This is not a book review.
I've not read the book, though it will be one of the next things I read, and perhaps I will review it then.
But let's look at some of the author's statements about his work, statements with which I largely agree. Dr. Robert Epstein is interviewed in this article by a reporter from HSLDA's The Court Report:
Court Report: How did you become interested in the topic of the teen brain?
Dr. Robert Epstein: I initially became interested because one of my older sons, at age 14 or 15, was very mature. And I was curious why he was forced to go to high school, why he was not allowed to work, why he was not allowed to own property, to sign contracts, and so on. He had a good business sense, for example. He would have loved to have started a business, but he wasn’t allowed to do much of anything by society.
That got me interested in teen capabilities in general. And the more I looked into it, the more I found that teens have enormous capabilities that we seem to have forgotten about as a culture. In many ways, they’re far superior to adults—in their memory abilities, in intelligence, and in their perceptual abilities, for example.
Then I couldn’t help but notice these headlines—one after another after another—about the so-called “teen brain.” I said, “Wait, this doesn’t seem right—that teens have a brain that necessarily causes them to be irresponsible and incompetent. That can’t be right.” Teen turmoil is often entirely absent in other cultures, so a universal “teen brain” can’t possibly exist. When I looked carefully at the research said to support the idea of a teen brain, I found nothing there. Claims of a teen brain constitute scientific fraud, in my view.
Next month, my eighth child will become a teenager. Through the years our observations of this mythical "teen brain" have been largely consistent with Dr. Epstein's. We haven't seen anything resembling the current politically correct thinking that adolescents have something intrinsic to their brains that causes them to be irresponsible and incompetent. In fact, we've seen the opposite: the development of their brains, along with their behavior, is remarkably consistent with their parents' expectations and willingness to invest them with adult responsibilities and meaning. (Okay, I might make an exception for adolescent boys of driving age. Sorry, but I think 16 is pushing it.)
If you look through most of human history or you look at many cultures today, you find that teens spend most of their time learning to become adults. Here, they spend most of their time trying to break away from adults.
Told something often enough by those with enough letters following their names, we accept it too easily. And the current coalition of educational philosophy, developmental psychology, and pharmaceutical psychiatry has convinced us that the adolescent is a different animal, one which needs and deserves and has a right to treatment and considerations all its own. Schools have bought into it, churches bow to it, families order their lives around it.
But if the basis is biological and not cultural, why do the phenomena that we observe in modern western civilization not square with what the rest of the world, indeed the rest of history, proclaim? If it wasn't observable in the "youth" of ancient Egypt or in the European Middle Ages or during the U.S. Civil War or in today's tribal cultures of central Africa, then it doesn't play at all, does it?
The interview goes on to address one of our favorite topics as home educators, that of "socialization":
You argue that instead of the teen brain causing teen turmoil, the cause is actually society, and in part, the peer influence found in public schools. As a psychologist, what is your definition of socialization?
Socialization is just a process by which we learn to be part of a community. So the question is, what community do we want our young people to learn to be part of? Some parents have said to me, “Aren’t school and high school, in particular, very important for socialization?” And my emphatic answer is no, because we do not want young people socializing with each other. We want them to learn to join the community that they’ll be part of their whole lives. We want them to learn to become adults. Right now, they learn everything they know from each other—that’s absurd, especially since teens in our society are controlled almost entirely by the frivolous media and fashion industries.If you look through most of human history or you look at many cultures today, you find that teens spend most of their time learning to become adults. Here, they spend most of their time trying to break away from adults.
Dr. Epstein has written a book exposing the myth of the teen brain and then has submitted some concrete proposals for how we might more efficiently, productively, and compassionately incorporate the huge assets of adolescent energy and intelligence into our adult world. Some of Epstein's proposals may sound draconian, and I may not agree with his whole approach. (In fact, my reading of some of the book reviews assures me that I won't.) But none of them seem as risky as our 20th century experiment with universal, mandatory, publicly-financed institutional education and keeping our young adults away from the real world, a world from which too many of them are alienated and disconnected by the time it's time for them to finally join it.
And the results surely couldn't be any worse.hat tip: dina