I saw a young lady at the grocery store today calmly rubbing
her very pregnant belly and tousling her older son's hair. What a pretty picture I thought, as I viewed
the scene. I had known that young woman
since she was a teenager and in just a few years more she would be having
teenagers of her own. What's not to like
about young people cusping on adulthood? Much of Western literature and movies
are all about "coming of age."
Childhood has both shortened and lengthened in
the last 50 years. On the one hand, ever
since Brooke Shields famous splash in "Pretty Baby" and her subsequent
sexualised Calvin Klein jeans ads, the push to sexualise girls younger and
younger, has not stopped. Even dolls for
little girls, Bratz, celebrate the sexuality of prepubescent girls. On the other hand, childhood stretches until
the end of college, until the end of the 30's for some young people with
failure to launch.
I used to substitute teach at the local high school in area before I got too disgusted with the administrations lack of control over their school. Too many kids crammed in to too small a room made tempers run high. I had so many kids they often had to share desk space. One of the most glaring problems with having too many people is that the "wrong" kids get the most attention. In a classroom of 20 or less annoying kids can be sent to the principal's office. In a school where 40kids meet in a room designed for 20, there is no option but to discipline as best you can on your own. The administration was too overwhelmed to provide support.
I couldn't blame the administration for being overwhelmed in the short term; it was the lack of proactive support that was sad for the teenagers. For example, although there was a dress code, the administration did not enforce the dress code to useful benefit. Located 50 miles away from the nearest urban centers, the high school I taught at was devoid of gang activity. And yet, the administration chose to take a hard line on teenagers wearing hoods or caps which was supposed to show gang affiliation. Out here I would say it sooner showed which kids did pony club. Unfortunately the dress code regarding inappropriately sexual and revealing outfits was never enforced.
Teenagers like to look hot. Poor things are constantly bombarded from every form of media to look sexy, boys as well as girls. Magazines show super thin models. Studies show women feel slightly less good about themselves after looking at fashion magazines. Most teenagers have to live in homes with television sets in every room. TV is not what it was when the baby boomers were coming up. Callous contests regarding hook ups, dysfunctional relationships, and crazy annoying roommate situations with good looking wannabe actors is most of the night's fodder. So who can blame a teen for dressing slutty? Getting a gig on reality TV for being the loudest, the most in your face person on earth is the goal of many of my young charges. The pay is good, and the out put very little. Most of them have parents who buy into the subculture of everything being about money.
Still, if I were a male teacher teaching at that high school I would have sued for sexual harassment. They may be professionals, but they're not dead. Why should they have to work around nubile young teens who don't want to cover up? During the time I was teaching jeans that revealed a thong bikini were the fashion rage. Fifty years of the womens' movement, thank you, has gifted me with overweight, hairy girls who "feel good about themselves" thus justifying pants that reveal the flower adorning their thong in the back. Frankly when I see a kid sitting in class with their entire butt hanging out so we can see a juicy little button or flower or flounce of lace where their anus is located, I call that lewd. The principal at the school was male, so maybe he liked looking. I had wondered aloud so many times about the lack of dress code that I finally discovered there IS a dress code, it's just not enforced. That was when I lost interest in teaching.
Its hard enough to come into a class room lacking proper equipment. To be subjected to hot classrooms without windows that can't open is hard. To have no pencils nor paper nor any project that can last the full 50 minutes is hard. To have kids eating in the class room and talking to each other constantly is messy and stressful. I learned that the vendors selling soda and chips and candy bars in the public schools in California make pretty good money. Is it any wonder these poor teens don't learn how to feed themselves? Home economics, and nutrition and other life skills classes have been depleted supposedly to make room for teaching kids reading and writing and math.
An exit exam was created to test graduating seniors much to the uproar of parents. I agree with the parents on one thing, if you wait until the senior year of high school to test kids, you waited too long. It was obvious to me the problem is young people no longer have the skill of reading for comprehension. If they could do that, they would be able to teach themselves, Abraham Lincoln style, anything they needed to know. Reading for comprehension is a skill that ought to be accomplished by the third grade. Clearly private schools have figured out this is the ticket. College prep schools still produce young people with functioning skills. So why are the taxpayers expected to pay for program after program of continuing education of the adult population that exited the public schools?
Teenagers themselves seem blissfully unaware of what's going on in the world. They faithfully post to their friends on Facebook everytime they go shopping or eat a sandwich, yet they can't find Japan on a map. These are the people who are going to one day vote on my social security benefits. Yikes!