Adolescence isn’t really real.

Robert Epstein, author of The Case Against Adolescence in an interview in Psychology Today:

I believe that young people should have more options—the option to work, marry, own property, sign contracts, start businesses, make decisions about health care and abortions, live on their own—every right, privilege, or responsibility an adult has. […] competent young people deserve the chance to compete where it counts, and many will surprise us.

There is so much that I want to quote from the interview, I’ll just stick with that.  Go read the interview and the book. I’m just happy to have someone else confirm what I’ve suspected for a long time: teenagers exhibit behavior problems because we isolate and infantilize them.  Stop treating mature people like small children and they’ll become productive citizens. Oh, and ditch the current factory-based educational system which only serves to provide outmoded skills while keeping potentially productive members of society in lockdown for no good reason.

7 thoughts on “Adolescence isn’t really real.”

  1. So whatcha gonna do about it?

    What are you going to do about it? Are you going to let them drop out of school? Get married at 15?

    OK, maybe nothing that extreme, but you’re certainly at the threshold of putting those words to action and I’m curious how you see it playing out.

    1. Re: So whatcha gonna do about it?

      Actually, I’ve no problem with people under 18 getting married. Sure, a lot of people will say they aren’t responsible, but that is exactly the point: they aren’t responsible because we don’t give them any responsibility — we infantilize them.

      Unfortunately, as points out, the government restricts what I can do as a parent. Despite my hopes to give my children as much responsibility as possible as early as possible, they are legally restricted from, say, owning property.

      “Dropping out of school” is less of an issue since and I agree with Mr. Epstein’s critique of public education. Schools unhealthily isolate children in age-specific peer groups with extremely restricted privileges. As Epstein points out, incarcerated adults have twice as many privileges as high school students. Mainstreaming and programs like “No Child Left Behind” only serve to exacerbate the problems endemic in the public education system. So, it is for these reasons (and not the religious reasons like many people in our area) that we’ve taken over the education of our children.

      I do plan to make sure they get some kind of work (not a McJob!) as soon as possible. They’ve worked on a paper route for the past few months (though we are giving that up for now). That, and exposing them to “higher education” ASAP are all planned.

      On a side note, an article in our local paper talked about a survey of University professors that found most think people graduating from high school are not prepared for college. Not because their education wasn’t broad enough, but because it didn’t concentrate on getting the fundamentals right. Public education tries to teach too much and does it poorly.

      1. Re: So whatcha gonna do about it?

        I don’t think public education can be generalized to such an extent. Inner city, under-funded, under-staffed publication education is going to be much different from small city/town/suburbia public education. A lot of the public school experience depends on what you put into it. The school doesn’t have to be the only place where learning takes place.

        Also, I think weathering the social strata of public (or private) schooling can help prepare you for life beyond school, perhaps moreso than a home school environment with little social interaction outside of family.

        Just throwing in a different viewpoint, from a public school veteran.

        1. Re: So whatcha gonna do about it?


          I’ve heard that argument plenty. Many people are very convinced that our current public education system is just fine.

          For reference, we sent our children to the local school — a well-funded, small, suburban school — and my wife and I were involved, volunteering to help the teachers. We had taught our older child at home before that and, during the time she was in public school, we saw behavioral changes and lagging performance.

          Some of that may be natural, but it is hard to tell what is “natural” and what isn’t during child development because so much of what we know about child development we’ve learned from observing children growing up in a public education system.

          Nevertheless, we knew we could do better when it came to her performance.

          But, really, I recommend reading the interview. I think he addresses your points better than I could. I’ll be reading the book, too, and let you guys know what I think.

  2. The key word is “competent”

    I’m fully on board with this. My parents gave me a lot of freedom as a teenager. I had a job and a credit card, and could pretty much do what I want, within certain guidelines. I was responsible because my parents allowed me responsibility, and they allowed me responsibility because I was responsible.

    Maybe it’s just the crotchety libertarian in me, but I’m a bit more maddened by the increasing number of laws that restrict my (future) teenagers. It’s one thing for me to say they can’t do something, but if government says that they can’t do it then I can’t allow it even if I wanted to.

    Government here includes public schools too, which can be the worst offenders of restricting teenage activity. See School tells student to pay $1,000 to remove peace display for a recent example.

    1. Re: The key word is “competent”


      Any ideas how to actually start to implement this? What were you doing when you were 10?

      (Also, see my comment to Jeremy, above.)

  3. Re: sort of agree

    Oh, no doubt that jobs can be just as boring as school. The difference is that an adult has privileges. I wouldn’t work at a job where I had to raise my hand and ask permission to use the restroom.

    And that’s what I mean by “lockdown” — students are stripped of any semblance of autonomy. You can easily quit your job and (with some effort) find another. Switching schools or teachers is not the choice a student can make.

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