What Is The Best Way To Prepare Teens For The Challenges They Face In The Future
“I have also said that if you took a normal thirteen-year-old and considered him an adult, he would probably be deemed mentally ill because a thirteen-year-old’s thought patterns are so different from those of an adults” ( Meier, as cited in Roth, 1999, p. 9). Young people, the future fresh, exciting, and inviting. No longer inhibited with parental constraints, teens become adults. When does it happen? Is it overnight? What is the best way to prepare teens to face challenges in the future? As teens embark on their journey, going through childhood, adolescence, and finally entering into adulthood, they will encounter test and trials along the way. They will need to make important decisions about which paths they will choose. These decisions could be personal, economical, social, and even global. The main idea is to come up with a solution that prepares them to face these difficult situations, remain unscathed, and progress towards responsible adulthood. The pressing issues may change as the social and global climate shift, which means that it is necessary to stay flexible regarding “solutions” to these issues. What worked well yesterday to prepare teens for future challenges does not completely apply today and what works well today will not necessarily hold true for tomorrow. Let us examine the best way to prepare teens for future challenges through two extremely different perspectives, the Conservative and Liberal viewpoints, which, will lead to the discovery of the best solution.
Some major factors that contribute to the uncertainties/ambiguities within this issue are that the breadth and depths are so vast. The scope of this issue is so large as to encompass differing perspectives from many angles. It is necessary to examine these uncertainties to gain scope and perspective of the situation in order to determine the best course of action. Depending upon the angle in which the issue is viewed, there will be different interpretations of the information presented.
This ambiguous term can include, but is not limited to, issues of sex, drugs, alcohol, education, and finances. In addition, what some may deem as challenges, others can simply identify these situations as rites of passage into adulthood and not really hurdles to be conquered.
Minimized. A way to minimize the uncertainties associated with the term “teen challenges” is to examine smaller pieces of the issue. This can be accomplished by narrowing the scope of the discussion and investigation to focus on smaller pieces of the issue. For example, one could choose to examine teen challenges from and individual perspective of teen health or from the perspective of global consequences to their actions.
People focused on individual concerns may include education, finance, and character development to their solutions, which on a personal level. It is very difficult and even unreasonable to assume what type of potential outcome will exist when plugged into any solution, which is ultimately an “experiment” with humanity. Due to each persons unique set of circumstances that makes them an individual, nature and nurture, the results will vary from slightly, all the way to vast.
Minimized. Minimizing individuality is not recommended but minimizing dysfunctional nurturing may help to offset some of the negative consequences associated with it. In addition, it may be possible to nurture “positive” genetic traits while equalizing the more “negative” genetic traits inherited biologically. Although, the concepts of the terms “negative” and “positive” are ambiguous too. What one deems as a positive trait another may consider negative such as, being determined and having a strong will.
People may be more concerned with environmental, economic, and social consequences that are on a more global scale. More uncertainties embedded within this problem are the individual reactions and potential results that each unique community, family, and individual will have from any potential solutions. In addition, there are differing agenda’s being promoted with-in the world’s social networks such as the diverse religious, family, and governmental societal structures.
Minimized. One way to minimize social ambiguity is to have these social networks clearly outline their agenda’s (instead of using hype and smoke screens). By setting forth clear and precise plans with proposed solutions individual can determine which societal venues best suits them, and chose to participate in one, some, or none of the societal “norms” detailed to them.
There are many assumptions coupled with biases that are embedded within the issue of how best to prepare teens for future challenges. Firstly, it is a huge assumption to consider this as a problem with a plausible solution. That is, in huge social issues such as these, can there be a “best solution”?
Next, what information is being taken for granted? (Nosich, 2005) Is it reasonable to believe that teens will encounter generally similar challenges throughout their growth and maturity? Is it fair to assume that the experiences and challenges of teens from places such as those that frequent, the affluent Orange County California mall that Jonathan Last writes about in his article, America’s youth are advancing morally (2005), are comparable to the experiences and challenges of any inner city neighborhood across the United States? Yet many people who have never experienced contrasting diverse influences cannot comprehend the vastly differing realities that coexist and function along side one another with-in the same society. Where as social status and parental pressures can overwhelm well to do teens. Lack of family prosperity, wealth, and parental involvement inundate the impoverished. Will any proposed solution acknowledge both sets of circumstances?
