What’s Young and Stupid? What’s Old Enough to Know Better?

18 02 2009

We thinking parents have discussed before, how the frontal lobe is the last part of the brain to mature and how in males it can continue to develop through the late 20s.

(I remember observing that when he was in the news secretly taped pushing his political views on kids in the classroom, that teacher Jay Bennish was 28, and I wondered whether despite his own education and experience, his frontal lobe was fully mature.)

We’ve talked about the right age for kids to handle driving, in the hugely more complicated and congested traffic patterns of today and tomorrow. About common and/or compulsory attendance age for schools versus red-shirting kindergarten kids for later school entry, especially boys.

About girls forced by religion, culture and economy to marry and/or mother too young, and girls forced to abstain from sexual competence and refrain from their own healthy adult decision-making too late. About children and young adults denied certain books and movies, foods, friends, video games, vaccines and even life-saving treatments because they are still “minors” dependent on luck-of-the-draw parenting, no matter how capable, responsible and well-prepared the minors by age might be, even if it’s more than their own ignorant and/or abusive or neglectful — yet legally mature and in control — parents.

And military recruiters selling their way of life in schools, and about the justice system trying kids as young as the early teens as adults, for adult crimes. With adult penalties.

What age is young and stupid? (Does that excuse anything and if so,
what?)

What age is old enough to know better? Is there any such
thing as young yet mature, and if so, can it be generalized to legal
provisions and public rights and responsibilities of various kinds, or
is it by necessity an individual thing calling for human judgment on a
case-by-case basis?

Here’s the latest thing to think about when it comes to what “young and stupid” means. . .
(Hat tip COD)

At this hour, there are 18- and 19-year-old American men and women in harm’s way, on foreign soil, defending our way of life.

“Young” is a relative term. . .

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18 responses

18 02 2009
Kristina

I think it is all relative. I joined the Navy when I was 17. I was definitely young and stupid. However, the immaturity and stupity were not about enlisting. No recruiter actually ‘recruited’ me, since I walked into the recruiter’s office and asked when I could leave. I never regretted my decision. Yet, my older brother, at 18 was younger than I was at 17. And, he went to prison for seven years for vandalism.

On the other hand, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and the two years I spent in the Navy were a huge growing time for me. I’m not saying I grew because of being in the Navy, it was just the time of my life.

There have always been arguments about the fact that we allow people to enlist at 17/18, but don’t allow them to drink until they’re 21. What kind of sense does that make?

But, as far as old enough to know better? I don’t think there is an age. I think it just means that the person knows better. They knew that the action they took was wrong. For instance, my 5 year old knows it is wrong to steal. So, if he steals, he must be punished. But, he didn’t know that it was wrong to throw rocks bombs at cars until he threw his first one, and it was at a cop car. 😉 The cop was very nice. And, my son did hard labor (he moved all the rocks out of our yard to a nice spot for them) for that stunt. But, now he knows it is wrong.

In Greece, if you can prove you didn’t know something was against the law, you are innocent. I think that is a valid defense.

19 02 2009
JJ

Kristina, this has got to be one of the best all-round comments I’ve seen in a long time. Just so straight-forward and thoughtful. Thanks. 🙂

19 02 2009
Mrs. C

It is very true that children develop at different rates, and some of us not at all fully in some areas. My son G is 13 and has great difficulty with complying with reasonable teacher and parent requests because of his autism. I’m not holding him blameless when he misbehaves; however, were I to see the same thing from my slightly older neurotypical kid there would be much more trouble for him at home.

I don’t wonder if sometimes this is why we use juries. They can look at the crime and the alleged criminal, and surrounding circumstances, and determine an appropriate consequence if the law were broken.

Great post, JJ, Though I’d tend to be on the more sheltering end of the parenthood spectrum, I think there are several points to consider about the child’s rights as an individual.

19 02 2009
Nance Confer

Kristina,

Did you join during a war? Did you see fighting? What was the deal for young women joining when you did — no front lines or just the nod-nod-wink-wink that passes for that now?

I’m wondering if the choice was a different one for you than it would be for a young man now. More of an opportunity to grow and less of a risk. Or not.

And I’m wondering if you gave it that kind of thought or not. Or what anyone thinks when they agree to put themselves in harm’s way at such a young age. Or at any age.

Nance

19 02 2009
Kristina

Nance,

Was there a war? Not exactly. I joined in early ’95. I was slated to go to the embassy in Turkey, but my orders got changed. That was considered a pretty dangerous assignment. I was exremely upset when my orders got changed.

There was a lot of talk about women on the front lines when I was in the Navy. Of course, when you’re in the Navy, it’s all front lines. My ship was fired on by pirates, once. Fortunately, mine was a civilian ship, and the captain had control over what he wanted to do, and we left the area.

