Newt Gingrich and Adolescence

Now Newt Gingrich has moved from congressman, to speaker of the house, to health care transformer, to university professor to cultural analyst of adolescence. His opinion article in Nov 11, 2008 Businessweek places all the ills of adolescence squarely on the shoulders of some self named institutional social experiment he calls adolescence. His article was attractive to me for a number of reasons. First, he named most, if not all, problems of the middle to late teens set. Second, provided three historical figures who began their rise to adulthood early and in a flash ventured on to become great. Third, true to form he provided an expected and yes typical old 20th century, authoritarian solution to rid our culrure of this dreaded adolescence. He then maligns this human made culture of delaying adulthood, trapping young people and basically wasting years of their lives. But then moves on to somewhat of a reversal by stating adolescence really came about early in the 19th century as a middleclass strategy to keep children out of sweatshops. A noble cause I’d say.
He talks about the poor and how they are trapped in bad schools, reject responsibility, gravitate to gangs, drugs and promiscuity. The more affluent indulge in cheating in good schools, are flagrantly irresponsible, function in clicks, use and sell drugs and engage in frequent and unsafe sex. (The last sentence is my adaptation). So I guess we can surmise it was a good plan gone bad.
His solution is predictable and simple. Jerk the little bastards in line while they are very young, say 12-13, load them up with work they mostly don’t want to do with a promise of free college tuition if they do well and feel secure they will take the bait. Well Mr. G that may have worked in the 20th century but I’ll wager serious money it will not get off the ground in the 21st. I do not claim to have a solution but I do proclaim your plan isn’t it!!! It undoubtly will attract a precious few but most of the millennium kids will look at you incredulously and simply snark “Bite me!”
First of all the examples you cite as proof of your early adulthood program(no adolescence) are of men from such a long time ago. Their culture was primitive compared to the cultures of today. There were no flat panel plasma and LCD passifiers to lure their attention. Kids of today are so into a culture that structures everything for them or ignores them completely at the risk of “Lord of the Flies” mentality. They seem not to have a scintilla of creative imagination, only a few possess even a hint of curiosity. They likely only “feel” themselves as real when they engage in somekind of taboo and/or high risk behavior. Have we let them down? You bet we have, by trying to make them all things to all people. We expect them to do things God never intended them or anyone to do. Such as being the best T-ball player, excelling in soccer, basketball, football for the boys and dress the most fashionably, being a cheerleader, the prettiest one at that, being swamped by social invitations, boys yet daring them to break ranks with parental control for girls. (Tells you what sick mass of goons we parents are). They are reared to fluff the ego of their parents or exist to provide a bigger check from the government.
Here is what I propose: First we must, as a culture, distance ouselves from the notion of population growth. There are too many people in the world. Few cultures think smart when it comes to procreation. Take for example the Dugger family…. 17 -18 children. Talk about children raising children! It is present in that family in spades. Are they an attractive collection of people … well yes! And if that is all you look at then okay. But really if that had been a black family the cries of “Bunch of welfare cheats” would resound throughout long and loud. Which brings me back to the Duggers. Just how does that one man support all those kids? Does he accept public assistance (welfare)! But really!! 18 kids?!!! But I stray from the point here.
The point I wish to make is we as a culture should discourage large family growth. Sex education dovetailed with family finance/economics should be required ciriculum from 5th grade on up in public schools. And for those who object they can incur the expense of sending their kids to private schools, without the help of vouchers, thank you very much. I suggest either no tax exemptions for children, period, or no more than two exemptions per filer annually. You see by providing tax exemptions for children we move ever more closely to a welfare state… my case is that the Dugger family head of household I am sure pays no federal or state income taxes, yet he/they enjoy all the services provided by those of us who do pay income tax. I cite the highway systems, the priviledge of voting, eligibility for social services… on and on. Having child is a personal choice and as such it is inappropriate to allow it to spill over onto the millions who manage within our means and either have no children or have only the number we can manage and support. I have two of my own so I am not anti-children. A discussion for another day!!! We should not provide public assistance to anyone. I’ve had enough of this “I have to leave early today so I can get my check”! If a family finds itself in a tight spot, because shit does happen then they can obtain a low interest loan from the government. It can even be interst free for the first year if the entire balance is paid back in 12 months from origination. But no more welfare, period!!! Abortion should always be an options in the case of unexpected and unwanted pregnancies. The cut off time should be determined by the woman and her physician but no later than 5 months gestation! Rape and incestuous pregnancies should be followed by severe proscecution of the assailant and monetary compensation to the victim.
Keeping adolescence is a must. Can you imagine the outrage of many if the suggested proposal of Mr. G. was implemented???? Yikes!!! But I will suggest there are tenants of his plan worth considering. For example it may be of value to offer a national community service program to kids 14 to 16 years old which will remove them from the classroom and place them into community service programs where they are able to learn skills in the real world. They can return to highschool for 2-3 years of school to graduate. Then move on to college. Or they can finish out school in the current traditional programs. No money would be paid to them for this. The community service is part of their free education (Are our schools socliaized?? Seems like they are.). Which brings me to another proposal offered by Mr. G. and that is adoption of his daughters Atlanta program where poor children are paid to study and do their homework! Huh????What?????!!! Pay them to accept a gift???? That is whacked!!!! See I am not flaming liberal!!!! We can help them learn the value of education by educating them and mostly their parents on the value of being educated. It is no secret that in many poor and especially black communities education is frowned on and discouraged because it is a white man’s thing. If you cut off public assistance to them maybe they will see how they need to make their own way. Welfare is like an opiate..it keeps the poor down just enough to allow the better to-do have power over them.
As far as cirriculum is concerned we must move into the 21st century. Stop dumbing down requirements in math, science. Invigorate history. Make English part of a required arts program and by all means ramp up arts programs to include orchestra, band, graphic arts, woodworking, sculpture on and on and make it just as important as other courses and bring the math and science into each course in art. Art is far more science and math than creative expression. Example: teach them about the math of J.S. Bach compositions. His works are legendary mathmatical masterpieces.
Not to be forgotten is the premier course work in civics, law, international studies and political science..so the culture of tomorrow will understand that Africa is a continent, South Africa is a country, that majority rule does have constitutional limitations in the USA.
Another point is that rather than do away with adolescence lets consider the fact that there are at least five styles of learning. Not everyone learns the same way. Yet when it comes to teaching we pretty much teach to one style of learning. That makes no sense! So I suggest we test students from time to time and establish which style of learning suits them best and place them in classroms or programs that educate to that style instead of this one size fits all method we have fostered.
Well I have run out of steam on this one but suffice it to say the problems of adolescence are many and complex and though I know Mr. G. means well his solution is so “old school” (pardon the pun), so last century. The world kids grow up in today is so complicated and I salute them for faring so well. I cite the case of George Hotz who at 17 unlocked the iphone and without pay gave his secret to the world gratas. He’s my hero!!!

