Friday, December 24, 2010
Not Quite Adults
Interesting new book called Not Quite Adults about the latest generation to reach adulthood - or perhaps reach a new definition of adulthood. The book's subtitle is "Why 20-Somethings are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood and Why It is Good for Everyone." The book focuses on young people who are delaying marriage, child-rearing, home-ownership, and even careers as they approach adulthood in a more calculating manner. It seems that, at least in the new economy, that boomerang children are not necessarily a problem, and that the image of the slacker living in the basement is far from reality.
Some interesting arguments made by the authors - which are really quite logical - have to do with the rigid paths society has set for defining success and careers and the negative perceptions we have about "involved parents" and "boomerang children." For example, the criticism of "helicopter parents" is misplaced in an era when un-involved disconnected parents do far more harm to their kids and society. As a teacher, I see the wisdom in that. Given a choice between a parent who cares too much or not enough, it seems like a no brainer. Additionally, the stereotype of the slacker kid living off of mom and dad while playing HALO in the basement is not the norm. Many, if not most kids who return home, are instead using the time to not only establish some financial security by paying down debt, but they are helping out mom and dad as well. In many ways, it can be good for a relationship with all parties seeing each other on a more mature level playing field.
Additionally, the authors address a topic dear to my heart - society's misplaced emphasis on bachelor degrees and a diminished appreciation for trades. Society has declared to young people that their only viable options are a high-paying bachelor degree job or "working the line at Arby's." Instead, we need to provide a more honest and realistic portrayal of alternative routes to careers. We have nearly destroyed career and technical education at a time when those areas are where the economy is growing the most and in most need of skilled workers. From health care technicians to electricians and plumbers, the economy is in need of exactly the sort of labor we are turning kids away from. And at a time when half the kids entering college won't finish, this is a nearly unforgivable error.
Wake up, America, and take a realistic look at the world and the young people emerging into adulthood.