Did I give it that kind of thought? Definitely. I was, and am, prepared to die for my country. Right now, I would re-enlist, but we made the decision that I would be the one to get out and stay home with the babies. My husband is in the Special Forces, so I guess you could say I’ve got hands on experience with the ‘harm’s way’ aspect. He’s currently deployed to a not so great place. My brother was ‘stop lossed’ by the Marines to go to Iraq. Boy, was he ticked. Nobody wants to be told they have to put their future on hold for a war. But, 5 years later, he’s okay with it.

What are people thinking when they agree to put themselves in harm’s way? That’s an easy one. “I hope I don’t die, but if I do, it’ll be worth it.”

I know there are a lot of people who don’t think the war in Iraq is right. There are also people who don’t believe that our country is worth dying for. I, and the majority of military members, don’t agree.

I don’t know if that answers your quesion at all. Hopefully, it does. If it doesn’t, feel free to ask again, in a slightly different way. 😉
Kristina

19 02 2009
Kristina

Oh, and of course it was different for me than, say, someone joining the Army. The Navy just doesn’t see the action that the Army does. But, I truly believe that NO ONE should join the military unless they are willing to die.

19 02 2009
JJ

When I was in my mid 20s and already embarked on my career but childless, I thought I would enlist in the officer training reserves, maybe in intelligence-cryptography or something similar. This was back in the late 70s or early 80s, no wars or dangers to speak of, more like a parttime job with great retirement benefits, I thought then. So I set up interviews with the Army, Navy and Air Force in our southern college town. The Army was NOT female-friendly imo, almost scared me off the whole idea. Navy and Air Force seemed less wacko-macho to me and I actually came really close to going Air Force. Then I got into my doctoral study instead and got assigned to legislative liaison work so I was traveling a lot without going anywhere much . . . 🙂

19 02 2009
JJ

I should add that I’m sure this was better not just for me, but for the armed services!

20 02 2009
writestuff444

JJ in uniform….I cannot picture that. 🙂

20 02 2009
Nance Confer

Thank you so much, Kristina for answering so thoroughly. The thinking about it part is what really interests me. You say you were aware you could die. The rest of your life sure gives you that information.

I hope that every young person who signs up has the information you did about the risks involved and truly embraces them.

Thanks for your service and for that of your family. I could certainly never do what you do/did and neither could JJ. 🙂

As for when you should be asked to do these things. . . that’s another issue.

Nance

20 02 2009
JJ

I think I was left in complete charge of a house with young children at too young an age. I was babysitting for nearby neighbors all Saturday and into the night (college football games plus before and after festivities) alone, at age 10 and 11. I also think I was probably left alone outside (with a bike and a sweet tooth and in early puberty) for hours in charge of myself and my own audacious explorations too young. . .

20 02 2009
JJ

Come to think of it, I’ve been too young and stupid for almost everything, most of my life! That no one stopped me could be debated, as to whether it was a good thing. Do we judge just by the luck of the draw — I made it through so it must’ve been right? Or vice versa if I hadn’t made it, and/or if I had seriously hurt others?

20 02 2009
JJ

Betty, the only uniform to give me that Chris Matthews thrill up the leg, that I’ve ever loved enough to wish I could wear all the time, is academic regalia. . . 🙂

25 02 2009
sg

Not so sure about the late brain development notion. Most scientists are suspicious of the methods used to formulate those hypotheses. If you like real science and logical thorough discussions and criticisms of “studies” check out gnxp.com. Many of the contributors review new “studies” hyped in the media and journals. Many contributors also link to their own science homepages. As a homeschool parent, I appreciate reading the thoughtful interpretations and using it as part of the education process.

26 02 2009
Nance Confer

It’s a good bet that my brain may not be developed enough to appreciate this site but could you help us out with a link to a particular article there?

I searched and couldn’t find anything on target.

Nance

26 02 2009
JJ

I’m with Nance. This “gene expression” is only one of a bazillion research-examining “science blogs” — why single out this one, and why for homeschoolers particularly? Wouldn’t cognitive daily be more on point, e.g.? (And lots of us do follow PZ Myers, do you?)

I couldn’t find any relevant research review at gene expression either, at least not by searching with frontal lobe development age, brain development age, etc. But I did by serendipity find something else I liked, that relates to The One Truth conversation Betty’s been hosting at her place:

Dennett seems to want to pretend that religious folk can set aside the stars that burn brightly in their sky by simply closing their eyes. Some can do this, as I have noted before, but let us not forget that fear of the dark is no small thing.

10 09 2010
Consider “Parental Rights” in Light of Friendly Atheist Advice to 14-Year-Old « Cocking A Snook!

[…] What’s Young and Stupid? What’s Old Enough to Know Better? […]

27 04 2013
JJ

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