Thursday, March 04, 2010

This week's lesson: self-control

Anyone who talks about "getting in touch with your inner child" should try teaching high school.

I do.

To be sure, high school students are wonderful people -- but as any neurologist could tell you, their brains are still getting wired for concepts such as "doing this could put me in a world of hurt." Now add surging hormones (not to mention their almost perennial lack of sleep) . . .

And the results can be kind of like driving a Toyota, i.e. lots of accelerator, but not much in the way of brakes.

Never mind graduation, in other words -- simply keeping them alive is a matter of replacing the external controls of childhood with the internal controls of adulthood; it's teaching them that urge to "go for it!" may not always be a good idea.

In short, they already have passion; what they need now is something that will let them use that passion (instead of the passion using them). Yes, they need something the Greeks called ἐγκράτεια, or "self-control."

And no, there's nothing wrong with being spontaneous and passionate and hopelessly idealistic -- in fact, these are the things that make high school students so much fun to teach.

But if you're going to "get in touch with your inner child," then trust me:

That's when you need to make sure there's an adult around.

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