Teenagers already live in a dystopia. Their lives are controlled by the government and their parents. If legal adults were treated like American teenagers, that government would be considered one of the most oppressive on Earth.
The government requires 6-16-year-olds to attend a government institution that subjects them to unconstitutional searches. Here, in public schools, they must ask permission to use the bathroom, eat when they are told, and not speak unless called upon.
If you are under 18 you cannot work without government permission, and cannot even walk on public sidewalks at certain times of day, like during school hours or after a certain time of night.
And the age that you have all your rights keeps creeping up. 18 is a legal adult who still cannot buy or drink alcohol legally.
California wants to restrict driver’s licenses until age 21. If the governor signs this bill, driver’s under 21 cannot drive after 11 p.m. or have friends in the car. California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, and Oregon limit tobacco sales to those aged 21 or older. Other states like Indiana and New Hampshire are considering the same.
Lawmakers frequently float ideas about extending the school day and extending the school year. Some even want to add an extra two years to high school.
A New Mexico bill would force high school juniors to apply to at least one college. Students could get a waiver if they prove that they are going to a vocational school, internship, apprenticeship, or military service.
The New Mexico bill is modeled after a similar requirement that Gentry said was put in place for high school students in San Marcos, Texas, more than a decade ago. And last year in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel made post-high school plans a graduation requirement — saying students had to either have plans to enter the military, take part in a “gap year” program, get a job offer or apprenticeship, or have an acceptance letter from a college.
Perhaps politicians have the best intentions, but their programs are coercive. For over a hundred years, the government has been stripping “children” of their rights, and artificially extending childhood.
And this is the cause of the tumultuous teens. Freedom makes people happy, and freedom fighters of any age will go to great lengths to resist oppression.
Robert Epstein argues in his book Teen 2.0: Saving Our Children and Families from the Torment of Adolescence, that age has nothing to do with competency. Some people are capable of running their lives at 14, and some will never be responsible for themselves.
Through most of human history, young people were integrated into adult society early on, but beginning in the late 1800s, new laws and cultural practices began to isolate teens from adults, imposing on them an increasingly large set of restrictions, and artifically extending childhood well past puberty. New research suggests that teens today are subjected to more than ten times as many restrictions as are most adults, and adulthood is delayed until well into the twenties or thirties. It’s likely that the turmoil we see among teens is an unintended result of the artificial extension of childhood.
The increasing authoritarian view towards adolescents is a vicious cycle. The group is perceived as acting out, so restrictions increase. These restrictions in turn cause resistant behavior, which is met with even more draconian measures.
The suicide rate of teen girls is at an all-time high. For teenage boys, the high was in the early 90s but it is once again climbing. The teenage male suicide rate is almost three times as high as females.
And kids are increasingly diagnosed with ADHD and fed drugs to make them more compliant with authority. Again, this happens while they are captive in schools which they are required to attend. Coercion which leads to mental illness.
Efforts to guide teens into work or higher education are always sold with the best intentions. Authorities want to make sure that teens have the education that allows them to seize opportunities. Ironically, before mandatory public schooling, teens had no trouble finding work. Many started apprenticeships at young ages and learned their future trade while earning a wage.
And a quick look through history will reveal that the child labor laws were not always “for the children.”
The 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act made 16 the minimum age to work. This was during the Great Depression. The law was meant to remove competitors from the worker pool. Same goes for the reforms championed by labor unions during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
In 1905, about 40% of 16-year-olds were in school, and 40% were working. Now about 90% are in school.
Most states require public schooling to age 16, but fourteen states have compulsory education until 18. What this does is separate teens from an actual working environment where they would be exposed to people with the skills they want to learn.
State restrictions originally destroyed the opportunities teens had to learn valuable skills and join the labor force. Now they think they can reverse this trend with more legal requirements for higher education.
The choice and responsibility are taken from the teens. Instead of learning how to shape their own lives, they learn to follow the orders. This lesson is taken with them throughout life, giving the government more and more power over society as each generation gets more restrictive.
Legislation like that in New Mexico to force high schoolers to apply to college does not solve any issues. It only feeds into the increasing restrictions that have led to severe problems among teens and young adults.
The solution is for the government to lay off, and ease restrictions. Parents can immediately help by supporting their teens in any efforts to separate themselves from traditional schooling. If you think your young adult is self-directed enough, you could officially homeschool them, while allowing them to pursue their own education, or even find an internship or apprenticeship.
But public high school, and increasingly college, does not set people up for the modern economy. The system is outdated, and even when it “works” it trains people to be obedient mid-level office workers, not free thinking independent value creators.