Wednesday, June 29, 2011

At Thirteen

     Thirteen-year-olds are on the very bottom of the teenage spectrum. They can't do many of the things older teens can do, but still face the same problems of older teens and adults.
At thirteen years old you can be run over by a car and breath the air they pollute, but you can't drive one.
     You can lose your favorite teacher to budget cuts, eat disgusting cafeteria food, spend hours each day learning useless information you know won't help you in the future, but you can't serve on a school board or even vote for the people who make the choices that will shape both your education and future.
     You can lose the woods you love to play in to land developers. You can watch as older people use up natural resources and trash the world you'll inherit. You can tell them to stop, but why would they listen?
     At thirteen, you're old enough to get on facebook and twitter and spread your opinions. You're old enough to attend protests. You're old enough to collect signatures for a petition. You're old enough to look adults straight in the eye, speak calmly, and make them listen. 
     You're old enough to make a difference.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Adults and Authority

Milgram shock machine

     Recently I was on a neighborhood campout with many neighborhood teenagers and a few adult leaders. Everybody's stuff was piled into one trailer. When we were setting up camp I looked in the trailer for my sleeping bag. I didn't find it, but there was another dark blue sleeping bag in a black case, just like mine. I began asking around to see if anybody had taken mine by mistake. I looked in the leaders' tent and found a dark blue sleeping bag rolled out with a black case not far from it. I took it and left the other one in its place.
    A few hours later, one of the leaders came into the tent I shared with several other girls. She was holding the sleeping bag and said, "Eliza, this is yours."
     "No it isn't. That one has a yellow drawstring cord one the case. Mine doesn't."
     We argued for a little while. At first, she has plausible counterarguments such as, "I watched my husband pack that." But before long, her only argument was "Because, that's my sleeping bag. Because, that's my sleeping bag."
     My whole tent was listening. "Pearl", a girl who has lived in my neighborhood for as long as I can remember, gone to the same church, and sat next to me in CTE last year, took the leader's side. "Eliza," she said, "That's your sleeping bag." Other girls I'd known for several years agreed with her.
     I don't really blame Pearl, or any of the other girls. The leader had two qualities going for her: she was an adult with authority. Almost anyone will take the word of an adult over that of a teenager. Besides, people are naturally submissive in the face of authority. A psychologist named Stanley Milgram proved this in an interesting experiment. The purpose of his experiment was to study authority but was camoflauged as a teaching experiment.
     A volunteer was instructed by a person in a white coat to ask a student several questions. If the student answered incorrectly, they were supposed to shock them. In reality, the "student" was in on the experiment and felt no pain. They put on a good show, though-crying out, begging them to stop, even faking heart attacks. The white coated officials ordered the volunteers to continue. Did they? In most cases, yes. After all, these were ordinary, good people. Good people don't rebel against authority. Teenagers rebel against authority.
     This experiment wasn't confined to a specific group of people. It was preformed in America, Australia, Germany, and Italy among other places. Both male and female subjects were used. Most of them must have been good, obedient people. They somehow managed to convince themselves that the "students" deserved cruelty, or that they were not responsible. Prejudice isn't that different from electric shocks. As long as you can convince yourself it's okay, you'll go along with it without protest.
     In case you're wondering, I didn't trade sleeping bags with the leader. The one I used disappeared when we broke camp. I decided that since she'd made such a fuss, she could have it. Maybe there were three similar sleeping bags and we both were right, but somebody else had taken the wrong one. I took home the one she'd called mine and my parents verified that it wasn't ours. I haven't gotten mine back yet.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Other Side of Ageism

