Though in centuries past 15-19 year olds were treated as adults, today we often paternalistically restrict their behavior because of "immature" brains. An OpEd in Monday’s New York Times says 35-54 year olds actually behave worse:
>And it seems safe to say that there is an age below which very, very few children can understand a commercial as such.
Of course there's such an age, but since I didn't have any claim for the "right" age in front of me, all I could say was "a certain age." Maybe I should have said that children X age can't understand Y.
But the main point of this discussion is to recognize the temptation of taking generalizations at face value, which is what we do when we assign rigid age norms. That temptation has been around with us for a long time; Arnold Gesell and Frances Ilg warned against it in 1943 in Infant and Child in the Culture of Today. But since then the focus of psychology has shifted from the mind to the brain, and that makes those age norms even more tempting, and the responsibility of experts to point out the limits of generalizations even greater. If they don't, we get silly pontifications such as that teenagers make foolish choices because their brains aren't fully formed.
Education in the United States does not work. [...] Is the populace educated?
The question is not how much they are educated compared to other countries. The question is how educated they are compared to not having a (US) education at all. For a start, they can read, and count - a not completely insignificant difference. Internationally, countries with decent education systems tend to fare much better than countries without them.
we have decided (rightly, in my view) that the whole of society, and the teens themselves, benefit greatly from primary and secondary education.
Why do adults not benefit from the same thing? From what I've heard, the reasons we require children to attend school were first to prevent immigrant children from avoiding assimilation and later to remove the young from the workforce and thereby increase wages.
Adults do benefit from the same thing, but it does seem that most adults who do not acquire certain skills early in life never acquire them (at least not to a good level). Teaching them when they are children is the then the sensible thing to do. Secondly, children are of virtually no economic value today (the absence of high-paid child labour indicates this). So removing them from the workforce when they are young is a sensible thing to do.
I've never heard of removing the children from the workforce to increase wages though; do you have any evidence for that? Would seem a ridiculous thing to do today, for the reason mentioned above; as for that being the case in the past, since an educated adolescent would be more in demand than a standard seven-year old, this should result in greater competition for bottom of the skill mountain. There might be nuances to this picture (aspirations may increase as well); but increasing wages through compulsory education would be a very uncertain way of doing so.
mim, no offense, but that's even more awful than most arguments for dualism. As everyone knows, there is variation in the developmental schedule of physical traits - some babies can walk earlier, and some later, than others (and some never) - and so there can be variation in the development of mental traits even if the mental is physical. (And it seems safe to say that there is an age below which very, very few children can understand a commercial as such.) I suppose there might be some psychologists who communicate that there are things all two-year-olds can do that no eighteen-month-olds can (or whatever), but I've never seen one and doubt they constitute a majority. Communication could certainly be clearer, but I would say laypeople also need to learn to recognize generalizations as generalizations.
To elaborate on my recent answer: Yes, I've heard quite a bit about what a brain of a certain age is or isn't capable of doing, and this bit about drinking and driving is typical. And psychologist Susan Linn's fine book Consuming Kids would be even better without those broad-brush generalizations.
All this brain talk seems to be the result of the way the mind-body problem has been resolved. If the mind is simply a manifestation of the brain, and the brain is part of the body, then cognitive development is bodily development, like musculoskeletal development, and a child below a certain age can no more be skeptical about a TV commercial than a 3-month-old baby can walk. Psychologists may take a more nuanced view, but if they don't communicate these nuances to laypeople, how are the latter to know that these nuances exist?
And why is the baby-boom generation reckoned from 1/1/46? Those who were born in 1945 from V-J Day (August 14) to Dec. 31 were subject to the same cultural inflences as those born the year after. If they're not baby boomers, what are they? They're certainly not war babies.
