Last week, former Stanford dean Julie Lythcott-Haims made a list of eight skills which every 18-year-old should possess. The list ran as follows:
- An 18-year-old must be able to talk to strangers.
- An 18-year-old must be able to find his or her way around.
- An 18-year-old must be able to manage his assignments, workload, and deadlines.
- An 18-year-old must be able to contribute to the running of a house hold.
- An 18-year-old must be able to handle interpersonal problems.
- An 18-year-old must be able to cope with ups and downs.
- An 18-year-old must be able to earn and manage money.
- An 18-year-old must be able to take risks.
Straightforward and simple, right?
But according to Lythcott-Haims, the culture of coddling and protection which we have built has made an 18-year-old with all of these skills a rare occurrence. Parents’ reluctance to give children chores, let them out of their sight, or even fight their own battles on the playground has, in essence, failed to teach basic responsibility to the next generation.
Author Dorothy Leigh Sayers sensed this same trend away from basic responsibility in her famous 1947 essay The Lost Tools of Learning. She noted:
“When we think about the remarkably early age at which the young men went up to university in, let us say, Tudor times, and thereafter were held fit to assume responsibility for the conduct of their own affairs, are we altogether comfortable about that artificial prolongation of intellectual childhood and adolescence into the years of physical maturity which is so marked in our own day? To postpone the acceptance of responsibility to a late date brings with it a number of psychological complications which, while they may interest the psychiatrist, are scarcely beneficial either to the individual or to society.”
One doesn’t have to look far to see that today’s children are certainly plagued by “psychological complications.” Is it possible that simple training in responsibility is the pathway out of those problems?
Image Credit: Ed Yourdon bit.ly/1iowB8m
Annie Holmquist is the editor of Intellectual Takeout. When not writing or editing, she enjoys reading, gardening, and time with family and friends.