Twelve to eighteen years

By Phyllis Wallbank

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

By T.S.Eliot, Little Gidding

These lines are so applicable to this stage of 12,13, 14, and 15, 16, and 17 years. This stage is so very different from the 6 to 12 age group, but it relies for the basis on the stage before where they begin to understand their own uniqueness and get to know and to use their talents which their type of character brings with it.

During the previous stage the young are interested in the physical properties of the world and how things work. In this way they are adjusting to a world view of the nature of things and whilst they are coming to understand themselves, they are adjusting to an overall view of the world, its properties and systems.

Now at puberty everything changes. Their attention is now directed towards people, particularly their friends and these relationships. During these first three years, 12, 13 and 14, they are unsure of their bodies and the strangeness of their new emotions and they are very vulnerable. The stage from twelve to eighteen divides clearly into developmental stages of these three years, both physically and psychologically.

The great inner need of this age group is to belong to the social group, yet to do this we have to be at ease and belong to ourselves through acknowledging that uniqueness and valuing its creation. At this stage of relationships, they often develop a relationship to the creator as well as finding the value of ordinary relationships (although there is no 'ordinary relationship' really as each is so unique).

A bond of affection is felt now towards other living things, especially towards animals. Girls here often develop a love of horses and their welfare. However the boys, instead of horses, develop a fascination for engine power.

Writing about the activities of the age groups is very hard as all life is not a single continuous stream, but is lived at very different levels all at the same time; yet when writing it has to be put as a single stream. It should therefore be remembered that many of the things mentioned happen at the same time. People are not predictable in their choices or needs although we all have general stages of development whether a poor inner city child in Europe or a rich Indian child in a town in India. Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Buddhist, Christian or of whatever religion, we all have the same inner developmental needs that have to be recognised within education and used to produce harmony within each person.

The publication of the human genome has shown that the relatively small number of gene differences between us and mice demonstrates how important the environment is for our development. During this last generation we have not seen very clearly the real needs of our young people. In nearly all schools this age group is found to be difficult and in England the Inspector of Schools said recently that this age group from 12 to 15 is generally noted to be badly behaved. The accent of education has been on data learning and memorising for personal gain of certificates. We have kept them during their growth spurt years sitting for many hours each day for five days a week at desks or tables and chairs of the same height often regardless of these physical changes. We have pressed so much factual learning into them and then expected them in examinations to regurgitate it on a set day at a set time regardless of, for instance, the new discomfort of menstruation etc.. We have made some people sit exams when they would almost certainly fail and have left them feeling inadequate at the time when it is so important to be affirmed. It has been impossible for our children to play safely alone in the parks or on the streets with their young friends. It has been a time of enormous restriction for the young in this country and we have pressurised to such an extent that thousands in the UK truant. When they gain certificates and high grades we encourage the feeling of self glorification for achieving the certificate rather than the work.

When we follow the development of the nature of humanity, the individual will discover his potential and he will value his actual understanding and will be pleased to use that learning for the benefit of others .

Not long ago I read something that I found humorously indicative of our education in England (which we exported with the best intention, all over the world.) This was a parody on an imaginary present day scene of the Sermon on the Mount. This is the important sermon given by Jesus Christ teaching the crowds and his disciples. It can be found in St Matthew's Gospel Chapter 5 and is known generally as the Sermon on the Mount and the disciples are being taught the most important values to live by. I wrote this parody down when I was in America but failed to find who wrote it. I think that it is a very clever parody on dominant concerns within our education system today. The Sermon on The Mount is given and is then followed by these remarks:

Simon Peter: Will this count for the exam?
Andrew: Are you giving us a test on it?
James: When do we have to know it by?
Philip: How many words does it have to have?
Bartholomew: Will I have to talk about it in front of the others?
John: Does everyone have to learn this?
Matthew: How many points towards our results will we get for this?
Judas: What is it worth?