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One Response to “Newt Gingrich and Adolescence”

  1. Katherine, age 17 Says:

    My dear friend,
    As a teen myself, I agree whole-heatedly with Gingrich on his analysis of adolescence as a social experiment. However, I was very disturbed by what you said on discouraging family growth. The family is the building block of society, and it is the family which imbues children and teens with a sense of responsibility for their siblings and their parents. I am the eldest in a family of 6 children, and I have matured far more by interaction with my little brothers and sister than I could ever have as an only child, or one of three. Yes, it is hard to support a large family in today’s world, but this only serves to tie closer together the members of a family, and help us build character with each other. We think outside ourselves in a big family, because when money is tight, we can’t just go into the pantry and eat whenever we want, we have to think about everyone. An even better example is that of my cousins, who have 10 kids, and are the most virtuous and upright people I know. Their mother is a stay at home mom, so they live on one income, they do not accept charity to live on, but rather they are one team all pulling together to get through. The oldest two are at college and doing very well, and the third and I will be graduating this spring, and both of us have plans for graduate school. I would argue that the solution to today’s adolescent problem is encouraged familial societies. The family not only teaches responsibility, but prepares the individual for life in the outside world through love and support. I have never met a greater mentor than a father when it comes to discernment and a helping hand. No child who has the support of a true, loving family will end up on the streets, trying to fill some empty hole inside themselves with drugs, alcohol, or sex, because there will be no hole to start with.
    yours, Katherine
    (I love my parents!)

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