As a final point, one must assume with whom the responsibility lays. Most will agree that it is important to care about teen’s social and personal health as they grow towards adulthood. Even though, most parents, educators, and government officials are concerned with teen health and progress that does not mean they wish to accept responsibility for it. One must think and question carefully any proposed “solutions” before accepting to enact it lest they be responsible to fund, educate, and/or follow through with it.
While researching for evidence presented from differing viewpoints I became increasingly discouraged that most every piece of evidence I found, when thought through using critical thinking skills could be discounted. Although, having these issues gave me a way to evaluate/critique the information gathered by examining it through the alternative viewpoints. In general, it became clearer that there are no clear-cut solutions to the open-ended social issues and in order to suggest one many people take very narrow viewpoints.
According to some evidence, religious practices greatly reduce societal problems such as the dysfunctional family structures (illegitimacy), crime /delinquency, substance abuse, and mental health. Two sources I am using are Patrick F. Fagen’s’ article, Religion can solve America’s social problems, and The Gallup Youth Survey.
• National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1991) – found that premarital sex reduced with increased religious involvement.
• Alcoholics Anonymous- successfully uses religion as one means of recovery for alcoholics.
• Conservatives support character development in schools sighting that there are universally accepted core values, which are integrity, perseverance, love, fairness, honesty, tolerance, and responsibility that cross-political, social, and religious lines.
Strengths. The strengths that this evidence exhibits are that it is emotionally compelling. Most people will agree that character traits such as honesty, love, and respect are important to the health of a community. In addition, moral advancements are seen by some as a way to instill young people with the necessary filters for deciphering adult issues. Further more, citing Alcoholics Anonymous is considered a strong point because some will feel that they are a reputable source. The Teen Gallop Polls are also reputable sources for survey information because of the standards they use to gather information.
Weaknesses. I have found many weaknesses in the evidence retrieved. Mostly, the material I am researching is filled with claims and no supporting evidence to back them up. The evidence seems to be one emotionally compelling claim after another. They are “weak-sensed” in that they spend more time refuting other viewpoints than focusing on their own claims and finding data to support them. On the other hand, they find data that “fits” their claims and ignores data that is in contradiction with their beliefs.
Alternative Interpretations. In using oppositional thinking as a criterion for evaluating this evidence many different ideas can be perceived with the information presented. Some alternative viewpoints are as follows.
• Increased religious involvement reduces premarital sex because of guilt induced personal restraint leading to issues with repression, not allowing for exploration into healthy sexual relations.
• Alcoholic Anonymous caters to traditional Christian clientele. Non-traditional Christian alcoholics may not be given fair treatment at AA, resulting in misconstrued reports of “success”.
• Proponents of character development cite that there are universally accepted core values. These views are “universally accepted” according to whom? Some may feel that using those terms is a notion being used to get them to accept these values as such when really they are not.
Liberal rights movements have been responsible for many wonderful acts of reform and change in the United States. Such as, Labor Laws protecting children, Civil Rights Movement for equality, and Environmental Protection Laws that have lessened some of the havoc reaped on the globe with industrial development. Some specific evidence I found as it relates to preparing teens for the future is from Mike Males’ article, Popular culture does not influence America’s youth , Michael T. Ungars’ article, Peer pressure is not an important influence on America’s youth, Jonathan V. Lasts’ article, America’s youth are advancing morally
• Teen smoking is negatively associated with cigarette advertising campaigns. That is, the more that is spent on advertising for alcohol and tobacco the less teens are drinking and smoking.
• “We agree that individual choice and motivation need to be put back on drug use agenda” (Ungar, 2006) This was concluded from research findings that studied issues of selection and projection concerning smoking and peer groups; They found that 12-14 year olds who did not want to smoke avoided situations or friends who did.
• Through case studies of high-risk youth, Ungar concluded, “peer pressure is a myth that enables adults to explain youths’ troubling behaviors (Unger, 2006).