Then one of the Pharisees asked to see the Lesson Plan and demanded to know what were Christ's terminal objectives in the cognitive domain!

This is very amusing and witty; however, after enjoying it, if we begin to think about it, it becomes very sad for it brings home to us how within our last decades education has become lost within these parameters and how learning is often not valued for its own sake. Now begin the decades when hopefully we will value understanding more than external learning. The university dons have often protested that students have learnt to answer examination questions well, but without having understood the principles behind the results and data and yet they gained high grades.

Bernard Lonergan in his wonderful, but unfortunately in some places very difficult to read, book, 'Insight', says on page 322,

'The awareness is the awareness of intelligence, of what strives to understand, of what is satisfied by understanding, of what formulates the understood NOT as a schoolboy repeating by rote a definition, but as one that defines because he grasps why the definition hits things off.'

In this third stage of development, children who have followed the inner needs of development will be academically advanced. In the second stage they sought to know and were helped to acquire information and understanding of their world environment. Now with puberty the students' interests are very different. Now it is relationships that count and they seek more understanding of their own personality and physical well being, together with a real wish to know how their society works that they may feel and be part of it.

Children often become cross with their parents because they are not so aware of the emergence of a very different personality from the previous stage and worry often makes the parent pry and invade the young person's new sought after privacy. A cross young adolescent may let off steam through poetry. That privacy is often filled with an inner yearning for perfect love. There is a contemplative mystical side to this age.

Here is the general scheme for this age group before elaborating on it:

For the first three years (12,13 and 14) the students should have activities that do not require them to be continually within desk and chair but able to move about and get used to their developing body and its new size. Art, handicraft, music, drama, literature, biographies discussions, hero worship , will sublimate these new hormonal mood changes, The first three years during these changes the males and females need to have space away from each other. Separately each will learn more about their bodies and their care, nutrition etc. They need to see videos of births and breast feeding and have discussion following lectures by believers in the various very different types of child birth. This age group values opportunities for visits to places where people who are mentally or physically challenged receive care.

The 14 year olds should be able to choose some hours of apprenticeship. There should be a wide choice such as carpentry, decorating, dress making, pottery and any subjects that are useful in home making and repairs. When apprenticeships were common when I was young, the skilled workers liked to have pupils at this age as they found them eager to learn. They found that at age 16 the personality of the pupil was more dominant and he was not so eager to be shown, but more generally thought that he already could do it! It is a very different inborn stage and needs to be acknowledged by giving different opportunities.

This age group should have mobile class rooms for demonstrations and hands-on activities done on set topics and arranged by the universities. An example of this could be soil differences:
  • Samples showing the different colours of soils, caused by iron and organic matter.
  • Measurements of particle size of sand, silt, and clay.
  • See a textural triangle and organisation of the 12 different classes.
  • Allowed to feel the different textures and place in named categories.
  • Show how to use key identifying characteristics.
  • Be shown the four major components of soil and be shown how to work out percentages.
  • Be shown how to judge soil to raise food.
  • See food problems of other countries and indicate alternatives or helpful addition for agriculture

This mobile classroom would be prepared by university students of agronomy and would be manned by students who display their own enthusiasm that made them choose that subject. The outcome will be to make all the surroundings more interesting and understandable.

The mobile classroom would go around to schools and then the project would be changed to one from a different discipline, perhaps a particularly interesting Maths project. It is a way for university students to follow through a project and give it back in key steps within a younger age group.

As the main interests of this age group are people , their history should be biographical together with human geography and archeology. All subjects should be done in relation to their own lives:

Law: domestic, traffic, civil courts, criminal courts, courts of Appeal etc.

Maths through their own budgets; imaginary budgets that they think they might earn; the budgets of land owners; budgeting of homes; mortgages; upkeep; repairs; budgeting and debt; the best ways of handling debt; personal money and savings; other ways: stocks and shares etc.; gambling and probability; district finance; the country's finance; ways of income and spending income; cost of war and defence; international debt, international rescue.

