I remember lots of things about being a teenager: braces, acne, boys (!), rebellious arguments with parents, and having entirely too much time on my hands. (Did I mention boys?) Of them all, though, it was “time” that impacted me the most. It wasn’t so much the lack of homework (although I had very little); it was because as a young person, Polimom was not a “joiner”.
I started “hanging out” at a local fast food place (I can’t remember why, other than it was near enough to walk), and began pestering the manager to let me help out behind the counter. Eventually, he let me, but he was very nervous about it… and he didn’t pay me.
I was 14.
I actually got paid for my next job for a while, but had to quit when the manager decided to check id’s to collect paychecks — and lost half his workers. We’d all lied about our ages.
Obviously, we fell into the emphasized category below:
This holiday season, teens nationwide won’t be fighting each other for mall jobs. Since the 1970s, the focus on education by parents and students has meant a declining number of teens following help-wanted signs. Last year, 43.7% of teens were employed or looking for work, the lowest since the U.S. government began collecting the data in 1948.
In her opinion piece, Eve Tahmincioglu is concerned; the valuable lessons of earning one’s own money, she feels, are falling by the wayside. She may be right (not all studies agree with her figures), but she has overlooked a couple of important factors: the increasing hours spent on homework, and personality type.
All the young teens we know spend at least one to two hours a night on homework… and it gets worse (we’re told) in high school. It’s not at all clear to me why schools can no longer cover what they must during class hours, but I’ve heard it from everyone. Given the coming legislatively mandated increase in math and science credits, the demands on young people’s time is unlikely to decrease, is it?
Add overachievement or extra-curricular engagement to the equation, and there’s not enough time left for a job, which brings me to Adorable Child (AC) — my overachieving, highly gifted, socially engaged young athlete, who’s already talking about wanting to earn her own money.
What would she give up to gain what Tahmincioglu correctly sees as a valuable life lesson?
Jeylan Mortimer, professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, tracked 1,000 high school students and found that by their 20s, those who had held jobs in their teens developed better interpersonal skills and confidence than those who had bypassed teen toil. Also, many of the nation’s top CEOs worked in their teens.
Even accounting for the hyperachieving personality types those CEOs no doubt have, I’m willing to wager they had the same kind of time Polimom had — a luxury that many kids today do not possess.
I’m not sure that young people have changed, but the times sure have. Has it been worth the trade-off?
(Cross-posted at The Moderate Voice)