Teenage Terror or Adolescent Advance ?

I’ve been reading a lot about The French Revolution recently, and was looking at the spat between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. I found Paine’s argument (in The Rights of Man) very interesting.4461146710_0027162389_b

Paine essentially makes an argument for new ideas replacing old ones, by inference that just because an idea has endured does not make it inherently more viable than the new. I started to develop this in relation to social attitudes to teenagers and innovation.

I think that most societies find their teenagers very difficult to accept, there’s a often a knee-jerk reaction – “teenagers are a problem”. It then becomes difficult for us to listen to, and accept the ideas, of teenagers.


The vast majority of the teenagers that I taught for 20 years had absolutely nothing in common with the media stereotype of the alienated, superficial, narcissistic and nihilistic youth. Most of the teenagers that I taught were incredibly thoughtful, insightful, committed to their society and its positive development.

Teenagers are building their ideas on those left by previous generations, their ideas are the evolution of previous forms. Teenagers have the most personal interest in getting the future right.

So, here’s my question: does society need to start to listen to teenagers more seriously ? Should teenagers be given more power ? Can teenagers offer us solutions to problems that previous generations failed to solve ?Thomas Paine

The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave, is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies.  Man has no property in any man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow.”

The Rights of Man, Thomas Paine


About danieltrump

breathing and sensing human. Learning to observe, learning to write, exploring ideas and thinking. www.danieltrump.wordpress.com


  1. Thinking should always look forward. Not look to the past … Very thoughtful post.thank you.

  2. Agreed, great post. I’m unsure whether teenagers should be taken seriously. I follow a number of teenage blogs for character research in young adult fiction. They all sound the same and so do their ground-breaking insights.

    There are a handful that are above and beyond their age groups, somehow they all seemed to have made their way to your class, but generally they all progress through the same generic lessons before their most brilliant thoughts become anything more than platitudes.

    So unfortunately, I’d have to disagree. My experience of teenagers is that they’re reinventing the wheel and expecting a pat on the back–and a few hundred likes–for their effort. I’d like to think teenagers are our future, but in truth, it is future adults, which were once teenagers, that will shape the world.

    I enjoyed your post despite our difference in opinion and am glad optimistic people like you are teachers. Definitely more positive an influence than we cynics.

    • Many thanks for your compliments, much appreciated. I have also seen much of what you describe from teenagers – the predictable and the superficial. However, I wonder whether this is because the framework within which they are creating is often restrictive, or it even promotes conventional answers? Such frameworks include school exam systems, college entry processes, popularity through virtual & real world networking, and media which promotes exclusivity. Maybe if we can find less status dependent creativity frameworks we’ll see more innovative output. Thanks again for your comments, it’s great to know someone’s reading!

      • Another brilliant comment. The education system is really quite lacking in that aspect. What little I know of English, I taught myself. I went to a classic public school and the emphasis was on essays.

        Apparently individual words and sentences were overlooked as an expectation, which is why I’d get so frustrated when my work would be corrected, despite never being taught the answers themselves.

        I’d consider an alternative school for my future children. I’m just worried they’d learn a lot of arts and craft but nothing academically sound. Seems we have to pick between placing our kids in a box or hippy-dippy “there is no box, maaaan!”.

      • Mr Vonzex I’m in total agreement with you, we haven’t changed the process of education for nearly 200 years, it was a process set up to produce a consumer workforce. We now need to produce creative innovators, and that will require a very different type of workforce.

        Ken Robinson’s speech : How schools kill creativity is a classic, and a very funny watch !

      • Well thank you. I’ll check that out. Are you still teaching at the moment? I hope you are because you’re sorely needed.

  3. If you teach teenagers to write it down, and turn it in on time, their thoughts and input will gain more consideration. (I was one of those teens who could always do the first, but didn’t catch on until about age 30 how important follow-through is.)

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