Adults are expected to be able to take care of themselves, and to accept responsibilities that we associate with adulthood. One of these responsibilities is voting, which is meant to give each citizen a voice on decision-making for the common good. Another such responsibility is paying one’s bills, avoiding scams, and honoring contracts, including the payment of debts contracted legally. The problem is that many people reach the age of adult citizenship without knowing all of the implications of agreeing to various types of contracts. Often they are manipulated into contracting debts which they then do not know how to manage, and become entangled in legal maneuvers that they are unprepared to deal with effectively.
The notion of the common good, or the general welfare, is based on the supposition of equality of power between citizens, and the ability of each person to keep himself safe, emotionally, and fiscally. The common good also implies some level of empathy between and for all citizens, and therefore might benefit, in a more fully inclusive society, from a new secular adulthood Democratic Rite of Passage which allows each person to demonstrate a certain level of knowledge and attention: that required to keep herself and those she may encounter safe on multiple levels. Meaning, as discussed near the end of this post, should also, in my humble opinion, be included, somewhere, in that concept of safety.
Following are some thoughts I had on this issue a while ago, which I am still refining:
- Elaborating on where Phase II (The Adulthood Challenge and a new CCC…) began:
What we need our children to prove, for recognition of adulthood, is not their prowess in battle or the hunt, not their virility, not their adeptness at social maneuvering, but their ability to contribute meaningfully to society by teaching another person, from level 0, how to do something that is both difficult and absolutely necessary in our society today. By requiring our pre-adults to teach some other person a needed life skill, over the course of at least a year, that pre-adult shows persistence, perseverance, discernment, and of course, the skill in question.
Thus we provide an esteem building exercise and respect building accomplishment which we then reward with full adult status, whatever the age of the pre-adult in question. This obviously assumes that the person has had opportunity to prove his or her good judgement in other ways as well, prior to seeking adulthood recognition. This might help as one step of a series of steps implemented by and through local communities which could lead to more long-term thinking in society at large, given a critical mass and good faith in the ability of humankind to rise above our instincts, and learn to cooperate. Certain pre-requisites should apply: knowledge of emotional, financial and physical self-defense.
Tying into emotional challenges like PTSD, pre-adults must learn how to communicate non-violently, manage their own emotions and prevent emotional manipulation, which eases the recognition and treatment of difficult past traumatic disorders. Homelessness and debt both relate to issues of financial self-defense, which means the ability not only to balance a check book and write up a home budget, but also to avoid falling victim to scams of all sorts, as well as the ability to plan for long-range problems like job-loss, or illness, etc.
Now, I would add that swimming, or knowing how to float, and possibly also finding water, if one lives in or near a desert, are part of physical self-defense.
More than ever, I continue to believe that we need a new rite of passage in which every person wishing to be recognized as an Adult (in a society where only Adults are granted certain responsibilities, such as governmental service), must teach someone, from start to finish, a usable, important, and difficult skill. It must be a skill which the person has to use in the real world, such as moving from the alphabet to reading chapter books, or from learning the counting numbers through multiplication, or from writing a sentence to writing an essay, or from no English to conversational or passable workplace English in the United States.
A useful side effect of this idea is that it could effectively increase the number of available tutors, and also lead to every Adult in our society coming away with an understanding of the challenges involved in teaching anyone anything non-trivial.
This needs to be a challenge, with the danger of failing: an initiation. As such, it must require a serious investment of time (preferably meeting for several hours each day) for at least one year. That way the young person can look back with pride on a serious accomplishment and justifiably claim his or her status as an Adult. Along the way, several problems in our modern society can be solved at the same time :
1.) The increasing lack of self-discipline, civility and respect for learning among the young.
2.) The shortage of teachers combined with the budgetary shortfalls in most states would be somewhat mitigated by adding the numbers of teenage students needing to finish their “Adulthood Project” to the number of classroom aides and volunteers.
3.) The need for challenges and self-testing during the adolescent stage of life which is left unfulfilled by modern society´s unsatisfyingly arbitrary definition of adulthood.
I would propose that implementing such an idea should begin with involving the local community by having the adolescent (or if still in his/her 20´s, the “pre-adult”) bring a person to meet with the community to show the starting point of the teaching process. After the learning objective has been attained, the pre-adult and the learner would return to meet again with the community to assess the effectiveness of teaching and to award the pre-adult his or her status as an Adult, with the full rights and responsibilities expected of an adult, including such cultural norms as civility, courtesy, and even graciousness.
In this way we may move from a society where rudeness is the norm to one in which graciousness is valued. For example, a friend tells of an incident where a lady´s dog snarled at her, and the lady apologized, which was the civil thing to do, and then even offered to call a cab for her, which was the gracious thing to do. A society in which graciousness is valued will be both a more compassionate society and a more creative one. I leave these thoughts for contemplation, debate, and action.
To break down some possible prerequisites to require before attempting to start the Challenge, here are some things that every member of society ought to know:
I have six criteria for being an adult. Each prospective adult must be able to:
1. swim, (or inland: find potable water)
2. defend him or herself both emotionally and physically,
3. think critically and build logical arguments,
4. understand statistics,
5. drive and make emergency repairs to manual (stick-shift) cars, or know how to ride and care for bicycles or horses, or otherwise show ability to navigate safely.
These all imply the most important criterion:
6. accepting responsibility to think independently,
taking responsibility for one’s actions and for preventing exploitation.
Personally, I have spent a good deal of time studying each of
the above items, and also reflecting on my own principles. I
believe this reflection to be part of both #3 and #6, as each
Adult must know the basis of his or her life principles, if he or
she is to live a fulfilling and stable life.
This implies that every Adult must have not only considered what gives life meaning, as
Dr. Viktor Frankl described, but must also have pondered those principles upon which that meaning is base, and must have therefore decided what gives life meaning. I think that this process is crucial.
Thus, I believe that the final test for being recognized as an
adult should be to teach someone else a necessary life skill.
For example, swimming, or writing.
The ideas of both financial/emotional self-defense, and of meaning, as part of Adulthood, are things that I do not see being addressed in our general society as part of basic education. For a variety of reasons, both the different types of self-defense (financial, emotional, and physical), as well as the concept of meaning in life, or something greater than oneself that ties back to one’s own link to society and one’s role in that society, need to be addressed as part of becoming an Adult.
1.) Search for two different sources related to the 4 types of debt, and statutes of limitations for each debt type, in your state.
2.) Share your thoughts on connections between debt and emotional manipulation.
3.) Share your thoughts on how understanding emotional and financial self-defense might help, or hinder, inclusive thinking,
4.) Write a book, blog post or tweet that uses an alternate calendar, and once published, please consider donating to your local public library.
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