Freaking Out over Adolescent Rebellion . . . during WWII

I grew up hearing that young people today were especially sinful, rebellious, and hedonistic. I grew up hearing that young people were rejecting faith in God and turning to juvenile delinquency in larger numbers than in the past. I grew up hearing that as a result of parents turning away from corporal punishment, adolescents were wayward, drug addicted, and suicidal like never before. Then I learned in college about the 1960s and the Baby Boomers. I realized that this idea that adolescent rebellion was either new or in greater numbers than before was obviously false.

But really, this goes back much, much further than just the 1960s. I recently read an excerpt from John R. Rice’s 1946 book, The Home: Courtship, Marriage, and Children. I was, quite simply, floored by how word for word it mirrored what I was taught about the present era—even though it was written in the mid-1940s. So much for nostalgia, right? Anyway, here is the relevant excerpt, from page 197:

In these days when juvenile delinquents fill the jails, when homes for fallen girls are crowded, when teenage prostitutes throng every city and run after soldiers, when smoking, drinking, immoral, criminal youth has become the greatest moral problem in America, some educators frown on discipline of any kind. These silly, morally immature, impractical educators and theorists have utterly failed in turning out good men and women, citizens of character with Christian hearts and noble lives. Yet they scoff at corporal punishment which is so clearly taught in the Bible and so thoroughly vindicated by practical experience. The only answer to juvenile delinquency, the only answer to a generation which has grown up without faith in God, without self-control, without any steadfastness of moral character, is to come back to the Bible and find God’s way of growing men and women with character. Prayerful, intelligent, Christian discipline in the home is absolutely essential to the growing of good men and women.

I’m really tired of the scare tactics and the animus directed at adolescents. I’m tired of the idea that juvenile delinquency or teenage rebellion is something new or is occurring on a much higher level than in the past. I’m tired, so tired, of decade after decade and even century after century of evangelical and fundamentalist leaders declaring the downfall of civilization and the decay of humankind. Enough already.

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