There is a bad perception a lot of people have about teenagers. They think of them as too moody, too violent, too energetic, and too unhinged in some way, to be fully trusted. And I have to admit, I have had experiences with some adolescents who fit that description, just as I have had experiences with some adults who fit that description. Most teenagers are fairly well-adjust, somewhat socially awkward, but nothing to get too bend out of shape about. Due to their age they are a bit self-conscious about how to respond to their emotions properly, but that has more to do with gaining enough situational experience than some dire personality disorder. Also, the much dreaded teen angst I keep hearing about doesn’t seem to be all the more present than the less discussed adult angst I see, with the only difference being that adults have learned through years of emotional repression to keep it at bay. To be honest, I’m more concerned that the affect of our preemptive worry about the potential threat of adolescents will work to actually create the very danger we are trying to avoid. I mean, how long can you treat a person as a common criminal, with zero-tolerance policies, before s/he begins to assume the role as a result? Now, please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. I thoroughly support safety precautions, but what I can’t support are precautions that stretch the bounds of reason.
I constantly hear figures being thrown around to support the notion that teenagers are the greatest threat to humanity since the bubonic plague. School shootings on the rise; no one’s safe; blame the music industry; what we need is to crack down on these punks with force and teach them that violence is not the answer; all kids care about is sex, drugs and rock n’ roll (apparently the corniness of the pubescent plague knows no bounds). But what these people seem to miss in their statistical analyses is that for every teen who shoots up a school, there are thousands of others who don’t. By the standards we use to justify our zero-tolerance policies towards students, shouldn’t we also be asking all teachers and school administrators to register as potential sex offenders, on the grounds that there are just so many darn news reports of inappropriate teacher-student relations that we just can’t be too careful. Personally, I don’t think I would enjoy being treated as a pedophile simply because of my profession, and I assume that students don’t enjoy being treated as would-be murderers because a minority of their classmates were psychologically disturbed. By all means, let us be vigilant and keep an eye out for those we suspect need serious help, and lets have security guards and cameras keeping watch over our schools. But we cannot justify turning school campuses into quasi-prisons on the basis of keeping everyone safe, because our goal should be about more than just making sure every child goes back home alive (one of the biggest problems I have with education system nowadays is that they’ve practically become large daycare centers, rather than places of academia).
The warning signs to a potential danger are almost always present to those who bother to pay attention, but if we start to psych ourselves out preemptively, we are certainly setting ourselves up for failure as we will begin to frantically see threats where non exist, creating the very danger we are desperate to combat. Thus, ironically, increasing the danger of us missing something we should have been looking out for, but didn’t, due to the fear and mistrust we have of our children.