     I've been thinking a lot about the other side of age discrimination-ageism against older people. Particularly against the elderly. It's sadly common for people to think elderly people are useless or a burden to society. And if you ask me, that's just stupid. Some of my favorite people are in their seventies, like my grandparents, for example. What's not to like? They bring presents, paint pictures, talk about all the cool books they read, take pictures with out looking, own cool dogs, tell war stories, and bake cookies on top of it all. I'm sure I'm not the only one out there with awesome grandparents.
     As for the stereotypes about old age making you stupid? Next time you hear that, look at who's talking. Sheesh, have some respect from your elders. One of the smartest people I ever met was my health teacher, Ms. Rallison*. She'd been a teacher for a long time as well as doing some other jobs. Not only did she really know what she was talking about, but she knew how to make it interesting and proufound to a classroom full of teenagers. Not everybody can do that. Then there's my Sunday school teacher, Sister Rider*.  Like Ms. Rallison, she's really smart and fun. She doesn't just lecture, she tells stories and jokes***. Plus, she wears cool clothes and brings cookies almost every week.
     Bottom line, people are great. Age doesn't make a difference.
*I don't use real names online.
**Same as above
***Ha! Made you look.
Note: I'm going on another no internet vacation. I'll post as soon as I get back on Friday.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just to Clear Things Up

     A reader has informed me that some of my posts are being interpreted as jeunist, or anitadult. I have nothing against adults, I'm just trying to point out that teenagers are often misjudged. I do not believe that anybody is superior to anybody else because of their age. I'll try my hardest to avoid appearing so in further posts. I like the way you said it, Calantha: "We all just have different points of view from where we are in life."

Monday, June 13, 2011

As An Old Dead Guy Said...

     Everybody say hi to Mr. Grumpy. He's been dead for almost three thousand years. He was a writer back when he was alive in Ancient Greece. Here's what he wrote:
"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivulous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words...when I was young, I was taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly disrespectful and impatient of restraint." hope? Mr. Grumpy, or Hesiod, as he is more commonly called, said that way back in the 8th century BC. Somehow, that frivulous, reckless generation survived. As did the next frivulous, reckless one and the next, all the way up to this one.
     Nowadays, I hear a lot of people saying practically the same sort of thing Hesiod did. Somehow, I don't think the world is doomed quite yet.

Do Our Opinions Not Matter?

     Dale Price is  being officially  called the World's Most Embarrassing Dad. Each day for the entire school year, he stood outside in a different costume to wave at the school bus carrying his sixteen-year-old son, Rain.
     Suddenly, my parents don't seem that bad anymore.
     I read a newspaper article about Price's antics and how they have gone viral. The reporter interviewed Price and the bus driver, but not Rain or any of the other students on the bus. That seems more than a little strange to me. This is Rain's dad. He's being affected by this more than anybody. Isn't his insight the most important? Had I written this article, I would have interviewed Rain first, then his father, a classmate, his mother, and then the bus driver.
     Sadly, very few adults seem to care about the opinions of young people. We're here, we have our own ideas, and we matter. So why are we never heard?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Teens Can Invent, Too

     Popsicles. Cancer screening. The toy truck. Sign language translator. The toddler-proof safety gate. Non-reusable syringes. Earmuffs. Some of these are little inventions that we use each day for entertainment or necessity, while others save lives. But what do they all have in common? In case you're too lazy to raise your eyes to the header, I'll tell you: They were all invented by kids.
     I'm using the term "kids" loosely here. Elizabeth Nathan and Gabrielle Pollack (syringe) were nineteen, technically adults. Ryan Patterson (translator), Chester Greenwood (earmuffs), Ben and Janet Song (cancer screening) were all teenagers when they came up with their inventions. The rest were invented by thirteen-and-unders.
     Like many of their adult counterparts, these young inventors got their ideas from simple everyday experiences. Frank Epperson left a drink with a stirring stick out overnight. Ryan Patterson was sitting in his local Burger King, watching a man translate sign language into English. A thought became an idea, an idea became an invention, an invention changed the way we all live our lives, one way or another. Just because they're young doesn't mean they can't make an impact. And that doesn't mean you can't either.

We Were There, Too!

