Just this week a gentleman made the statement that it would be a long time before he needed my services because his daughter was only in seventh grade. I didn’t have the time or inclination to burst his bubble but shared with him that fourth grade teachers have career and college information woven into their curriculum. Had there been more time I would have asked if she was taking algebra or a foreign language. Those subjects are for high school credit and can affect what she is able to achieve in high school.
This next statement seems totally unrelated, but stick with me. In the days that our country was being settled, young people got married, staked a claim on a piece of frontier property and got busy farming and raising a family. These young people were routinely about 16 years old. Can you imagine your child miles from the nearest settlement scratching out a living with only their spouse for comfort, protection and whatever medical attention that is needed (childbearing!)?
These two seemingly different ideas about our children are simply extremes of what it has meant, and now means to be a young adult in America. Becoming head of household and managing a farm required some pretty mature 16 year-olds. Compare that to our modern youths that are routinely kept on the parent’s insurance plan until age 25…
In my estimation, the pendulum that swung so far as to have 30 and 40 year-old children living with their parents, has begun to move in the other direction. Today’s child is expected to be able to read when they enter the school environment. We give them sophisticated computers that many master before they can form complete sentences. Careers and colleges are presented to them about the time it takes more than a single digit to communicate their age. High school coursework is available to them in junior high school and college-level work can be complete at every level in high school. Career assessments are administered at about the onset of puberty and they are asked to begin drawing a road map that is to become their life.
The old west has become the new west and our 16 year-olds have a new frontier to conquer. They have to manage a world where change is a constant and learning entirely new skills and ways of thinking multiple times over their working life will determine success or failure.