I have always had an interest in youth and young adult culture. Back in college, I minored in family studies and also took a youth ministry class. Among the things I learned was how adolescence was a recent invention. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that school was extended to 12 years, because certain people in education didn’t think teens were ready for adulthood and needed to be sheltered more. Previously, children entered the adult world sooner. In the 1920s, college started to become a rite of passage. Now, an undergrad education isn’t seen as ‘enough’…
I just started reading The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen by Robert Epstein, Ph.D. So far, it’s fantastic. I decided to read all the reviews on Amazon (only 13 at the moment). Only one review disputes the basic premise: that adolescence is a recent creation based on historical research, that teens are capable of more than we expect or allow of them, and that there is statistical evidence to back this up. Some of the reviewers thought his solutions were problematic or unworkable, and a few objected to his support of spanking. I personally agree with the premise though, if nothing else. There is a lot that could be said, and I’ll give my commentary on the subject over the coming weeks.
To start with, here’s a quote from the book:
For most of human history until the time of the Industrial Revolution, the vast majority of children worked alongside adults as soon as they were able, and they transitioned to partial or full adulthood by their early, mid, or late teens. Even today, many and perhaps most of the world’s children (primarily in developing nations) follow this course. In contrast, in most industrialized countries today teens are almost completely isolated from adults; they’re immersed in “teen culture,” required or urged to attend school until their late teens or early twenties, largely prohibited from working, and largely restricted, when they do work, to demeaning, poorly-paid jobs. Through most of human history and in most locales on earth, young people-females especially-married soon after puberty and often set up independent households after marriage. (Epstein, 29-30)
Epstein, Robert. The Case Against Adolescence. Sanger, CA: Quill Driver Books. 2007.