     Every day of the school year, teenagers sit through history classes, learning about adults who shaped history. Sure, they might throw in the story of a young person here and there, when the story fits the topic. They might mention a few teenaged soldiers or the girls who went on strike for better working conditions in factories. In America, they'll certainly mention Sacagawea, who met Lewis and Clark when she was only sixteen. But for the most part, the younger side of history is nonexistent. When I ask my  friends what they think about this, they respond, "Well, teenagers haven't done anythng important."
     We Were There, Too!: Young People in U.S. History, written by Phillip Hoose, proves them wrong. The book starts of with the story of Columbus' cabin boy and finishes with the young activists of the nineties. Every single story is true. Some of these youth, like Frederick Douglas and John Quincy Adams, became famous as adults. Some, such as Jennie Curtis, a young strike leader, vanished into history. Still others died as teenagers, like Samuel Maverick, a seventeen-year-old killed in the Boston Massacre.
     One of the reasons I like this book is because it talks about minorities. Hispanic-Americans, Africans-Americans, Asian-Americans, women, and, of course, young people are all written of. It honestly changed the way I saw the world. After reading it, I felt proud to be a teenager and wanted to go out and make an impact. I learned of most of the people in my Teenagers Who Changed the World series from this book. I encourage everybody, regardless of age, to read it.
    Note: I am not being paid to praise this book. I did not receive a free copy from the author or publisher. I got it from the library and read it several times. This is an honest review.

Friday, June 10, 2011

This Just Makes Me Laugh

     We live in a dark, dangerous world. Tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, wars, and drug abuse are all plauging the peace of the world. But in the German city Eppelheim, citizens are facing a very serious problem that makes all others pale in comparison. Teenagers are sitting on the benches the wrong way, perching on the top of the bench with their feet on the seats. Some claim their shoes dirty the benches. Luckily, the mayor came up with a brilliant solution: put the seat on top! Thank-you. The world can breathe freely now.

Dying Teenager Makes Bucket List

     Everybody has things they want to do some time in their life, but most of us procrastinate. We figure we'll have long lives, lots of time to do what we want. Alice Pyne doesn't have that luxury. At fifteen, Alice has been fighting cancer for four years. As she's reaching the end of her battle, she came up with a list of seventeen things she'd like to do in her remaining time. The list includes
  • To swim with sharks
  • To go whale watching
  • To make everyone sign up to be a bone marrow donor
  • To enter Mabel (cute doggie in the picture) in a dog show
     As Alice's list goes viral, she inspires countless others to take action, help others, and fulfill our own dreams. She reminds adults just how special teenagers are. Thank-you, Alice, and good luck with your list!

You're Only a Teenager Once

     You hear a lot about how teenagers should act more mature, more adult. But we aren't adults. We're teenagers. The teenage years are a time to have fun, make good choices, make bad ones, and learn from your experiences. As far as I'm concerned, adults have exclusive rights to all that "grown-up stuff", like worrying about mortage, employment, the economy, blah, blah, blah. You're only a teenager once, so why not enjoy it while you can?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Syrian Teen Murdered at Protest

     Anybody not living underneath a rock is aware of the protests taking place in the Middle East and Northwestern Africa. Teens and young adults are playing a huge part in all of this. Rebels are communicating via social Facebook, Twitter, and other tools of the youth. But some are doing more than just spreading the word. One Syrian boy is rumored to have given his life.
     Thirteen-year-old Hamza Ali al-Kahteeb participated in a demonstration outside of the city of Deraa on April 29. Some accounts say he was shot three times and killed. Others say he was arrested and tortured. A thirteen-year-old, tortured. His body was returned to his family almost a month later on May 21. Activist sites say that in order to get his body back, the family had to sign a paper saying they would keep quiet and bury his remains immediately.
     Here's an equation for you, Syrian government: protesters+murder=martyrs+very angry people. Especially when those martyrs are young. Back in 1770 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, a group of boys were throwing rocks at the store of a merchant who was selling British goods. The merchant panicked, took his gun, and fired a random shot into the crowd. Twelve-year-old Christopher Seider was picking up a rock when the bullet struck him in the head. A few days later, a funeral procession of 5,000 Bostonians filled the streets. That made many people in Boston very mad. That attitude spread, starting a little event that would be known as the American Revolution. It happened once, it can happen again. Smart move, Syrian government. Your people are coming down on you. Human rights groups are coming down on you. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is coming down on you. Do you know what she said? "I can only hope that this child will not die in vain but that the Syrian Government will end the brutality and begin a transition to real democracy."
     Hundreds of other revolutionaries were killed, but this one stands out because of his age. Be careful. Don't mess with teenagers or the world will mess with you.