In order for society to carry on it needs high quality parents raising up new members. This means that the new members need to one day become high quality parents themselves. We know that not everyone is capable or even desirous of having children. That’s up to them in the long run. For those who do decide to have children, society expects them to do their part for the greater good and raise their children with some sense of morality. The parents aren’t alone in the deal, however, the children are free to act for themselves and may choose to accept or reject what they are taught. Sadly, some children are taught so poorly in the most important years (birth to about five years) that no matter the good influences later on they still can’t break out of the initial period of bad teaching.
In following a recent post, wherein I opined about society’s demands for parents, I wanted to write about society’s demands for youth. The obvious demand request is that youth grow up on a path that maintains the integrity of the system and becomes a parent to repeat the cycle. I think those are pretty obvious ideas, but what about society’s demand of influence, or in other words, command for youth? Demands can be requests or requirements. I think society requests of parents and youth that a contribution to the greater good be made, but that’s the purist sense of society. Society, being a collective of freely willed individuals, also tends to move and sway with a collective will, and it is this collective will that makes demand requirements of youth.
I’ve been reading Positive Peer Culture (2nd Edition) by Harry Vorath and Larry Brendtro. Abbreviated to PPC, Positive Peer Culture describes a group problem solving theory for use in youth groups. Many juvenile correction programs are based on this method, but it also has practical application for non-adjudicated youth in public school or community youth organizations. The purpose is to take a group of youth and teach them to be responsible for each other. They meet regularly, discuss problems that members would like to overcome and seek for solutions. Then they positively support each other in the process of overcoming the challenges. I recommend this book to anyone who works with teenagers in any capacity. It is relevant information that can help any adult generate principles of a positive peer culture. The book is written in an academic manner and isn’t an easy read, necessarily, but it is valuable information.
From the book:
Contemporary society does not always expect young people to be productive but in fact places them in noncontributory, parasitic roles…Instead of developing self-concepts based on feelings of accomplishment, youth view themselves as burdens on others or perhaps may even feel that the world is obliged to provide for them. Youth have abundant opportunities to be consumers, but they are not always given the chance to be productive (PPC, Vorath and Brendtro, 1985, p. 117).
This is what I mean by a demand request on youth: society demands that youth behave a certain way, a way which betrays faulty teaching on the part of parents everywhere. The collective will of society is acting in a self-defeating way. Youth are targeted for consumerism from every angle, and we all participate in it. Youth are not taught to think for themselves and to question, or if they are it is drummed out of them through public school. I hear stories about teachers and schools trying to adopt modern teaching patterns involving more exploration and less lecture, and I hope this is true, but I know that at least through my years of public education there was a lot of teacher speaking and student listening quietly. A quiet, receptive, blank-staring, open-mouthed student makes for a great consumer audience. I don’t think school is used as a commercial agent; school just wanted an easier method of accomplishing their task, regardless of whether learning was actually occurring for ever student. Outside of school, the societal influence of entertainment media certainly teaches that youth are a burden, for the most part. How often do sitcoms or movies repeat the phrases “as long as you live under my roof…” or “I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it…”
Sometimes it is a good intention of the parent that contributes to this problem. Parents want their children to have a comfortable life so they provide all things for them without requiring work. Work sometimes becomes a punishment rather than a means to an end. Kids need to learn to work early on. They need to learn that work is the method of obtaining what you need and want, otherwise they will remain dependent or develop a sense of entitlement. I wish the law of the harvest, nature’s first law, was more prominent in society. I think it would make a difference if we all truly believed in and participated in the concept of “you reap what you sow.” I remember in elementary school when we talked about moral one-liners like that. For a while I thought the saying was “you rip what you sew.” It never made sense to me. I wonder if kids today know what reap and sow mean?
Society needs youth to grow up and maintain the societal ideals or society will die and be replaced with something else. I refer to society meaning society as we have known it, in accordance with the founding principles of America. I’m old fashioned, I like the old principles. Society needs this, but it doesn’t demand it from youth, instead it demands that they remain consumers. All adults, parents or not, need to recognize what our collective will is doing, where it is leading our youth, and we need to make course corrections. That’s the case from my perspective, but maybe the majority of people are happy in the direction we are headed, I’m not. I’m not looking for a brave new world, Huxley effectively talked me out of that one.