I was playing with a way of exploring 'adolescence' and 'perceptions of teenagers' as part of a piece of training t'other day. As I mused it struck me that a famous ship might be a good metaphor to frame the discussion ...... and not just any ship though!
Stay with me as I think this works!!!
The Mary Celeste!
Is the story of the Mary Celeste fact or fiction?
I'm going to have to push you for an answer here!
Well, the answer is in fact 'both!' There really was a ship called the Mary Celeste that was found abandoned, but the eerily strange legend around 'places laid, meals uneaten and the like is fabrication from a fictional story woven around the truth by Conan Doyle.
So here's why this is interesting:
Stuff that people perceive to be true of adolescence and in fact of teenagers themselves are often based in truth BUT they can easily hold the fictional embellishment, not the actual truth.
For example stuff around teens being Lazy. The truth is that a change to their internal body clock and the scale of change occuring at adolesence produces not just fatigue but a change that renders evening and late nights a time of energy, whilst mornings become a challenging time indeed. So their lie-ins (when possible) and times of lethargy are a reality that is extrapolated to make a more negative, and fictional perceived tru-ism.
Teens are self-centred. They are actually a hugely alltruistic bunch and involved in lots of 'making a difference' stuff. It is true though that the adolescent brain is going through a piece of development that does in actual fact make empathy harder, and mean some of their thinking/behaviour is trapped more easily in ego-centricity.
Young People are dangerous criminal Yobs (I'm including this one for readers of the Daily Mail). Again a small piece of truth extrapolated to a principal. There is a small proportion of young people whose life experience has produced anger, alienation and emotional pain who can be a problem. The truth is that the vast vast majority by a LONG LONG way are not. Young people are far more often the victims of crime than the perpetrators. When they hang around in groups it is more often than not because there is nowhere to go, and being together is both social .... AND safer.
I could go on but I thought the Mary Celeste was a useful way to look at how a small element of truth becomes woven into a universal and negatively skued story.
Supplemental: Available for a short while, article: What's wrong with the teenage brain?