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Should the teens be the new 20?

I'm an administrator in higher education and everyday I assist students who have serious difficulty navigating college life - living in residence, juggling life responsibilities with attending classes and handling assignments and projects, speaking with their instructors - and doing many things without parental involvement that those in my age group did almost as a matter of course. How may we help our teens learn to handle life's issues on their own without rendering them utterly helpless and unable to cope with the issues and demands they'll encounter in their twenties?

  • Dec 9 2013: I'm an administrator in higher education and everyday I assist students who have serious difficulty navigating college life....

    Then they shouldn't be there, when we, or will we ever return to the age of - get a grip, take responsibility for yourself.

    Now it seems as if you cant say anything to anyone, in case the poor soul gets emotionally distressed, and your branded as just a meanie. So just bend down and tie the shoelaces for the poor child, dont give them tests - that's discriminatory, let them be free to explore anything and everything, with absolutely no rules or guidance. After all they are all special right. So lets give them anything they want, at any time they want it, while never complaining they cant hear you as they are constantly plugged in to their ipod.

    And these people will one day rule the world? Somehow I can't see anything being done, nothing being resolved, wars going on endlessly, the environment getting worse, more species becoming extinct, the economy slowly going down the toilet... Oh, hang on, we're there already.
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    Dec 7 2013: Mai,

    I have made comments on this link that would appear to fault young people, I do not.
    It is the responsibility of each generation to prepare the next generation for success.
    I cover three generations and I compare my transition into adulthood with what I witness today. I got a pretty good education with the focus on critical thinking.
    Granted there is a lot of new information and technology out there.
    In my day, computers were machines filling large rooms, cabinets filled with vacuum tubes. I remember as a young surveyor, when the boss took away my Monroe mechanical calculator with a new hand held calculator using reverse Polish Notation.... It was a hard transition, I keep my slide rule and logarithm tables handy. But, I digress...
    The point is, I was expected to be successful, but I was taught that life was hard, unfair, and dangerous for the unaware or frivolous. My previous generation slapped me upside the head if I didn't pay attention. They enforced the fact that they cared and wanted me to excel. I was expected to exceed their status in life and further... to play it forward.
    Evidentially, my generation didn't play it forward. We got caught up in the search for material gratification. We developed the latch key kids.... and they learned well. They went on to mini mc mansions with 3 car garages... both partners fully involved in the generation of wealth so today's youth are not latch key kids... they have been emotionally and physiologically orphaned, kept subdued with TV, and bright shining toys and pills...
    All of them? No. But enough of them to cause this conversation to happen.
  • Dec 7 2013: Mai,

    I am torn by this topic. My brother-in-law is a Provost and prior Department Chairman and he has expressed similar feelings He called them the reset generation. There was a letter to the editor in the local paper where a college student was complaining about his professors because they were not entertaining. He did not take responsibility about his own education, clearly he never learnt how to study or learn.

    I think you start in kindergarten then work up where students are allowed to question the knowledge and statements of their teachers - this must go all the way to High School - Also, need to teach them to read, write, and do basic arithmetic. (Taught calculus and had students that got 1/2+1/3 wrong or did not know the priority of operation)
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    Dec 5 2013: Greg,
    Yes, there is more population and more rules, but I am not seeing it as a cause of today's teens... innocence?

    Today's teens have been spoiled, cuddle, protected to the point that they are totally incapable of survival in the real world. Most of them were not even educated or made aware of what it is like out there in the jungle of life.

    There will be massive casualties.

