Ending Adolescence earlier and the obsession with productivity

November 13th, 2008 by jose
== Summary ==

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BusinessWeek has an interesting post on how adolescence could be a failed social experiment and we should let 13-yo kids take adult-level responsibilities.

While the idea is good, I still find it troublesome in a society that works more than ever and has less spare time even when technology should provide abundance of resources otherwise.

The idea of rushing kids into adulthood does sound a bit like getting them to be productive as soon as possible. What happens then with those years where you experiment and test new things? While they may appreciate the new-found responsibility at first, long-term consequences of this decision are unpredictable. Will we have less creative people? I for one didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life at 13. If adolescence was a social experiment that enabled upper-class to take their kids out of sweat shops, then removing adolescence will land them into a new "intellectual sweat shop" environment. Take China for example. Kids (only kids!) are under a lot of pressure to be the very best at some specialized domain from very early in life. I would be surprised if this has no consequences. As Cal Newport wrote, there’s a general obsession with productivity that seems to be preying on our youngest. And then, the feared academic crisis.

So we translation from physical sweat shops to intellectual ones.  How is this better? We seem to bring our children into a world where most of us are time-poor, even though there is a (theoretical) abundance of resources since the industrial revolution.

Most people accept laughable payment for their time (that includes academics). So time is the scarce resource. During adolescence, we are granted an oasis of time -that in retrospective, may feel wasted-. Do we want to rush teenagers out of it?

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11 Responses to “Ending Adolescence earlier and the obsession with productivity”

  1. JohannNo Gravatar Says:

    Interesting article by Mr. Newt Gingrich, but I don’t buy it. It sounds too much like “Let’s just do everything like in the good old days and all problems of today will vanish.” Conservative thinking, the bad kind.

    I was at first a little irritated by your usage of the term “intellectual sweatshop”. I thought, is it really appropriate to compare the conditions of sweatshops e.g. in asia with no labor rights, with those, let’s say, of a student at a university? Then I recalled a conversation with a fellow PhD student (he was in pharmacy), who said that his boss told him “Sure you can take all of your allowed 5 weeks of vacation per year, but…” leaving it open what consequences he would face. My colleague was intimidated none the less, he seriously considers not taking all of his vacation because of fear being viewed as a slacker.
    I thought: Wow, all those years of fighting for worker’s rights during the last century, gone in a second. It’s one thing if you _decide_ not to take all of your vacation because you want to get going with your projects (although some work health specialists would probably advice against it). But not taking it because of some norm installed in the “productivity system”, that really scared me. We need a new generation of hippies, I guess.

  2. Roxanne @ Free Resume TemplatesNo Gravatar Says:

    We have the almost same problem in Romania. Kids are rushed to learn too many things that they won’t use all the rest of their life.

    This isn’t a bad ideea, because it’s mean to develop the pupil’s creativity. But the things that are in the program, don’t seem too creative.

    I like the way you write, keep up!

    Happy blogging and greetings from Romania!

  3. Kyle HowardNo Gravatar Says:

    It seems to me that adolescence is getting longer and longer to our detriment. It was not so long ago that 18 was considered the beginning of adulthood. Now, kids are pushed right out of highschool into college where their parents continue to pay for everything and have continual authority over their life. Its becoming fairly commonplace for this to last through a masters or even doctoral degree. Adolescence has gotten out of hand.

  4. Rebecca @ Excessive Sweating BlogNo Gravatar Says:

    Interesting discussion. I too agree with the article. Not that I mean we need to go back to our ancient method on working. But about ending adolescence early. Children really need to have more time before being given big responsibilities. When they are not ready for it they can’t do it properly either. Which in turn becomes a problem

  5. NickyNo Gravatar Says:

    I disagree with you kyle, I personally am a university student and am 20. I support myself at university and took on the responsibilty of my own life by the time i was 18. I agree that there are some parents who do still have authority over their childrens lives but that is not the case with all students.
    It is true that there is a push to go straight from school to college and then onto university but at university there is no way that a student can get through without being responsible for their own actions, no parent can do the work for you.

    Adolescence is a very important time for learning and finding out who you are and what you want to do with your life. I feel that responsibilities should gradually be introduced during adolescence but an adolescent should not be forced to take on adult resonsibilitied. By forcing these responsibilities onto adolescents it is only likely to cause them to become rebelious or to become scared of these responsiblities and back away from them because they do not feel that they can cope.

  6. Kids wall artNo Gravatar Says:

    I think that adolescents should be allowed the freedom to be kids. At the same time, I do not think that they should be free from responsibilities. Adolescence is the time when kids can learn the value of hardwork, and how to save money. I know that as a teenager, I learned that not all things in life are free, and to get the things I wanted, I had to work for them. I think we do our children a disservice by feeding into all of their wants and desires without properly preparing them for the real world that starts outside of mom and dad’s house.

  7. Pam @ Soma OnlineNo Gravatar Says:

    Indeed adolescents should be allowed the freedom to be kids. Its only for few years. They will have many responsibilities during the life time. which is a lot of years compared to the years you being a kid. They really need to enjoy them self and not be burdened with big responsibilities.

  8. LMSNo Gravatar Says:

    That is a really awesome article. Your blog is really a great resource for students. The article really reflects the real situation currently prevailing in most of the countries. Adolescents certainly should be allowed the freedom to be kids and not anything else.

  9. Learning Management SystemNo Gravatar Says:

    Speaking about “During adolescence, we are granted an oasis of time -that in retrospective, may feel wasted-. Do we want to rush teenagers out of it?”

    To my mind we should give our teenagers a possibility to choose their way. In other ways they should choose from different things they can go for: continue to study, starting to work or getting more duties.

    They should choose by themselfes in order not to blame anyone later.

  10. Learning online foreverNo Gravatar Says:

    I think that teenagers should choose their own way and even they will do a mistake – will be a good case to learn and not to repeat a mistake in the future!

  11. sun touch productsNo Gravatar Says:

    Interesting blog you’ve got here. Been reading it for few hours now. Well with regard to this article I too agree that adolescence need more time to spend as a kid. Without responsibilities piling up on them in a young age.

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