Robert Epstein’s latest book, The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen, was published earlier this month by Quill Driver Books.
In an April 3, 2007 Education Week article, Let’s , he explained that while writing the book, “he explored some ideas that go almost that far.”
- “As a longtime professor and researcher, I got curious. Were our young people always required to attend school, and were their work opportunities always limited to babysitting, yard work, and cleaning the floors at fast-food joints? Were they always subject to so many restrictions? Are teenagers necessarily incompetent and irresponsible, as the media tell us? Is there really an immature “teenage brain” that holds them back? After all, past puberty, technically speaking we’re not really children anymore, and presumably through most of human history we bore our young when we were quite young ourselves. It occurred to me that young people must be capable of functioning as competent adults, or the human race quite probably would not exist.”
He investigates compulsory education in our country and how it came to be and he states that he arrived at some startling conclusions. Here are just a few of those:
- Are young people really inherently incompetent and irresponsible? The research I conducted with my colleague Diane Dumas suggests that teenagers are as competent as adults across a wide range of adult abilities, and other research has long shown that they are actually superior to adults on tests of memory, intelligence, and perception. The assertion that teenagers have an “mmature” brain that necessarily causes turmoil is completely invalidated when we look at anthropological research from around the world. Anthropologists have identified more than 100 contemporary societies in which teenage turmoil is completely absent; most of these societies don’t even have terms for adolescence. Even more compelling, long-term anthropological studies initiated at Harvard in the 1980s show that teenage turmoil begins to appear in societies within a few years after those societies adopt Western schooling practices and are exposed to Western media. Finally, a wealth of data shows that when young people are given meaningful responsibility and meaningful contact with adults, they quickly rise to the challenge, and their “inner adult” emerges.A careful look at these issues yields startling conclusions: The social-emotional turmoil experienced by many young people in the United States is entirely a creation of modern culture. We produce such turmoil by infantilizing our young and isolating them from adults. Modern schooling and restrictions on youth labor are remnants of the Industrial Revolution that are no longer appropriate for today’s world; the exploitative factories are long gone, and we have the ability now to provide mass education on an individual basis.Teenagers are inherently highly capable young adults; to undo the damage we have done, we need to establish competency-based systems that give these young people opportunities and incentives to join the adult world as rapidly as possible.http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2007/04/04/31epstein.h26.html
In this day and time of Zero to Three programs that are said to assure that children are ready to learn, Universal Preschool and pressures from the Federal Department of Education via NCLB, I hope that The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every becomes a best seller.
Posted by Mary