    Many will go out on their own because their parents will be unable to sustain them, and they will look for governmental aid to survive. I see political planning to encourage this dependency. Dependent population is a subjective population, easily controlled and dominated.
    • Dec 7 2013: I agree the percentage is high but I am not sure about the word "most" which implies more than 50%.
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        Dec 7 2013: Well, I based that number on current High School graduation rates. We have to assume that a HS graduate is a functional young adult ready to meet the challenges of life... I know, a stretch.
        Numbers I found go like this.... 25% get through with flying colors, bright, well educated (in-spite of going to high school as some have said) and will do very well in life. 25% never make through high school. The rest who graduate are those from barely passed to just short of the top 25%. This 50% is a statistical anomaly... depending on the graduating high school, they can do well or they can be on a par with the non-graduates.... When you look at performance ratings of public high schools... the bell is tilting is to the low side....
        I have come to believe that it is more then 50% and isn't that a shame.
        • Dec 8 2013: Yes it is thanks for the explanation. Peter Lynch claimed that over 30 percent are illiterate and that this will be the 1st time that students will not graduate high school and the parents have.
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    Dec 4 2013: All, look at these numbers and ask yourself how someone who has witnessed 8000 murders before high school will view the world. None of my HS classes showed me how to use condoms, I figured there was only 1 place it could go. Our kids are buried by every bad influence possible and then scrutinized mercilessly by their so called social media friends. I had a bully in HS but after I broke his nose and shoved a banana in his ear in front of the whole gym I never had another problem. How do you do that on social media. The pressure just builds and builds...
    Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 3.5
    Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680
    Percentage of day care centers that use TV during a typical day: 70
    Percentage of parents who would like to limit their children's TV watching: 73
    Percentage of 4-6 year-olds who, when asked to choose between watching TV
    and spending time with their fathers, preferred television: 54
    Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900 hours
    Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1500

    Number of murders seen on TV by the time an average child finishes elementary school: 8,000
    Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18: 200,000
    Percentage of Americans who believe TV violence helps precipitate real life mayhem: 79

    Number of 30-second TV commercials seen in a year by an average child: 20,000
    Number of TV commercials seen by the average person by age 65: 2 million
    Percentage of survey participants (1993) who said that TV commercials
    aimed at children make them too materialistic: 92
    Rank of food products/fast-food restaurants among TV advertisements to kids: 1
    Total spending by 100 leading TV advertisers in 1993: $15 billion

    Statistics Compiled by TV-Free America, 1322 18th Street, NW, Washington, DC 2003
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    Dec 4 2013: why would things be different for today's teens versus a generation or two ago?
    • Dec 4 2013: It's the perception (and seriously, the reality) that the world is a very different place than it was twenty years ago...
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        Dec 4 2013: whose perceptions, Mai, the teens? How do they think the world is different than it was 20 years ago? Why would this cause them to need more help navigating life?

        In what way is the world genuinely different than it was 20 years ago? How would this cause teens to need more help navigating life?
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      Dec 4 2013: Having watch a couple of generations of teens go by, they are dumber today then ever.... maybe not dumber, dumber... just not as well educated, self absorbed, lost in technology and not really held to any standards above the lowest... today's kids are either going to have to climb a very steep hill or reside in the cellar until they can go on social security....
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        Dec 4 2013: well, maybe life has become more complicated and full of rules, as there are more people on planet Earth you have to establish more rules about how they're all going to get along? Apparently an increased population leads to more tensions, as witness these many mass shootings that you did not see in past decades?

        More people has its virtues as well, more knowledge, more sociability.
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          Dec 5 2013: No, I see the world population peaking... as more and more countries get industrialized and technologied, youngsters will get more and more into their smart phones, twitter and facebook and soon they will forget to reproduce. The tensions will ease, mass shootings will be way down and in a thousand years all the people will be gone and the carbon footprint will be non existent. At least that is the way I see it.
      • Dec 5 2013: Will there be a social security to go on?
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          Dec 5 2013: The question begs, will there be anybody working to pay into social security.
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        Dec 5 2013: well, Mike, if it's true that young people today are more dependent, I was thinking it might be because there are more rules making it harder to navigate society. The reason for the more rules could be increased population compared to a generation ago. If I'm right, and population levels off, the dependence level of youngsters shouldn't increase, it should level off as well, or even recede as people get more used to a higher population.
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    Dec 4 2013: In the 80's and 90's I taught University students computer science. The ages from 18 (freshman) to graduate (22) are amazing to watch. The level of maturity that most students achieved in that time was fun to watch and gave me confidence in the future. Even then there was a very frightening trend, however. The level of preparedness and dependency on others seemed to deteriorate annually. My first years teaching our students (except athletes) were at abut 1200 SAT scores. My last year we were dipping into the 700-800 range to simply fill our seats. Our university developed many remedial classes and activities to help these newer students get through college. Graduation times soared from 4 to nearly 6 years for a Bachelor's degree.

