 6-7 hours a day, 5 days a week, they were in factories 12+ hours a day, 7 days a week. Prior to that, kids worked in their parents farms, or if their parents were craftsmen, they would work in that field. The only people who got to innovate at those times were those children of well to do parents who could send their children away to school.

But perhaps it's this conflict between autonomy and supervision that gives rise to rebellion. Teenagers are given a sort of taste of freedom,

Blackhole12 responds:

The source I cited simply demonstrated that rebellion is a modern invention and gave theories as to how it arose. It did not say how to fix it.


2012-09-24 16:08:13

Maybe the reason adults don't take kids seriously is because they aren't serious. How serious can your life really be in high school? Sure, we all thought we were the center of the universe at that age but you're drawing a broad conclusion of the interactions of generations. You can't generalize all adults as oppressive and all teens as aspiring savants. There is a percentage to both. If you are going to blame society you have to do it as a whole and that includes you and the people you are trying to help. It's things like excess social media, the need for instant gratification and an overall lazy disposition that attribute to teens and their peers' own troubles. The argument that you are somehow a second class citizen because of your age is mind boggling. Growing up I never ran into any opposition regarding the subject, because generally if you are dealing in an area with level headed people, they don't discount your virtues based on age but develop informed opinions about you based on your character. If anything people will generally be more impressed with your strive to succeed because of your age, and youth is a powerful ally when trying to accomplish your goals. Funding tied to test scores, while flawed in its application is not a bad thing. It's the same with the real world. No one if going to keep paying you to do a job you fail at. Considering how America stands in terms of math and science, we should be increasing education requirements from the bottom up. You talk about creativity linked as a whole to all fields but specifically refer to creative arts in your post. While the arts are important and should be embraced in our young generations, no country wants to be the leader in art class scoring while math, science and literature fall way below. Creativity in the workforce doesn't always lead to job creation. It can have the opposite effect and destroy jobs. Companies now a days work around their bottom lines and if that means they can replace 500 workers with machines that cost a fraction then they will. The economy and social problems have nothing to do with young teens not being able to express their creativity freely. That notion sounds so naive I can barely put how wrong it is into words. These problems never have one particular reason for existing, but are a culmination of years of bad policies, corruption and a mental capacity that we all


2012-09-24 16:09:42

want what we want, right now and don't want to have to work hard for it. Not saying there isn't exceptions to this rule both ways, but that as a whole, if you take this stance on this subject you must appreciate the fact that it can't all be summed up to fit your theory, as much as you may want it to.

Blackhole12 responds:

Press enter every now and then, please.

I'm sorry but your entire response is basically refuted by the above comment.


2012-09-24 18:37:33

Many of the responses that I'm reading here involve shining the light of this post through the filter of a world with which we're all familiar: growing up in public schools, where many of the oppressive institutions from the author's original post do exist. Saying things like "want what they want, right now, and don't want to work hard for it" and "how serious can you be in highschool" make sense behind the eyes of someone who can't know any other 'way' for things to be. The history with which I am familiar is rife with young people taking on extremely serious roles unfamiliar to children in this day and age, such as serving (and in the case of some South American and Asian countries, leading) in the military, hunting from a very young age (which I was blessed to experience, although my family's livelihood never rested on my success), marrying, and indeed crafting.

Here is an interesting New Yorker article that I stumbled upon a few months ago, highlighting some effects that incorporating responsibility can have on young people. What I took away from it was that children are being done a disservice by being excluded from their vested interest in our infrastructure, patriotism, and the well-being of our communities.

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/20 12/07/02/120702crbo_books_kolbert?currentPage=

As some other posters have noted, the notion of children "rising up" to meet adult challenges has historicaly been born from necessity, yes. However, I do not necessarily believe that the communal identity created by said necessity couldn't be recreated in a more stable society.

When I was a child, and we would go to our deer-lease, I was given vast amounts of freedom for which I was responsible (including the freedom to take care of myself). I was allowed to sling my high-powered pellet rifle (I only got to use my real rifle when dad or grandpa was around), get on our ATV and burn off into the several thousand acre property... as long as I was home by sundown and as long as I could always see the cabin. I earned these privileges when I was 11, by displaying that I had the cognitive capacity to do so.

Reading that, even I might be tempted to say "11? There -is- no cognitive capacity when you're 11." And I blame that on having that rich sense of indepedence taught out of me over the course of the next 8 years. Just my anecdotal two cents.

Blackhole12 responds:

Thank you for explaining this better than I could have.


2012-09-24 20:44:06

Well I could go into a complex argument about how what you call teenage rebellion in my generation and those younger than me is just a pattern of rejection that has occurred in young people wanting to stake a claim but do to lack of experience mainly, but not entirely, due to a poor education system which leads them to often burn out there creative energies on foolish endeavors rather than unlocking there true potential thus continuing the zombified trail of people we see today. OR I could just call you a dummy-head and call it a day :). But seriously nice comment, although like most arguments on this subject and ones like it, I feel their is a lack of drive to find a solution and really just an attempt to spread awareness. I for one am tired of settling for just awareness. Either lets do something about it, or shut the hell up and chug down our hormone infested milk cartons like good little children.

Blackhole12 responds:

The most difficult part of this problem is the fact that the vast majority of adults refuse to consider it a problem, and instead dismiss it as they do everything else.


2012-09-25 05:38:54

I don't like to be biased but I completely agree with you. Correct me if I'm wrong, (and also I can't exactly talk all fancy and back myself up with evidence or anything), but alongside the notion of ageism, some of the reasons why people can't often see the core of the issue is due to everything being standardized. People are so used to letting the messages of mainstream media and politicians wash over them, as well as all of their work and economic concerns preoccupying them for most of their lives, I think many people have forgotten how to think for themselves. So if sometimes things appear to contradict the norm, more than ever many people get up in arms, but often don't realize what it is exactly is the core of the issue or what is being argued. Even so, I completely agree with you when you say that teenagers are being shut off from the rest of society, and perhaps their attitudes is a sign that there is something fundamentally wrong with how people perceive and approach them...

But you know, even though you are able to recognize the problem, its a whole other issue to be able to resolve it. And even though I'd like to be optimistic, I doubt things will change anytime soon, especially since the greater part of the adult population think teenagers are just whimsical, whinny, self-centered and impulsive.

Blackhole12 responds:

To quote Gandhi - "You must be the change you want to see in the world"


2012-11-11 19:13:58

"The most valuable commodity in this new economy will be your imagination - the one thing computers can't do. Maybe if we actually treated young adults like real people, their creativity could become the driving force of economic prosperity."

I literally wrote a college essay on this about a year ago. Literally anything non-creative a computer can do better than us. And FREE. The only problem, is that they can't make "new" things, Ex. Program, design, innovate, so these jobs still have to be filled. All three use college level studies. (Ex. Calculus), so there is again a need for the standardization. But I do agree with you, the standardization is overkill today.