Sunday, February 22, 2009

The "End" of Adolescence

Once again, I post an entry and as I research more I find myself on the same side of the fence as Newt Gingrich. It seems that since Newt has left elected office, he has really hit his stride with engaging discussions about health care, finance, and, now, education and adolescence. Like Dr. Robert Epstein's book The Case Against Adolescence, Newt has been speaking at places like that American Enterprise Institute, and he is arguing that "adolescence" is a "failed cultural" model. Newt presents some insightful history, as well as some intriguing recommendations, in this short clip. Though I do concur that Newt can have the tendency to exaggerate and over-extrapolate on occasion, the idea is still valid and intriguing.

Realistically, it can be argued that adolescence is a nineteenth-century invention designed to keep children out of the employment market where they were competing with adults for jobs. Thus, by the 1920s we had nearly nationwide mandatory education for kids k-12. This has proved counterproductive. Whereas kids should seamlessly transition from being children to young adults, as they have done across cultures for centuries, we've now reached a point where the average American lives in arrested development until about the age of twenty-six. Instead, we should be focusing on providing incentives for students to move expeditiously through schooling, developing the basic competencies.

One of Newt's insights is the idea of giving high school students who graduate early the money that would have been used to educate them as a scholarship. If they graduate two years early, they can have the sum of those two years. I think that is a fantastic idea. Personally, I'd like to see some offered to the motivated students and the rest refunded to taxpayers who might appreciate not paying for the babysitting of so many teenagers. Regardless, these ideas should be examined and debated more in-depth by communities and departments of education. Newt's comments can be explored more in depth in this interview with Business Week magazine.

1 comment:

Darren said...

Newt always *has* been able to come up with intriguing ideas.