    I grew up raising cattle and sheep in the Rockies and so fall under the bumpkin moniker in this thread. I observe through my career(s) that the 30' are the new early 20's and the 20's are the new adolescence.

    Harsh? Well, maybe. EVERY young couple I know who have been married younger than 35 have failed. Nearly every young person who has graduated from college has already proven that cannot manage their debt. Drinking binges continue well into their 30's. Alcohol is their only means of having a good time in a group. These are not mature or responsible actions.

    Here is a challenge for all who read this. Gather 20 young people in a room for a "meeting." Degree or not, it doesn't matter. (I will stipulate these are American kids) Now in the course of the meeting pose a mathematical issue a standard deviation or Bell curve, make a reference to Walt Whitman or Thomas Paine, refer to a location like Hagia Sophia Istanbul or Prague.

    I would be very surprised if more than 1 or 2 people got any of those references. Dealing with such people on a daily basis means we must communicate at a very basic level. The threads of our human culture are fading (at least in America). Maturity comes from understanding and compassion.
    • Dec 4 2013: Hi Jim,

      I think you've made some really good points. Briefly, two thoughts: I don't want a wholesale dumbing down of America to occur, so this takes us back to the notion of revamping our educational system. And I think some of these very students you speak of may lack the awareness and empathy necessary for them to be compassionate toward one another. (I sound cruel and angry..)
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    Dec 4 2013: To the southwest of my little town, is a very large city, with more then a dozen school districts. Many of these schools teach to a state test, students are not encouraged to deviate from the standard, are not allowed to fail or suffer failure, no playing with a ball that could hurt you, conform and comply is the order of the day in the city. A few particularly bright students go along with (ignore) the system and go on to do well.
    To the northwest of my little town are a number of large ranches and farms. These children go to schools just like in the city. But they go home at night and have chores. They must successfully complete these chores, livestock must be cared for. Crops have to be cultivated, fertilized and where appropriate watered. There can be no allowances for failure as that is unacceptable... if you let a full size cow die, you will learn how bad that is by having to dig a hole to bury it.
    So, who would be better to succeed as adults... the country bumpkin or city kid?
    • Dec 4 2013: So which is better street smart or nature smart? I suppose it depends where one lives and makes one living! The thing with the city kids is that they may detach and take for granted many of the essential they enjoy and need to live on where as the bumpkin is more in tune with the ways of nature. Ideally each ought to integrate and complement the insights of the other to produce a better cities and ranches.
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        Dec 4 2013: t's not about cities and ranches, it's about social systems that do not provide a reality of life to young people in the cities. "Don't play ball, because you can get hurt or hurt somebody." Everyone gets an award for participation, nobody loses"

        Life holds success and loses, every one needs to know what it feels like to be successful and how to cope with a loss. City kids don't get that and are living at home with degrees in sociology, unemployed and don't understand why..
        • Dec 4 2013: Mike,

          I realize that its not about cities and ranches ... its about social systems. The thing about not playing ball stems from individuals competitiveness crossing the line and seeking to hurt individuals while playing ball and other games. The thing with the notion of winners and looses is that one shifts away from true abundant success where everyone has a wonderful time through creating a synergy of interrelated plays and moves. The collaborative nature in the ecosystem shifts from codependency of cultivators, to separate unrelated individuals.

          Evidently there should be a shift from entitlements to attainments. In spanish the word 'competencia' means both a competition and the ability to do something. Then there is the whole issue of getting it done, on time and getting someone to buy it...
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        Dec 4 2013: Esteban,
        You have made my point. I am a strong believer in individual responsibilities. I see individuals working together for a common goal, but this concept of being a part of a synergistic whole however socially collaborative really goes against my beliefs.
        collaborative societies are... ant hills.
        People are not ants, Every person is a unique individual, with their owns needs, wants and desires. Ants lose all semblance of individuality. I am not an ant. And yes, if we act like ants, someone will become the queen ant or dictator...
        • Dec 4 2013: Mike,

          hey you are part of humanity, and the world... what you do (and not do) does affect us all...
          I think that right now the world is going through a transition from 'dictatorial' to a new form where each does what ought to be done as it ought to be done. Many arcane ways will be left behind as better alternatives are embraced.

