Is the artificially prolonged adolescence, in the USA, good for society?

“I don’t believe where I’ve been . . . C’mon.  Let’s do it again!”  — Peter Frampton

Dear readers:

Here at larrysmusings, we tackle (or take on) the tough issues such as: how to reduce poverty, Obama and racism, nuclear power and Fukushima, gays in the military, the villain Alan Greenspan, capital punishment, Islam, human rights in the US and around the world, a possible war with Iran, male performance supplements, etc.  We even take on the taboo (or tabu) issues that the churchmen won’t go near, like infant male circumcision in the United States (as in our very first essay, see “Why do we circumcise” under the category “marriage”).  (All of the above issues, and more, have already been written about, just check under the relevant category tabs on the popup on the right sidebar.)

Regrettably, this has proven to be distasteful to some blog followers as a couple of folks have, over night, unsubscribed.  We wish them well, but we did not start this blog a month ago to be popular.  Nor, do we have an axe to grind.  We wanted to project our ideas out into the market place of ideas in an effort to encourage a broader perspective in people’s thinking.  We do not tell people what to think or how to think.  But, we do encourage critical thinking on the major issues of the day.  As the late Ralph M. Townsend (d. 1975) remarked, the 2 most important things in a crisis are intelligence and character.

This blog and its essays – current and future ones to come – are not for everyone.  Perhaps, we ought say that “reader discretion is advised”.

Thank you.

Now, to our essay topic:  Is the artificially prolonged adolescence, in the USA, good for society?  (Stick with me here, we eventually get to some important points worth pondering.)

The genesis of this essay is partly in recent personal experiences of the past few years in the neighborhood in which I have lived for the past 10.5 years.  There is a group of teenage boys a couple of houses away that have repeatedly trashed my yard and driveway and done other needless, malicious acts to others’ property on this street.  But, this problematic behavior really arises from the boys’ lack of self-control and almost total lack of self-discipline.  Now, who is to blame for that?!  I won’t dignify the sperm donor and the egg donor of these boys with the label of “parents”.  Here is why.  If you do not care enough about the children, that you conceive, to discipline them as they are growing up, then you are shirking your responsibility as parents.

The question then arises, why did you conceive these children in the first place(?), if you knew that you were not going to make the attempt to discipline them, and teach them right from wrong?  Undisciplined children are usually very miserable and they “grow up” to become miserable “adults” who tend to make others around them unhappy (misery loves company).  Now, we all know that some children resist their parents’ attempts at instilling discipline in them.  But, the attempts, by the parents, still need to be made.  (Regardless of the churchmen’s severe pronouncements, people are going to have sex.  That is the reality!  But, if they know they won’t (or don’t) give a damn about any children they might have, why are they conceiving these children in the first place?  Bottom line: If you bring children into this troubled world, discipline them and raise them to be responsible adults.)

The larger (macro) issue in these United States is the artificially prolonged adolescence of the young.  By that I mean, the postponement of their assumption of at least some responsibilities for their lives until very much later than in most other societies on the planet.  Consider that we are, I believe, the only industrial country in the world where students finish high school (those that do finish) at age 18.  Most other countries have their young people out of high school, or secondary school at age 16.  At which time, they either go on to college, attend a trade school, or go to work on a farm, in a small business or in a factory.  This is true in much of Asia, and in Europe.  (Not sure of this, but I had heard that the adding of 2 extra years of schooling for the young in the US was a short sighted attempt at reducing unemployment in an early 20th century recession.  It would/could only have helped for that one recession though.)

In these other nations, young people come out of college at 20 or 21, and can start their working lives and get married at that point (early 20s).  For those who attend trade schools or start working right after secondary school, they can marry earlier.  Recall that, until recent decades, it was common for young women, in the US, to marry in their late teens and early 20s.  Young men often married in their early 20s as well.  Now, we have young people not marrying until, on average, their mid 20s, and in many cases much later, if they get married at all.

Setting aside current pressing economic considerations (the Obama economy’s abject failure at creating additional jobs!), the question arises why cannot we do the same in this industrial country?  If we really now do need for students to complete 12 years of schooling in order to be able to enter a modern college, or work productively in a 21st century modern technological economy, why can’t we have those 12 years compressed into 10 by having year round schools throughout the nation.  Children with too much time on their hands on long summer vacations and left unsupervised by working parents do tend to get themselves into various types of trouble (drug use, teenage promiscuity, pregnancy, etc.).

Year round schools, to get students graduated by age 16, would have the advantage of keeping young people more focused on making continuing, steady progress to early adulthood – which would arrive 2 years sooner.  The earlier these young people start taking responsibility for their lives by working and getting married (both of which require being responsible and mature!), the better off society as a whole would be.  The talent and energy of the young will not be wasted by extra years in school.  The young will be less frustrated and more engaged in the society in constructive ways.

The main reasons why we don’t do this in the US are 1. that we don’t even think of the possibility as this is just what we have always done and is therefore accepted without question (which is also the unfortunate case with infant male circumcision); and 2. even if we do think of it, for the few that do so, it is that we don’t believe this approach is workable here.  But, that is crap.  This approach works in other modern industrial nations and they experience lower rates of teenage drug use, lower rates of teenage violent crime, lower rates of teenage pregnancy (out-of-wedlock), and lower STD rates.  These other societies are far from perfect, but on this score, they are light years ahead of and better than the USA is.

Lastly, for those religious folks that are reluctant or afraid to have any confidence in the young, or who suffer from an extreme Augustinian sexual pessimism and therefore are opposed to young people marrying “too young”, I can only ask: why then do you bless the marriages of boys and girls in their mid teens in the agrarian third world every day of the year?!  (On a tangential point, we could consider getting the hormones out of the meats and dairy products these children consume, and then we might see the onset of physical sexual maturation, in these children, go back up to the early to mid teens as in our grandparents’ day.  But, don’t hold your breath waiting for that issue to be seriously discussed and considered!)

Thank you for reading and for thinking about this!

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