Epstein's book, The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen, . . . says that once they can prove themselves competent, kids should have all the rights of adults. "Just about everything we do tells [teens] they're incompetent," Epstein writes. "We protect them from danger (driving, cigarettes, alcohol); we don't trust them to work or own property ... We don't allow them to make basic decisions about their health, education or religion." Epstein's proposal? Allow any kid--of any age--who can "pass one or more relevant competency tests" not only to do constructive things like sign contracts and vote but also to do essentially anything he or she wants: have sex with people of any age, drink, smoke, drive, get a tattoo. "If they can pass an appropriate test of maturity," Epstein writes in a passage that left me a bit queasy, "young people of any age should have access to pornographic materials commensurate with adult access."Link. YPulse's Anastasia Goodstein argues that, from a historical perspective, Epstein might have a point:
The author Thomas Hine, in his very informative book The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager, argues that both “teenagers” and “youth culture” are modern social constructs that originated from adult workers’ need to keep teens out of the workforce in order to protect their own jobs and that was made permanent with the universal adoption of compulsory high school. These historic facts spawned a new class of young people in between childhood and adulthood called teenagers (the word began to be widely used in 1945).Link. But in his review of Epstein's book, Time's John Cloud makes the same case that the Supreme Court did in rejecting the death penalty for minors. Teens may have some adult-like qualities, but there is something real to our sense that they aren't quite as mature as full-grown people yet, and at least for the sake of administrative efficiency, that's enough to draw a bright age line for access to adult rights, privileges, and penalties.
It was only after World War II that the word teenager began to pick up steam, especially with marketers. That said, we're now on our third generation of teenage culture or youth culture. Right or wrong, historical events/shifts in the labor force pushed teens out of working full time and into compulsory high school, laws were passed raising the drinking age and dictating when teens can drive, work, etc.
Indexed by tags teen, law, psychology, adolescence, Robert Epstein.
Image credits: "Emma Watson Drinking a Beer," from some dude's PhotoBucket, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.