Monday, May 12, 2008

Rebelution Conference Notes--Part 1

Here I am, posting for the first time on this amazing blog! I hope you enjoy it. These are my notes from the Rebelution conference last fall, expanded a little.
Session 1-The Myth of Adolescence, Alex Harris

Alex started out by telling three stories about young men from different centuries: George, Dave and Drew. At age 17 George had the commission of surveying the entire Culpepper county in Virginia, a three year project. He had to survive very harsh conditions in the winter and unsettled wilderness during this time.

Dave, when he was only 12 years old, was put in command of his own ship. At one point he was in change of capturing an enemy ship and bringing its captain back to the US.

By the time Drew was 17 he was the sole provider for his family after his father’s death.

These three boys grew up to be George Washington, David Farragut and Andrew Carnegie.

Alex pointed out that although these are extraordinary feats for our time, these were not very extraordinary actions for their time. But do we know any teens these days that could do such things? Which leads to another interesting thing he said: the first use of the word “teenager” was in Reader’s Digest in 1941. What were people ages 13-19 before then? He continued to explain that until the last two generations, there were only two groups of people, children and adults. Childhood was spent preparing for adulthood and as soon as a young person was physically grown, they were ready to be an adult. At the beginning of the nineteen hundreds only 10% of people over age fourteen attended highschool, but labor and compulsory education laws soon changed that.

Alex then quoted 1 Corinthians 13, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I understood like a child and I thought like a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” He then said “Paul didn’t say, ‘When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I understood like a child and I thought like a child. But then I looked like a man and sounded like a man (Alex did a very funny deep voice), but I still acted like a child.’” Then jumping high into the air he made a very comical childish grin. Just as a side note, the Harris twins are very funny and the audience laughed several times during each of their talks. This illustration seems funny at first, but it is a frighteningly accurate depiction of the ideas of our culture.

Somewhere during this talk (I think I got everything out of order because I had nothing to take notes with for the first talk), Alex told the story of how people in Africa keep their elephants from wandering off with only a thin rope tied to a stake in the ground. This may not seem strong enough to keep the mighty elephant from braking free, but the bonds in its mind are. These shackles were first formed when the elephant was just a baby. The masters would chain the young animal to a thick tree and for the first weeks or months the creature would strain against it, but inevitably giving up. After that, the chains weren’t needed. The elephant tried and gives up forever, the restraints in its mind fully in place.

He then said that we teens are often like that with the culture. We have these expectations from the culture, low expectations, that are only thin rope, but we think are holding us back. Leaping across the stage, Alex encourages us to break free and encourages us to be all that we can be, expecting more out of ourselves than just making our bed and doing a daily chore, as one study suggests is appropriate for a teen. We can be better than the culture expects us to be and we can be better than we expect ourselves to be. That’s what the Rebelution is all about: rebelling against low expectations.

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