Teenagers are dumb

by Jess

And I mean that. I was a teenager once, less than a decade ago, and I thought I was awesome. I was bright, witty, well-liked, and I finished as salutatorian of my graduating class.

I was still dumb.

I thought Romeo and Juliet was drivel, for one thing. And I thought the universe was Jessocentric, for another. (As DFW said in his Kenyon College commencement speech: “Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. … Think about it: There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of.”)

But today I was reminded that teenagers are dumb when I read this article in The Rumpus. It’s not a unique phenomenon, teens complaining about the books they have to read for English class, and I’ll concede that most teenagers are not intellectually or emotionally mature enough to appreciate Shakespeare (but God, how passionate I was about my college Shakespeare class; it changed my life). But let’s consider the quote from darling little Olivia Reed: “Current required readings often make students skip the book and go straight to the movie or use Spark Notes to pass the test.” Yes, Olivia, when things in life are too difficult for you, make sure you always take the lazy way out and cheat on the test. That’ll get you far and give you a deep sense of satisfaction.

The article solicits suggestions for modern-day equivalents of current high school reading requirements, contemporary books that would be more engaging and accessible to teens. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about branching out of the canon and exposing kids to great literature that will make lifelong readers of them; one of the article’s commenters is a teacher whose kids are reading Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and I think that’s amazing. But The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn isn’t accessible? What do they want? Would See Spot Run satisfy them, or would Spark Notes find a new market in children’s literature?

Young Jacob Stroud tries to sound intellectual when he says, “The veil of time often blinds young readers to a book’s meaning.” No, Jacob, being a teenager tends to blind you to what’s actually important in life. Here’s a tip: it may not be you.

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