All of the Above!

To prep for a gathering of youth ministers in the Diocese, I'm finally reading Chap Clark's book "Hurt: Inside the world of today's Teenagers." I do enjoy it when my job lets me catch up on the reading I've been intending to do.

Clark starts the book talking about the research project he did to get the material for the book. He shares several quotes he frequently heard from adults when he explained that he was researching teenagers. One quote in particular illustrates one of the biggest and most difficult misconceptions adults have.

"Teenagers have never had it easier-- they've got more money than we did, more freedoms, more options, and yet they are more defiant and more arrogant than we were."

I have a basic problem with this statement. Where does the speaker get the idea that more of anything equals easier?

As part of staff training at Fortune Lake, we're reminded that when you need a child, especially a young child, to do something he doesn't want to do, you simplify the choices you give-- "Do you want to do A or B?" There's a valid choice, which the child is allowed to make, but neither option is a choice of not doing.

In a class I attended last week on understanding children with ADD, the professor explained that these students need one instruction at a time, given simply enough that she can focus on it without getting lost in a list of details.

Today, when I drive from my office to my apartment, I will have the choice of five or six different routes. This is great now that I know how they all connect to the places I might need to know, but the first few days I was in St. Louis, I needed directions that took me on a few familiar roads.

More choice necessarily means more difficulty. More options mean less black and white and more gray. Any web designer knows that the fewer colors a page uses, the better it will display across computer platforms.

Where did this idea come from that youth today have easier lives because of all the extra choices they can make? How do we clear it out of this adult generation's memory? And how do we break down all the options to help youth understand which ones will keep them going in the right direction?

I'm diving back into the book now, and I hope Chap Clark will have some insights that deal with this.


Esther said...

That comment also bothers me because most adults do not remember exactly what it was like to be kids so how are they to know that they were less arrogant than today's teens. I'd say that's an arrogant statement to make. But you brought up the most important point, more choices do not make things easier.

Isaac, The Rookie said...

Some of it could be arrogance, and some of it is not understanding that surface change (technology, access to money, etc.) signals deeper change in the way childhood, adolescence and adulthood are defined. When you're conditioned to believe that "normal" is the way you were raised, it's easy to fit the images you see later into that frame and interpret them that way. I wouldn't go as far as "arrogance" to describe most adults' attitude; I think it's more like ignorance and apathy.