Optimism is NOT Arrogance

Arrogance is the belief that you are BETTER than others. Optimism is the belief that you have the same CHANCE as others. We all have the chance to achieve our dreams. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Calling All YA Authors!!!

Today the Wall Street Journal, that bastion of morality and parental guidance, published an article on the dangers of the current slate of YA books available to our teens.  Click here to read it, but let me sum it up:  YA books are hurting our teens, destroying the fabric of American society, and potentially ending the NFL as we know it.  Ok, I made that last one up, but I figured, hey, since we're laying blame here...

There's a very simple explanation to rebut Mrs. Gurdon (a not-too-popular smug and judgemental writer of all things evil and liberal), and it demonstrates why today's young whipper-snappers aren't at all like the happy, life-loving, "suicide never crossed our mind" teenagers of the 70's and 80's.

The simple explanation is this, Mrs. Gurdon.  Every day, each and every single human being awakes and is immediately faced with choices:  what to wear, where to go, who to interact with, whether or not to brush their teeth, and so on.  Whether we acknowledge it or not, whether it even comes to us consciously or not, EVERY ONE of those decisions is made based on input we've collected our entire lives.

In terms of teens, those lives are relatively short.

Younger children usually make those decisions on instinct:  they cry, scream, flop on the floor, or throw that cute little firetruck right into your forehead.  Adults are supposed to be more controlled - we don't throw firetrucks at each other because we've been around longer and can make decisions based on more data and input.  We're the "more mature" crowd (some more mature than others).

Teens are stuck right smack dab in the middle.  Too old to show all the emotions they want to, too young to know what is really the right choice to make.

Back in the 70's and 80's a teen's input was from the dreaded Rock & Roll.  Maybe some movies, maybe even the horrific and super-double-naughty Judy Blume books.  Video games were magic squares with arrows stabbing duck-like creatures posing as dragons.

Today?  Well, consider what Henry David Thoreau said:

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand, instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.”

Well guess what, the modes of input for teens today are in the hundred or thousands.  It's not that they can see the same stuff on the internet...well, ok, it's PRECISELY because they can see the same stuff on the internet, and that the world in terms of communications has shrunk a thousand-fold.  Before, to get advice on a girlfriend situation, I would ask my best friend.  Now I can ask my FIVE-HUNDRED Facebook friends.  And guess what?  I can see how they respond to THEIR girlfriend situation.  Bottom-line?  It all adds up to exponentially increased input.  Knocking out one of them (YA books) wouldn't solve the problem.  You could write all the Princess and the Frog books for teens you want, eliminate vampires altogether (ok, actually, that'd be ok), and you wouldn't have a single teen reading them, unless their parents made them.  These books are on the bookshelves for one reason and one reason only:  they sell.  And why do they sell?  Because they're real.  And also because people like Mrs. Gurdon tell teens not to read them.  "Don't look in that closet Mr. Fifteen Year-old!"  Turn your back, count to three, and listen for the creak of the closet door opening.

I have three teens myself.  I know this world intimately because my kids and I have an extremely open and honest relationship.  I let them cuss.  We discuss the sexual exploits of their classmates.  They tell me about calls from drunken friends at two o'clock in the morning.  This is standard fair for teens:  making choices based on the input they have, while still wanting to react based on instinct.

So when my daughter grew up watching Disney TV and seeing Little Ms. Perfect try to figure out why the star quarterback doesn't want to be her boyfriend, only to have them land together in PerfectHarmony City, my daughter's response was loud and clear:  "BUT THAT NEVER HAPPENS IN REAL LIFE!"

People like Mrs. Gurdon don't want to face what really happens in real life.  And I would argue that people like Mrs. Gurdon are the dangerous ones, NOT the YA novels.  The YA novels may "help normalize [pathologies] and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures," but people like Mrs. Gurdon, are forgetting that there is one source of input that absolutely trumps all others.  One source that can provide the better, more responsible choice for a teen to make.  One source that should never EVER go away and should ALWAYS be there for a teen.

A parent.

You could present all the input in the world to a child about cutting, suicide, drinking, drugs, sex, depression, what have you.  But if a parent's reaction is strong, and open, and BI-DIRECTIONAL (that is, they actually friggin' LISTEN to their kids and occasionally acknowledge them as rational beings instead of items to be seen and not heard), their kids will react in accordance to their parent's reason and logic, and most importantly, their love.  

Doesn't matter if it's one parent, two parents, or two parents of the same sex.  We are brought into the world by these people, and we will listen first and foremost to what they say.  We will also immediately recognize and react to what they DON'T say.

So there you have it, Mrs. Gurdon.  Your argument becomes moot the minute you take your 46 year-old out of Barnes and Noble and put her into the home where she cares enough about her children to know what they are going through in school, and helps them deal with it a rational, thoughtful way of dealing with it.  Put her into the home where she can stop judging her children and her children's friends, and realize they're just making choices based on what they know.  But most importantly, put her into the home so she can show her children that she loves them no matter what they do or what mistakes they make, and that she's there to help them make the choices that will hurt the least. 

Oh, and if she's looking into the YA aisle for a book for a 13 year-old, take her out of there and put her in the EARLY READERS SECTION!

1 comment:

  1. Well Said!!
    *runs off to check on teens....*
    ~Parent of 4 who believes they've done a helluva job raising HER.
    -Nancy Viau


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