I found this post earlier today and was slightly awe-struck. How many teenagers do you know that can write like this? Let alone think this deeply! Anyway, it is a thought-provoking article that challenges society's acceptance of the mediocre. It also gives me hope that our children are not doomed to be typical teenagers. Let's quit making excuses for them!
The whole article is worth reading, but I particularly enjoyed this portion:
I constantly hear fellow young adults say things like, “You know, I did Algebra 1/2, but I’m just not a math person,” or “I’m a terrible speller, my brain just doesn’t work that way.” I’ve had other teens tell me, “I’m just a quiet person. I don’t like communicating much,” and “I’m such a compulsive shopper. If I see something I like I can’t help but buy it.” Or what about, “I’m just such a blonde!”
While I don’t doubt that many teens find math, spelling, communication, self-control and intelligence incredibly difficult, I find it very hard to accept that these difficulties should begin to define their personhood.
We would think it was crazy if a toddler said, “You know, I tried to get potty-trained, but I’m just not a toilet person.” But we sympathize with a fellow teenager who says that he’s “just not a people person.”
If a young child said, “I tried tying my own shoes, but my brain just doesn’t work that way,” we would not say, “That’s alright Johnny, we’ll just have someone else do it for you for the rest of your life.” But if we have trouble spelling we say, “It’s alright, I’ll just make sure I always use the spell checker.”
Low Expectations Strike Again
The fact is that as we get older we begin defining our limitations as what comes easily to us – and our rate of growth in competence and character slows and falters.
When we were children our limitations were not defined by difficulty. Our limitations were not defined by failure – even repeated failure. So what has changed? Why do babies, with inferior motor skills, reasoning ability, and general physical and mental strength, why do they have a nearly 100% success rate in overcoming their big challenges, while teenagers often falter and fail before theirs?
We Expect More of Babies Than We Do of Teens
The truth is that we are incredibly susceptible to cultural expectations and once we have satisfied our culture’s meager requirements we stop pushing ourselves.
Why does every healthy baby learn to walk while very few teenagers are sophisticated enough to have mastered the Waltz? One is expected, the other is not.
Why does every normal baby overcome communication barriers by learning to talk while very few teenagers overcome barriers between themselves and their parents by learning to communicate? One is expected, the other is not.
And why do we sympathize with the poor “non-math” teenager while we admonish the “non-toilet” six-year-old? Because using the toilet is a basic skill that is necessary for life, but unless they plan on becoming an engineer, most people never use Algebra.
We live in a culture that expects the basics, but nothing more. We live in a culture that expects for you to get by (i.e. be potty-trained), but not to thrive.
I am not saying this is only true for teenagers. I battle with this myself. It is too easy to give up these days, when you don't have a parent or a teacher breathing down your back. I realize that all too often external motivation is what keeps me going. It's something I need to work on . . .