• Last states, “And so the Echo Boom is growing up without a moral compass: doing the right things, but guided only by the warm reassurances of pop psychology and the innate desire to avoid the mistakes of their elders” (Last, 2005).
Strengths. The strength of the stated evidence is it appears that although we are advancing technologically and loosening moral constraints that teens are not making bad decisions. The evidence cited and the studies performed are relevant in that people genuinely care about the growth and health of the youths of today. Case study research is data that is presented as a true-life story that is very interesting to follow along. Also, stories make information easier to remember and compare.
Weaknesses. One weakness noted in the evidence is that it is over simplifying information and leading it to be less accurate. In addition, as with the conservative viewpoints, the liberal’s motives/agenda seem to take precedence over the issue at hand.
Alternative Interpretations. Again, with using an oppositional viewpoint in which to understand and evaluate the evidence very different interpretations emerged.
• If we deduce that the more money advertiser spend on alcohol and tobacco the less teens indulge, could it be that the correlation is actually the more money advertiser spend the more awareness campaigns, parental involvement, and retailer/dealer laws and fines increase at the same time, lessening usage amongst teens.
• After research studies concerning selection and projection found that 12-14 year olds were not influenced by peers one must ask who, what, when, and where were these research studies conducted. For example, if there was a random sampling with questionnaires some may feel that 12-14 year olds cannot objectively answer questions about peers and peer groups yet due to a lack of maturity.
• Peer pressure as a myth that adult use to explain troubling behaviors. Could it be that as adults begin to investigate troubling behaviors peer groups and peer pressures naturally arise due to the youth involvement with certain groups?
• This generation has an “innate desire” to do the right thing to avoid the mistakes of their elders. Is it their own innate desires to not make mistakes, or are elder’s rearing their children differently in a greater effort to lessen the influences that caused them to make mistakes in the past?
Conservative/Liberal Critical Thinking Skills
Teaching critical thinking skills in an accumulative manner at school and at home with real life applications is the best way to build upon this skill set making its use smoother and more seemingly like second nature. It is true that we are all born with own genetic imprint that predispose us to certain behaviors. In addition, it is also true that the environment in which we are reared holds responsibilities for teaching us about the world in which we live and how to use it. Some evidences that support this claim are as follows.
• Piaget’s theory of intellectual development states the final period of development is that of Formal Operations, which begins around 12 years of age and continues through adolescence. According to this theory, teens would be able to learn critical thinking skills (Ginsburg & Opper, 1988).
• Psychological studies state there are three parts that make-up personality biological, personal experience, and cultural inheritance (Carlson & Carlson, 1998).
• According to Robert Siegler, Children’s thinking 3rd edition, development happens in an incremental process. In addition, that cognitive development occurs gradually over many years and coupled with societal influences.
• Physiological studies indicate that while 95% of the brain is formed by age five, the last 5% of higher thinking development occurs during adolescence (Carlson & Carlson, 1998).
Strengths. The strengths of this evidence is that it is gathered from many different sources and viewpoints such as, sociological, psychological, and physiological. Gathering information from many differing viewpoints only leads to strengthen ones argument. In addition, the fact that I have used some statistical numbers will have appeal on a scientific level because people like numbers.
Weaknesses. The weaknesses of this evidence are that the statistical numbers cited did not show where the information was retrieved from in order, to check for its validity. In addition, Piaget’s theories have been used and cited since the 1950’s although, there are many differing studies that refute and counter his claims stating that adolescents do not possess these higher thinking skills and that his experiments were flawed.
Alternative Interpretations. I examined this evidence looking for alternative interpretations and tried to think of what an opponent would say about the evidence.
• Upon examining Piaget’s theories one must consider he method of research. Through which means was he able to conclude that the final period of development occurs around age twelve. Some consider his testing methods flawed and bias. It is a lot easier to find evidence to support your claim when you are focused on proving it.
• Stating that there are three parts that make-up an individual’s personality is very vague, general, and oversimplified leaving some to wonder how valid of a statement that really is.
• Do traumatic events permanently alter cognitive development, or is it still gradual and consistent over time?
