Thomas Hine and Patricia Hersch Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1433 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Children  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] (Of course, for many poor and especially immigrant families this is not the case: Children of farmworkers, for example, often work in the fields beside their parents and siblings so that their families will themselves be able to afford food.)

This freeing of teenagers from the constraints of productive labor may sound as if it were a good thing, but it is in fact a mixed blessing. Hine reminds us that "For most of our history, child labor was not a social horror but simply a fat of life" (Hine 58) and that -- furthermore -- "The labor of teenagers -- and pre-teenagers as well -- has played a very large role in the development of North America" (Hine 57). The fact that teenagers no longer (with rare exceptions) contribute in a meaningful way to either their household or the national economy is a drain on both family and country. It is also in many ways bad for the teenagers themselves, who tend to drift into meaningless minimum-wage jobs. While an earlier generation of teens would have worked on farms or in factories -- even in schools teaching younger children -- today's teenagers are serving up fries are learning few skills that will serve them in the long run.

Their economic marginalization seems to affect the teenagers that Hersch has interviewed. They seem in many ways to be waiting for their lives to start, something that Hine suggests is far more common now than it would have been a century ago. Hine helps us to understand that the world of today's teenager is specific to the experience of adolescents in contemporary Western industrialized nations in which there is a long period of time between puberty and adult rights and responsibilities. In many (probably most) traditional agricultural societies, a relatively short period of time elapses between physical maturity and the taking on of adult responsibilities, whether in the form of marriage, planting one's own fields, beginning to hunt or fish independently, or apprenticing for a job. Hine makes it clear that in many ways the kind of teenager that Hersch profiles is the product of the late-industrial West and many of the problematic behaviors of adolescence in Western societies stem from this extended period of time in which young people are for the most part physically and emotionally prepared for adulthood but do not have any of the prerogatives of the state.

Because teenagers are not in general expected to help support their families, and because many of them spend a great deal of time alone with the rise of single-parent households and households in which both parents work outside the home, they find themselves with a great deal of leisure time. Certainly -- as Hine makes clear -- teenagers have always engaged in forms of entertainment that were specific to their generation, they do so even more now than ever as a substantial amount of money developing products and then attempting to sell them to the pre-teen and teen markets.

While teenagers a century ago might have gone on hayrides -- a cheap and in most cases innocent form of entertainment -- today's teens are far more likely to spend time with a Sony Playstation, an X-Box, or a Nintendo Game Cube -- or watching television, spending time in chat rooms or sending instant messages. While certainly there should be time in every teen's life for relaxation (as there should be time in the life of every person to do things that that person enjoys) it is also important that teens be able to pursue activities that are meaningful. The analyses of both Hine and Hersch suggest that teens would be happier if they were doing something that they think is important. Freed from the responsibility of bringing home a paycheck, teens can find that meaningful activity in volunteer work or through extracurricular activities.

Hine's argument that teens can accomplish a great deal is an important one; its corollary -- that teens should accomplish a great deal -- is just as important.

Works Cited

Hersch, Patricia. A Tribe Apart: A Journey into the Heart of American Adolescence. New York: Ballatine, 1996.

Hine, Thomas. The Rise and Fall… [END OF PREVIEW]

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