I've never received a straight answer from anyone in the news biz; only speculations by those just as ignorant as I am.
we have decided (rightly, in my view) that the whole of society, and the teens themselves, benefit greatly from primary and secondary education.Why do adults not benefit from the same thing? From what I've heard, the reasons we require children to attend school were first to prevent immigrant children from avoiding assimilation and later to remove the young from the workforce and thereby increase wages.
Yes and no. I hear a lot of generalizations, even from psychologists, about what the brain of a certain age is like, and with no qualifications about tendencies or individual differences.
"We do this, because we have decided (rightly, in my view) that the whole of society, and the teens themselves, benefit greatly from primary and secondary education."
Education in the United States does not work. Forget for a moment all the complicated reasons why it does not work, or why it shouldn't work, or why it should work but doesn't; just look at it as a black box system. In come four and five-year-olds. Out come eighteen-year-olds. The goal of education is to produce an educated populace. Is the populace educated? No. I would bet cash that 90% of the population cannot pass a basic high school science or math test. 50% of the population still believes that the Earth is six thousand years old. We can't even beat out Lithuania in math and science literacy (http://mwhodges.home.att.ne.... Clearly, something somewhere is not working, or is not working well enough.
mim, is any scientist saying all seven-year-olds have the same brain?
The espousal of a simplistic brain-development theory by the semi-informed can only lead to a lockstep approach to parenting, education and social policy. If all seven-year-old brains (except for developmentally disabled ones), are just this much developed, then all seven-year-olds (except the developmentally disabled) are capable of understanding these concepts and incapable of understanding those. Period. Science has spoken.
point taken. But my more general argument was that you'd have to control for the amount of social control different groups are subjected to before drawing such conclusions. To take an extreme example, if group A is allowed to drive cars and group B is not, it says nothing about either group's "responsibility" if group A's members have more driving accidents.
Side-stepping the whole issue of "maturity" for the moment, I think there is a case for a decent amount of teen paternalism, if there is any teen paternalism.
In our modern societies, we deprive teens of a fundamental right, enjoyed by every adult: the right not to go to school. We do this, because we have decided (rightly, in my view) that the whole of society, and the teens themselves, benefit greatly from primary and secondary education. Some societies also deprive teens of the right to drive, or at least drive alone (I'm less convinced about the moral argument there, but the statistical evidence is strong).
But any major restriction in rights (and this is a major restriction) means that we can't deal with them as full adults. We cannot burden them with full adult responsabilities, if we don't grant them full adult rights (by "we", I mean parents, teachers as well as governments). Consequently, teens are less likely to take responsability for their actions. So their actions will be less responsible. So we have a strong case to restrict these actions.
So, in summary: once we act paternalistically towards teens in some major way, we can't just leave it at that: we have to act paternalistically towards them in other ways as well. We have to tolerate more, and restrict more, than we would otherwise. The paternalism leaks out.
"I think it's pretty absurd for any of us to pretend to maturity when all of us are less than a thousand years old, making us infants by the standards of future civilization."
The question is, how do we (here and now) decide who should get decision-making power? If you must, think of it in terms of "how can the chimps decide who is old enough to go pick berries"? The question is irrelevant to human (future) civilization, but because humans (transhumans) are descended from chimps (humans), if the chimps (humans) can't come up with a decent answer, there isn't going to be any future civilization.
I'm not sure any human can be old enough to understand what it means to throw their life away, but maybe we can understand what it means to sacrifice our life to save another. Understand the balance, if not the balanced.
If someone is old enough to understand that they are throwing their life away
That someone can profess knowledge of this does not show that they can grasp what it means. In fact, given the results on scope neglect (and echoing what Eliezer said), I kind of doubt that any of us can viscerally grasp this.
"no one fully comprehends the consequences of their actions. The question is how can you tell if someone is "mature"? "
True, I was not very careful with my words, but certainly adults are more aware of consequences than children.
The question of how to tell if someone is mature is difficult, but it certainly should not simply be judged by actions. If someone is old enough to understand that they are throwing their life away, should they still be considered immature?