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September 21, 2015

The Birth of Adolescence

Hal photo outside Feb2012Adolescents are not monsters. They are just people trying to learn how to make it among the adults in the world, who are probably not so sure themselves.” (Virginia Satir)

One of the unintended consequences of the Industrial Revolution was the creation of adolescents, if not adolescence itself. See, before all the dads went off to work at the factory, kids were around other adults as much, if not more, than their teenage counterparts. These teenaged young adults were not kids, they were apprentices in either their fathers’ fields, their neighbors’ shops, or their mothers’ houses.

Then dads went away, and teens gathered together with one adult teacher. This ended up creating the education system that we still employ today; it also created the new life phase: adolescence.

15-year-olds used to be thought of as young adults; here in adolescence we began to think of them as older kids. They used to learn by doing and practicing under supervision and guidance; now in adolescence they learn primarily by reading about and studying others who do the practicing. Maybe this is why our teens ask to be treated like adults, but act like they’re still little kids.

What if we stopped thinking of our teens as kids at all, and started apprenticing them for adulthood instead?


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