• In stating that the last 5% of brain formation occurs during adolescence, one may interpret that as not a very big percentage therefore, not a very big deal.
Solution I: Conservative Viewpoint
Conservative viewpoints tell you that the best way to prepare teens for future challenges is to teach character development, limit exposure to negative/outside influences through censorship, and to have families engage in religious affiliations.
Nurture. Most conservative viewpoints believe in the nurturing theory of development versus nature. It enables conservative thinking to rely on character development and religion as societal guiding tools instead of relying on theories that focus on individuals uncontrollable innate behavior patterns.
Limitations. The most prevalent limitation is people’s vehement belief in the separation of church and state. There are such controversies over the matters that it is extremely difficult to incorporate moral ideas and conduct codes into societal domains such as, public schools. Some families do not want any “religious” involvement and/or theories imparting ideas into adolescent thinking. Conservative thinking imposes belief systems and belief structures for living that some feel violates constitutional rights of freedom. Liberal thinkers vehemently oppose this viewpoint. Another limitation to the conservative viewpoints in preparing teens for future challenges are that they are traditionalist in their thinking and resistant to change. Some of the controversial issues and challenges teens will be facing may be increasingly uncomfortable for conservative thinkers to deal with.
Solution II: Liberal Viewpoint
Liberal perspectives tout the best way to prepare teens for future challenges is to give them freedom of choice, individual rights/liberties, and exposure to the various cultures and choices readily available through media outlets, cultural influences, and various social settings.
Nature. From many liberals’ perspectives, the genetic nature, and make-up of the individual predetermines and ultimately guides the persons’ footsteps. Sexual orientation, education, and cultural variances are predetermined at birth and not decisions to be made at all but natural occurrences in our growth and journey through life.
Limitations. The predominant limitations with-in the theory of nature over nurture is that it does not take into account individual responsibility. How can an individual be held accountable for choices that will have an affect on one’s immediate family, then community, and eventually society as a whole if they were genetically predisposition to behave accordingly? Conservative thinkers vehemently oppose this viewpoint. Contradicting, that if one is trained properly that they can determine their own course and do not mindlessly accept a chosen path. Another limitation to the liberal perspective and viewpoint is that in their quest for noble acts such as, equal/civil rights and autonomy, sometimes democracy is ignored leaving the beliefs/ rights of the majority rejected.
Solution III: Conservative/Liberal Critical Thinking Skills
I am proposing to teach children critical thinking skills at a younger age. This will better equip them with the necessary problem solving abilities when challenging issues ultimately arise in the future. Along with critical thinking skills one must have moral standards that helps to filter the information, that will generate conclusion that are well thought out for themselves as well as, the common goals of their families, communities, and society as a whole. This theory incorporate ideas from both Conservative and Liberal perspectives.
Nature and Nurture. It is necessary to look objectively at both of the opposing viewpoints in order to grasp the issue from all sides. A well thought out response is one that includes strong responses and ideas from differing perspectives. Each side gives compelling arguments that carry strength and validity. I believe it is a shame to discount strengths in one argument for the sake of choosing a side.
Limitations. The main limitations with-in my solution of teaching critical thinking skills is that I wish to couple the ideology of conservative thought, through character development, and liberal approaches, including freedoms, choices, and respect; Which, due to the all or nothing fallacy in thinking, causes conflicts between proponents of opposing sides/issues with solutions that overlap. Another limitation to teaching adolescents critical thinking skills is their physiological capabilities to learn these abilities. Cognitively, they may not be ready to understand fully the depth that is required in critical thinking. They may comprehend the process but not the application of critical thinking skills to their everyday, natural thought processes. These skills become more accessible through maturation and experience.
It is extremely difficult to implement ideas in a cohesive manner into mainstream usage. It must be collectively accepted by the majority in the United States before it can begin to be implemented into the public school sector with funds and community programs accessible to the mass society. Since I propose a fusion of ideals from both sides, it will meet resistance from Conservative and Liberals alike who cannot fathom accepting any ideas from the others’ viewpoint. It has been a struggle to extract “solid” evidence on either side of the issue. As I continue searching and researching for good evidence to support either left or right winged claims, I have become increasingly frustrated that I cannot find any “great” evidence from either camp supporting the issues without all of the fallacies in their reasoning. It is like both sides run around inflating their own agendas and not really wanting/trying to investigate truth.