It is important at this stage to begin to help all the students to understand their actions. It is now that the former growth in the values of truth, use of intelligence and a reflective reasonableness are going to be needed.

During the first stage of development from birth to six, the child absorbed the traditions, the actions of the parents and the surrounding environment and made it his own. Now the young person is becoming an adult within a different epoch, with differing morality around and different possibilities through advance in science. This present stage is the stage where gradual understanding of their own actions and prejudices may be explored and acted upon by rejection or affirmation. It is each person's development that makes them no longer a prisoner of their parent's past, but a new individual with a task to do within the world.

In the first stage I showed through the anecdote about Christopher how to see the various stages of cognition and ever expanding understanding. I would like to show how during the next three years the students may be helped to understand and recognise these stages within themselves. Then in the following three years, 16 and 17 years, they would be greatly helped to discard false actions and attitudes grown by habit and to recognise actions for the help of themselves and society biased on truth.

This first stage is to help by encouraging the posing and answering for themselves of these three questions:
  1. What am I doing when I am knowing? (Lonergan...cognitional theory)
  2. WHY is doing that,knowing? (epistemology)
    The cognitional stages of knowing can then be used for devising learning and play materials of key stages for the younger age group.
  3. Understanding how that understanding, through conscious and subconscious reflection, has unlimited expansion and links to make a united whole within their known world. In the third three years they will be helped to self appropriation by going further into the realm of metaphysics, giving ethics and transcendent knowledge. This is the stage to help acquire the possibility of self transcendence. For this will be required: truth, attentiveness to what they are exploring within themselves, intelligence and reasonableness. They will have to be clear about their starting point, their direction and their values. They will learn with help and friendship to be attentive to what they are experiencing; they will be intelligent in their understanding and recognise direct insights and see formulations; they will look at the cultural values and be reasonable in their judgment; as questions present themselves for reflection there will be more insights, and then facts will be looked at and judged; decisions will be presented as to how to proceed, then the values will present themselves for deliberation and judgment of real true value for society. When the questioner is satisfied, then the decision is acted upon and the subject is aware of the loving respect which their action carries through and there is a feeling of a link with creation and creator.

They will become aware of why they have picked certain areas rather than others; why they ask certain questions and not others and they will become aware of the distinction between their activities suggested by society or within their own minds, and the real content within these actions. This is so important because it is the stage of idealism and the possibilities of the ideals being allied to perhaps something like Hitler Youth. We want in this way to teach them the richness of what it is to be truly human: to teach each to foster attentiveness of their actions, to use their intelligence, to reflect, and when the light of discovery of what seems to be true, to judge and then when the certainty comes, to act with real responsibility in action that is based within true authentic values, with the resultant contentment.

This type of self questioning and then self transcendence, rising above our habitual actions to find the truth from which they spring, will heighten our real love of God, but will trim away some of our actions from the time of the absorbent mind stage when we discover that they are no longer actions springing from a real truth. It was inherited action with the reality no longer present behind it. Lonergan says on page 599 of 'Insight',
  1. To avoid 'self consciousness' we give the explanation of avoidance through referring to our ancestry and our environment.
  2. We talk about "extenuating circumstances"! There must never be this inconsistency between knowing and doing. The two must always be in harmony.
  3. We may confess, yet we say to ourselves that there is no hope really of being able to mend our ways.

We deceive ourselves by rationalising. We see that it is not easy to come to self transcendence. Father Joseph Flanagan in his book 'Quest For Self Knowledge' says:

'Truly authentic knowers are continuously struggling knowers, always on the alert for further questions that will advance their accumulative knowledge and reverse their mistaken assumptions.'

