“These teens are useless. They come to us with a reading age of five. Their only hope is to improve themselves just enough to marry into the middle class.”
Someone said this to me recently and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. I hate it when something gets stuck in my head (water’s the worst…). And when things replay in my head it’s like a frigging James Earl Jones voice over, saturating the replay with all the significance of God clearing his throat. In an effort to exorcize God’s phlegm I’m going to briefly bore anyone foolish enough to venture onto this blog with my views on this statement.
Firstly, we all know these sorts of teens (or think we do by appearance). You know the ones – bad haircuts, bad language, bad dress sense, mooching about in shopping centre car parks wearing T-shirts with slogans so offensive that I wonder how their mothers actually let them out of their cages that day. I’ve been as enraged as the next person when some 15 year old with the Rock of Gibraltar on his shoulder loosens a grolly at my feet as I’m passing. (If you spit on my shoes I will vomit on yours). So what is it about?
I’m no social anthropologist – I’m not even a teacher – so I am ridiculously unqualified to offer an opinion as definitive as that given to me during a discussion about connecting with teenagers. And I know that I am probably in the minority in having an opinion about these sorts of teens which does not involve them either ending up in prison or marrying “up”. But the truth is someone failed these kids multiple times. As soon as invalidation meets adolescent hormones, we’re in trouble. And I do mean “we”. It’s not just that these are the people who will be running the aged care facilities we’re all in someday so let’s not piss them off anymore – it’s that somewhere around their young adulthood, when we’re bleating at these teens about taking personal responsibility, we conveniently forget that we were accountable for them up until yesterday so if their reading age is five, we bloody failed!
And are we abandoning the marginalized too quickly? If the adults in their lives have decided there’s no point, why should the objects of this apathy decide any differently? And let’s look seriously at the option of marrying “up”, if that’s their “only hope”. What does that mean? We stop concentrating on engaging with kids who are failing our expectations and simply concentrate on teaching them not to wipe their mouths on the tablecloth or fart in church? Strike me purple. I can hear James Earl again…
I think teenagers from lower socio-economic areas are in danger of being ghetto-ed by the very people entrusted to inspire them. I understand being jaded – however the longer I’ve been in this world I’ve found that the demographic who has most inspired my cynicism has been grown-ups.