          BTW There are all sort of collaborative societies... from families to all the way to global enterprises... and who knows them ants may have singular unique individual existence's with their owns needs, wants and desires...
  • Dec 4 2013: Mai,

    The issue you describe about 'adolescent' teens is sort of extrapolated into an 'adolescent' society; that ought mature a bit more... I just started reading the book "Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World" which from the little I have read seems to address these issues (or at least expose them to be aware of them existing).

    The way I see it we each and all are faced with similar situations at different levels and need better ways to resolve what happens. To put in into the context of a family, 'the siblings' need to fix the issues amongst themselves ( rather than running to dady and mummy or the teacher).

    Fritzie made an excellent point that its better do deal with the situations at an early age (of course right now is the earliest age that we may intervene, it isn't as if we can go back a whiles and intervene then. That may change in the future :- ). Fritzie also mentioned that it ought to be a shared progressive transferring of responsibility.

    In relation to higher education that may mean a core course that guides and accompanies students integrations including some 'basic self-awareness revelations'. In fact this may be an experience long curricula activity which involves the outgoing helping the incoming so that both benefit from interacting with each other. In a way college for some represents a time of complete change because for the first time in their lives 'students' become responsible for taking care of themselves and their stuff without direct parental supervision. For some these liberties renders them utterly helpless as they embark under the influence of all sort of stuff. Ideally the college will somewhat plan and guide the adventure of every stakeholder to maximize it. In practice most just focus on certain criteria and leave a lot of stuff out. Sometimes the really important stuff like team formation, effective conflict resolution, stress management, work management, diversion management.
    • Dec 4 2013: Esteban,

      I truly believe most colleges have educated and informed Student Affairs staff who are committed to helping students to do just what you've stated - being able to be a viable member of a team, to handle and resolve conflict, to manage their lives in ways that are healthy, and to grow into mature and responsible adults who are committed to advancing their respective fields. Right now I'm feeling many of our students do get what we're trying to give. I cold be real wrong here.
      • Dec 4 2013: Mai,

        What I was suggesting was to push the role of "Student Affairs staff" within an actual required course for student to enroll into. At the beginning, halfway through and towards the end. That is help them integrate, follow it up and help them bring move on (with a well rounded closure).

        Its somewhat peculiar that the most fundamental behaviors, practices experiences are left to be incorporated without any formal guidance rather than closely followed and guided for maximum benefits. Its almost like managing the formation of first impressions to ensure better outcomes.
  • Dec 3 2013: Hi Frizie,

    Oops! I guess I was trying to ask how can our society move away from some of the more debilitating trends in parenting, such as the absolute landing of the helicoptering parent on our college campuses? I can't see how this is helping future generations develop the ability to think, discover, write, advocate for something, lead, invent. Have I become too pessimistic. I feel defeated by what I'm seeing within the student population at this rather elite school I work at daily!

    (An aside: Is this a pic of your dog? I'm looking into getting an English Bulldog!)
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    Dec 3 2013: Are you asking what college administrators can do or what can be done in the earlier years?

    Typically both parenting and teaching involves scaffolding decision-making and progressively transferring responsibility to children as they reach a stage of being able to take on various kinds of choices. Such scaffolding includes talking through decisions before the fact and also talking about the consequences of decisions that were made.

    Both parents and teachers can err on either side of a productive role in guiding a child to independence. Some parents and teachers give too little attention to guiding children in making good decisions, and others do all the decision-making, advocacy and so forth for their children much longer than is probably best for the child.

    As you are in education, you probably know that what we are talking about here is supporting kids through the development of "executive function." One does not become mature in executive function by watching others manage and micro-manage. We must make decisions ourselves and see the consequences.

    Again, some parents and schools do a great job in guiding kids through this and others not so much. I see at my son's secondary school, the administrators expect students to advocate for themselves without parental involvement pretty much from eighth grade on, but they do have a homeroom system as well to support a student. At the school where I taught, they made heavy use of a system that telegraphed every grade and missing assignment to parents on a timely basis so they might intervene. At my son's school there is no such oversight.

    Living in residence has new dimensions for any student who has never been away from home at camps or in settings outside the home, but even in these cases, the beauty of on-campus residences is that kids learn to deal with these new challenges together with students who have had more independent experiences and also typically with the guidance of older students in residence.