Let us think of a hypothetical case: In the last decades in England, the papers and the internet and the media in general have highlighted cases of paedophilia. This has resulted in parents training small children never to talk or to smile at a stranger. Now suppose in the next decades there is a big moral stand and also a new medical treatment for this tendency and any further cases are kept under control. In two decades time, the present small children will be grown up and possibly have children of their own and they would probably continue with the adage (as most parents repeat things said to them as a child ), "On no account speak or smile at a stranger."If questioning her own understanding and following through as 'Method' as advised by Lonergan, she might stop and question: Perhaps "Is there a 'stranger' near here?" "What do I mean by this 'stranger'?" "Why am i saying it?" "Am I just going to repeat what was said to me by my Mother?" "Is it really necessary now?" Then data would be carefully collected: police statistics, local paper, national press, social worker's information.

Eventually, on correlating all the information and judging, she might come to see very clearly that there was no substance now in this warning and after careful judgment would reflect and the definite decision would present itself and she might well see that it was no longer necessary to give the warning. It would be like the 1920's when there was not this fear. She and her children might then begin to be kindly, smile and if necessary help the stranger with shopping bags, just perhaps small ways of change. However the mind goes on expounding on the answer and further questions would arise...'Who are the strangers now?" "Who are they in my own life?" "Are they an ethnic group in my country who is being marginalised?" "Who is a stranger in my own life?" Is it the person I don't bother to speak to who is elderly and lives alone now?" And so the question and answers will go on and finally a certainty of possible actions will come. Then will come further judgment resulting in responsible action. Perhaps it will be just a letter to a paper pointing out marginalisation of a group within our society. However, as is the nature of all human minds, her conscious mind will continue to expand on the shame and more and more understanding will come with ever increasing links and understanding of the stranger.

We were meant to reflect because a human being cannot help questioning and the reflectiveness is a part of our nature; no one escapes a continuous running commentary in their mind, regardless of intelligence, race or creed.

The next eighteen year old stage of development is when often a great cause is undertaken and throughout history people of this age have been ready to literally die for what they believe. This is why the previous stage needs so much the method of understanding of what they are doing and the type of action that comes with truth. When we look at our Christian history, we can so often see wonderful ideals marred by cruel actions used to bring about the ideals. The inner content of our main actions needs to be understood. This is the stage for examining ways of life absorbed within ourselves in the first stage of our life when the absorbent mind took in society's and our parents' actions. Whenever they find that the true origin of their content doesn't fit their own understanding of true values, now is the time to jettison. All this is not an external agenda imposed from without, but an inner personal way of understanding their own inner development. No one can do it for the person. This is of major psychological importance for the latter part of this age range of 15, 16, and 17 years.

This way of getting through to a reality that results from question and answer being followed through within the heart and mind, brings the self to a point where motives are provided for carrying out personal and also communal goals that are of value to the world. With this new level of consciousness comes a self control with great peace.

The students are presented with topics connected with real life around them within their immediate society. Then their vision and understanding is widened to a world view. Talks are given by experts in the topics of the subject and with their permission may be taped so that students can listen again if they wish.

Teachers are more like tutors and they are there to give suggested ways that students will find the answers to their own questions. On completing a piece of learning connected with the study, the student then makes a piece of self- correcting material showing clearly the key stages of that topic. They may have been interested in hearing about the law of appeal and its different stages culminating in the European court or The House of Lords. The material will show each stage clearly, possibly setting it out like a family tree. There would be two identical charts but one would have the names of the courts and the other would not have them named, but would have separate labels with each name so that the student can put them into place and then check against the named chart. A slower student might match the labels first on the named chart and, when he is ready, will take the unnamed chart and place the labels, checking his work at the end. Whilst thinking about and making learning materials, the maker learns the data himself by doing rather than just looking. When one just looks, only one eighth of the brain is used. When it is spoken as well and listened to and there is also movement while placing the labels, then more of the brain is used and the information will go into the long term memory.