Each side carries strengths and weaknesses to their points. Most adults want to limit their children’s exposure to unnecessary violence and gratuitous sex. That does not mean that they want complete censorship over the material just stricter guidelines and access. Also, most adults want their children to grow up knowing and practicing right from wrong utilizing good moral habits but that does not mean they want any specific religious doctrine to govern this country. Why then can we not take the strongest, most agreed upon attributes from either side and incorporate them into the best way to prepare teens for future challenges? This would create the best solution, which is, to teach adolescent children how think through issues critically (asking appropriate questions) coupled with character development (knowing right from wrong) to guide them towards making the best decisions. The critical thinking skills will encourage them ask questions about information and situations leading them to make the right choices for “themselves”. It does not keep the information/influences away teenagers but gives them the mindset to think through the different types of lifestyles/choices being offered. Most parents do not want their children mindlessly ingesting popular culture and theories. Where as, the character development will enable them to think about the “greater good” involved with in their individual decisions. Character development supports growth in selflessness. That is, it allows teens to see how their actions will affect others, not just individually. As I investigated claims from liberal and conservative perspectives, it became clear to me that both sides held strengths and weaknesses. The best solution is to incorporate critical thinking skills from the liberal perspective and character development from the conservative viewpoint to encourage teens to be prepared for future challenges. This solution is superior in spite of its limitations because most people do live nor think in all or nothing terms. Reasonable people know that there varying degrees of “correctness” on both sides. Also, it will help in cultivating solutions within larger problems such as global leadership that is concerned with shaping teens into respectable and responsible leaders of tomorrow and economical growth that is concerned with teen spending habits.
Continued Research. Keeping in mind that scholarly research needs to continue because changes in the environment and cultural climates will affect these solutions and produce differing outcomes. People must remain open to change and new ideas as they become available, being careful to never limit themselves by becoming haughty /arrogant in their mindsets that they have found the “perfect” solution. Flexibility and humility are a significant part of critical thinking leaving it the best solution for now.
Browne, M.N. & Keeley, S.M. (2007). Asking the right questions (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson, Prentice Hall.
Carlson, Dale & Carlson, Hannah (1998). Where’s your head?. Madison, CT: Bick Publishing House.
Deutsch, R.M & Lippencott, J.M. (2005). 7 things your teenager won’t tell you. New York, New York. Ballentine Books.
Ginsburg, H. & Opper, S. (1988). Piaget’s theory of intellectual development (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Simon & Schuster, Prentice Hall.
Nosich, G.M. (2005). Learning to think things through (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson, Prentice Hall.
Roth, P. (1999). Enter at your own risk. Harold Shaw Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois.
Siegler, R.S. (1998). Children’s thinking (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson, Prentice Hall.
Bennett, W. J. (2003). Popular culture negatively influences America’s youth. Opposing Viewpoints® Series. Greenhaven Press, 2003. Retrieved April 5, 2007, from Thomas Gale. http://galegroup.com/servlet/ORVC>
Fagen, P. F. (2002). Religion can solve America’s social problems. Opposing Viewpoints® Series. Greenhaven Press, 2002. Retrieved April 5, 2007, from Thomas Gale. http://galegroup.com/servlet/ORVC>
Last, J. V. (2005). America’s youth are advancing morally. Opposing Viewpoints® Series. Greenhaven Press, 2005. Retrieved April 5, 2007, from Thomas Gale. http://galegroup.com/servlet/ORVC>
Males, M. (2003). Popular culture does not negatively influence America’s youth. Opposing Viewpoints® Series. Greenhaven Press, 2003. Retrieved April 5, 2007, from Thomas Gale. http://galegroup.com/servlet/OVRC>
Ryan, K. & Bohlin, K. (2003). Schools should teach youths ethical values. Opposing Viewpoints® Series. Greenhaven Press, 2003. Retrieved April 24, 2007, from Thomas Gale. http://galegroup.com/servlet/ORVC>