“What’s Wrong With the Teenage Mind?” is the title of an article written by Ms. Alison Gopnik that appeared in the Wall Street Journal (January 28, 2012). A link to the article was sent to me by Mr. Austin Guest, teacher/coach Midlothian High School.
It begins with a question: “‘What was he thinking?’ It’s the familiar cry of bewildered parents trying to understand why their teenagers act the way they do.”
Ms. Gopnik finds answers to that question in two systems within the teenage brain. The first is emotion and motivation. “What teenagers want most of all are social rewards, especially the respect of their peers.”
The second system is control. “This control system depends … on learning. It becomes increasingly effective throughout childhood and continues to develop during adolescence and adulthood, as we gain more experience.”
Guess what most teenagers lack? Experience. “[And] experience shapes the brain.”
According to this article, it makes sense that our children can be book smart and, at the same time, they can be challenged with real-life tasks and choices. As Ms. Gopnik writes, “Knowing physics and chemistry is no help with a souffle.”
One developmental psychologist notes, “Today’s adolescents develop an accelerator a long time before they can steer and brake.”
What to do? The author does not suggest more school experiences. Instead, she points to the practice of real-life experiences in the form of apprenticeships so that real-life experiences shape and guide real-life choices.