One of the persistent arguments put forward by people opposed to amaros is that young people are not mature enough to cope with deep emotional attachments. These people go on to say that young people are unable to discern right from wrong, do not understand the possible consequences of their actions, and thus are not able to think or make decisions for themselves. In some cases this is true, so we must consider the reasons for why this occurs and how it can be remedied.
The Culture of Ignorance
Young people are the products of the environment in which they live. Since the emergence of the ‘long childhood’ in the 20th century, young people have been given very little responsibility and have not been held accountable for many of their actions. Furthermore, our consumer society has fed them a steady diet of banality, marketing it in such a way that they often feel they must have it in order to fit in. Indeed, I might argue at this point that it is the corporate executives who market toys, clothing, entertainment and junk food to young people who ought to be censured for their ruthless targeting of youth in their eternal quest for additional profits.
The fundamental issue, however, is education. Since our society has not entrusted young people with responsibility and taught them responsibility at a young age, it has robbed many of them of the opportunity to think and make decisions for themselves. That being said, many young people manage to overcome this enforced ignorance and have proven that they are capable of admirable discernment.
If young people were correctly taught about nutrition and the dangers of a bad diet, such as tooth decay, obesity and vitamin deficiency, they might very well make wise decisions about their diets. If we would educate them well, and show them how to discriminate between entertainment and entertainment created for marketing purposes (i.e., advertising) then they would no longer be the ‘soft’ target so highly valued by the purveyors of candy and fizzy drinks. Therefore, if you teach a young person about sex, explaining that while it can be fun, it also comes with responsibilities and dangers, rather than teaching abstinence, and if you teach them to distinguish between manipulation and genuine consent, they would have the tools with which to decide for themselves what they want to do with their bodies.
How to Teach Children
Educational methodology is also an important issue. I am sure that most of us can remember teachers we had whose classes we dreaded attending, and would have done nearly anything to avoid going to school. On the other hand, many of us can also remember teachers that we loved, whose classes we looked forward to attending. In most of these cases, the teacher was somebody who respected us as people and showed true interest in our welfare. These teachers did not pontificate, but explained things to us in terms we could understand. They did not demand silent obedience, but asserted a quiet authority based upon mutual respect.
Some people contend that young people, left to their own devices would never choose to go to school. Yes, all young people do love to do fun things (as do all adults), and it is basic human nature that people prefer fun activities to boring or uninteresting ones. Many of us, however, fail to understand that learning can be one of the most exciting things of all. When we reward the natural curiosity of young people with an interactive learning environment, we often find that they cannot be torn away from it and that their thirst for knowledge cannot be slaked. Unfortunately, most of our educational establishment is designed in such a way as to make education as boring and uninteresting as possible. Rather than capitalizing on the assets of young people, such as their boundless energy and curiosity, we force them into an environment totally unsuited to them.
As the father of a young daughter, I am well aware that sitting for two hours in the cinema is much different from sitting for two hours in the car. If we leave on a road trip unprepared, without lots of books and other activities to occupy her time while in the car, the trip becomes miserable and unbearable. On the other hand, if she has ways to entertain herself, then the trip can be a joy.
Young people need many stimuli, and need to be able to touch things and interact with people. Sitting in rows facing the same direction in a classroom with a textbook and a teacher droning on in the front of the room is certainly not the preferred option for young people. Yet that is largely how our society has chosen to teach them, because it is too tight-fisted to employ much larger number of teachers to bring teacher-student ratios down and to pay these teachers a decent wage to attract them into teaching in the first place. Thus, we have only ourselves to blame for many young people disliking school.
Young People and their Emotions
While academic education is important, emotional education must not be forgotten, and it cannot be taught in the classroom. Young people learn how to deal with their emotions by the examples of those around them and by experience. Young people are forced to deal with a great many positive and negative emotions within their peer groups. They come face to face on a daily basis with acceptance, rejection, love, hate and many situations that can affect their emotional well-being. Indeed, play and interactions with peers are the primary means by which young people learn to cope in a social environment.
Unfortunately, many young people are not able to discuss their emotions freely with trusted people, and oftentimes, their emotional conflicts with their peers or sibling are belittled by adults. Therefore, one of the most important means they have of learning of how to deal with such situations is denied to them. They need to learn about how to handle their emotions from people they trust and respect in a non-threatening environment. In many cases, however, they are told that their problems are not important or that they are not old enough to be asking the types of questions they are asking. Therefore, they often turn to other sources such as the media or their friends for advice. In the media, they are exposed to a superficial world that deals with its problems by either ignoring them or wantonly destroying the source of the problem.
If society in general, and parents specifically, were willing to take the opportunity to demonstrate and explain how to effectively handle emotions, young people would be empowered to enter into relationships of their choosing, and would be equipped to handle the emotions romantic love stirs up.
By adapting the way we teach our youth and committing ourselves to make the investments needed to provide quality education, we could make school a truly enjoyable and rewarding choice for our youth. By having faith in our youth and equipping them to think independently, we can also ensure that they gain the necessary experience at an early age. Thus, when they decide to become sexually active, they will be able to do so responsibly, and with a full understanding of its risks and rewards as well as of the emotional ramifications of their actions.