Teens on the Edge Learning in the Edge
Teens on the EDGE
Teenagers live on the edge. Whether they like it there or not, they are relegated to the fringe. Adults and children enjoy being the center of modern culture. Adults have rights and privileges reserved just for them. They can drink alcohol. They can buy cigarettes. They can vote, drive, marry, enter clubs, gamble, rent cars, or attend a movie of any rating. These privileges are for them alone. Children and teens are not welcome or even allowed.
On the other end of the spectrum are the children. Children necessarily garner a lot of attention and special considerations. They cry when things do not go their way. They make messes when eating. They don’t seem to care when they have crusty buggers or dirt all over their faces. They get a free pass on many behaviors we would consider inappropriate or even reprehensible in the adult population. They need and get special attention and consideration because they are children.
Stuck between these two worlds, are the teenagers. They are not allowed to act like children, nor are they allowed to participate fully in the world of adults. They are on the edge. Expected to act like adults but not treated or given the rights of adults, teens get mixed messages. In one breath they are asked to behave like an adult, and in the next told they cannot do something because they are not an adult. Is it any wonder they do not want to conform to an adult world that rejects them? They distinguish themselves from the adult world and the world of children by choosing, often shocking but always different, styles of music, dress, language, and behavior. They live on the edge.
High school halls are filled with teenagers living on the edge. Teenagers trying to figure out who they are, how they fit into the world, and what they are like. They experiment with their identities, different activities, relationships, interests, values, and ethics. They consider passionately different ideologies and social dilemmas. Some are full of angst, angry at a world that does not seem to understand or value them. Others are depressed or disillusioned at a hypocritical world that claims to value justice, yet allows injustice to thrive and prosper. They are becoming. They are in process. They are on the edge of becoming adults. The question of “What they are like?” hangs in the balance and can swing in a variety of directions.
Teenagers live on the edge.
Learning on the EDGE
High schools are designed to take these teens on the edge and teach them the content and skills they will need to be successful when they enter the adult world. During school hours, teens take compulsory subjects like History, Science, Math, English, and Social Studies. After school they can choose to participate in an array of activities which, like them, exist on the edge. The academic subjects are at the center of a school. This is right where they should be. The learning outcomes in academic subjects are well articulated, defined, and assessed on both internal and standardized tests.
Swirling around the academic center of a school are athletics, arts, and activities. We believe it is good for students to participate in a school play, join a club, play in the marching band, run for student government, go out for the soccer team, etc. because it “builds character” in other words it helps shape “What they are like”. We probably agree that there is some valuable learning inherent in these activities but it is not well defined, articulated, or assessed on standardized tests. The learning that takes place here is on the edge.
Consider this. Teenagers are living on the edge trying to figure out what they are like and how they fit into the world. Performing and visual arts, athletics, and activities exist on the edges of academics. Teenagers get a chance to self select which, if any, of these edge activities they would like to participate in. When they do participate, they practice, develop, foster, and learn positive attributes like accountability, perseverance, adaptability, commitment, discipline, integrity, person-ability, and drive.
Imagine if schools met these teens on the edge.
Imagine if schools, valued, defined, and articulated the learning that takes place within their already existing infrastructure of arts, athletics, and activities.
Imagine if schools found a way to allow students to explore the very questions fueling their teenage confusions.
Imagine if students were able to discuss, reflect, and define who they are, how they fit into the world, and what they are like with a coherent and common vocabulary.
Imagine if adults and Teens found a way to meet each other on the edge in complimentary rather than adversarial roles.
Teenagers on the edge, learning around the edges of the academic core of a school, is the definition of Edge-Ucation.