Sunday, May 29, 2005

What tweens and grads can do (or not)

Things seen and heard this week, that add up to something:

1. An e-mail Mama Squirrel read, about a disappointing experience attending a high school graduation, mainly because the valedictory speeches were so poor. The writer explained that, besides the usual poor grammar, the speeches contained little of future plans, no thanks to teachers etc., and little besides "we had a good time in high school." The writer (who teaches in a cottage school) compared this to a similar occasion she attended (at the cottage school) where the eighth-grade grads made a better showing (and made much better speeches) than those twelfth-graders.

2. Mr. Fixit's high squirrel reunion this weekend, where he toured his old classrooms and saw displays of current student work. Even to Mr. Fixit's eyes, the English-class projects on display had style--comic book style--but a great lack of content. "They were like what we might have done for grade seven and eight projects," he said with some amazement. "In high school, we were expected to write essays. With lots of words."

3. The Squirrel parents watched a news special this week about "tweens." There was nothing really unexpected in it; it was largely about marketing and about how tweens spend their leisure time (mostly plugged in). The tweens interviewed seemed to have a great deal of the "we know more because we're younger" attitude. As the parents of an offspring of that age, Mama Squirrel and Mr. Fixit know that just being almost 13 does not mean that one has to watch graphic videos and choose one's clothes from tween magazines. Amazingly enough, there are realio trulio persons of that age who know enough not to bother with That Stuff, and the Squirrels are rather proud to be the parents of one such person, who does like to do her nails and fix her hair a different way each day, but who has never yet asked to put anything sharp and shiny through her face, and who actually seems to like being with the rest of her family, most of the time.

Conclusions after all this?

Mama Squirrel thinks we (collectively, that is, Our Culture) show teenagers and tweens a great deal of disrespect. And not in the way they think (making them leave their backpacks at the front of the dollar store, and telling them how they should behave). The disrespect is in giving them less to be responsible for than they deserve; giving them less to think about than they could actually deal with; and keeping them brainwashed and treating them as some kind of moronic consumers. Unfortunately, after being given so little for so long, that seems to be what most of them turn into.

There is a 19-year-old young woman in the Squirrels' city who has recently had to take on the job of caring for her younger siblings after the death of their father (there is no mother either). She has interrupted her own schooling to do this; she is handling this as a fairly recent arrival to this country and managing here in a language that is not her first one. Mama Squirrel thinks that maybe it is a good thing that this big sister was brought up with the values of another culture (from what she can tell from the news stories), because if all she had to go by was the training of typical North American teens, she might not have done nearly so well as she has. Or done it at all. Something to think about, there.


Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

Yes, much to think about here...profound, MamaSquirrel. Have you read John Taylor Gatto? He would be offering quite the standing ovation to this post!
Ann holyexperience

coffeemamma said...

We also have one of "those" teens who could not care less about the marketing aimed at her age group, and the attitudes that are forced upon them by our society. She has more than once been the topic of conversation among neighbours.

They say things like, "Wow, you are so lucky!" or "I wish MY daughter was more like yours."

But then, amongst themselves, they say things like, "It's so sad that she will never fit in with kids her own age", and "She's really too serious, she needs to go to school." Even better, the mom's complain about their dd's style of dress, and in the same breath comment on MY dd's lack of style ;-)

So, from this I gather that though they are envious of me and wish their dd's were more like mine, they think she needs to change and that I am raising her all wrong. Too funny!

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

MamaSquirrel, I liked this so much that I took the liberty of submitting it in the 'Smarter Than I' Carnival. And you really are so much smarter than I.=)

Mama Squirrel said...

Thanks for all your comments--DHM, you are much too kind but thank you for submitting it.