The complete age range may listen to the talks and then the learning and research ,videos and films and the internet or computer software are all utilised. When this is done then there can be really informed discussion following this work. The work is done in self-made groups or individually and may stimulate conversation. This discussion has often been lacking in education within these last decades.

  • Different civilisations
  • History of law
  • UN law
  • European Law
  • Civil law
  • UK criminal law
  • Business law
  • Domestic law
  • Appeal procedures
  • Psychology of law breaking
  • Scientific treatment of delinquency
  • Different types of discipline
  • History of medicine
  • Future of medicine
  • Present day medicine helps
  • Present day medicine..flaws
  • Present day mortality - elderly causes, middle-age causes, young causes
  • Human Biology
  • Nutrition fashions, nutrition today, future nutrition aims
  • Personal opinions
  • World ...present
  • Third world
  • Europe
  • U.K.
  • Future forecasts
  • Solutions
  • Epidemics and wars
  • Present problems - Solutions
  • Future solutions
  • World
  • This country.
  • Starting a business
  • Modern technology
  • Accounting budget
  • Planning overseas and difficulties
  • This country and difficulties
  • Business success today
  • Business success last century
  • Business failure
  • Bankruptcy
  • Inventions needed
  • Personality for success
  • Physiology of the brain
  • The mystery of the mind
  • Types of personalities
  • Great people in History
  • Disorders of the brain
  • Disorders of the mind
  • Genetic knowledge
  • Healthy brains
  • Healthy minds
  • The will
  • The spirit
  • Integration of mind, body and spirit.
  • Our universe
  • Other universes
  • The planets
  • The stars
  • The earth
  • The sun
  • The moon
  • The eclipse
  • Asteroids
  • Space ships
  • Space travel
  • The future

We could go on to suggestions for topics of particular interest like Inventions, etc. etc.. The current news will influence the interest in a subject. All are related to their own life and will appeal throughout the world, rich or poor, East or West. The world is in communication now and we are all part of the whole.

The language skills were established within the very first stage and the grammar and structures studied in the second stage. During the later part of this third stage it would be wonderful if a month could be spent in a completely different culture. A visit should be undertaken to the country of the learnt language and where possible it is useful to have a companion from this country for perhaps two weeks.

I have left the religious and spiritual topics to be filled in by the experts. This is the age now of spirituality and mysticism.

After the years of puberty are given space (12, 13, and 14), whilst the students are getting used to their own new identities, strengths and weaknesses, then they will be eager to mix together again when 15, 16 and 17. A good way of cooperating together is to learn about Fire in all its aspects connected with themselves and in the world and in the universe. This subject is riveting for this age group and all their subjects will be involved if they follow their own interests and inquiries. If they can go to camp together then to sit round a camp fire and sing with the stars above, is a great binding together in companionship.

When back at their Learning Centre they will be able to earn money by keeping the environment in order. Every day a list of chores and prices should be put up and the times of doing the task put up also. Then the students sign up for the tasks. The less popular tasks should earn more than the more popular ones. There should be a possibility of exchanging the money for school currency if wished so that anything may be bought immediately at the school shop. Students should be able to suggest new tasks not listed and, if approval is given, then they negotiate the payment. The whole operation is done (with advice) and planned by the students. In this way they learn something of how the the commercial world works, and how to work as a team and fit in to society, but within this safe environment. Singing, dancing, drama productions, art, sculpture, choirs, orchestras and bands make up the alive background. There is so much for everyone, including of course all the physical activities. Everyone should have their personal training programme for coordination development and physical fitness goals. There should in these later three years be outdoor adventure activities where there are challenges but safety procedures learnt. There are team games where they learn the importance of strategies and cooperation and competition between teams, just as there should be the possibility of athletics and evaluation of performances. This is such a rich and wonderful stage of life and if we help this stage we shall have well-educated, world-caring citizens full of wonder and awe at the diversity of life and without the frustrated aggression which so often, unfortunately, is characteristic of this age group today.