There is a youth camp in Serdang this month and 240 persons between the ages of 18 and 20 will gather for two nights to learn more about the township they are in – Sepang.
The progenitors of the programme, myself included, removed ourselves to the fringe once many other good people wanted to input their own think into the camp. I welcome it, however the statement by an external consultant caught me quite absurd, at the final planning meeting held two days ago.
The control theory
His theory was, in simple summary:
a)young people, especially those in the ages attending the camp are incapable of making basic choices, and therefore need “strong guidance”
b)This can be achieved by acts like, having a camp commandant and the consultant was kind enough to offer himself and his team to regiment this camp.
c)The physical interaction of the sexes will be kept to a minimum by these regulations.
d)Items like hand phones must be stored on behalf of the participants.
I started my response by saying that, I did not know the consultant prior to stepping into the room, and that giving him and his team the right to “hijack” the camp would be tantamount to making it the consultant’s camp and not ours.
I added that grabbing the phones of people is akin to stealing, if they are coerced into it.
The point I put is that just because people are young, does not mean they are stupid.
Which is the main point of this posting: Why are so many adults in this country bent on this idea that the young must be controlled in order for them to be useful members of society?
The choice progression
The young have less experience, but that is simply a biological fact. But being less experienced does not give those with more experience to rule over them incessantly – for it is a recipe for disaster.
You smack your 3 year old lightly on the bum if she is trying to put her finger into the power socket, as a reinforcement that it is unacceptable not to mention dangerous behaviour. But you do not smack your 15 year old son if he were attempting the same thing.
You’d scream “Are you marginally stupid my son, or just all out stupid. Don’t put your finger in the socket”.
That would be the end of that.
As our children grow, we allow them more space to decide until when they hit 18 they get to make all the decisions themselves. That is right, all the decisions. Where you want to study, who you want to date and if you want to bungee jump.
If you make them responsible for murder- if they commit one – then you have to give them the right to choose.
Girls and boys in Malaysia can be truant and delinquent all by themselves – the role adults play in the lives of the child and then adolescent becomes increasingly supervisory as they age. The responsible adult will facilitate, control and lead the child in varying degrees as necessary.
There are no guarantees. Making the choices for our young at a point where they can make decisions on their own will only create resentment. Advice and engage your young, but don’t assume that you can control them like dolls in a trunk.
The advent of the internet, arcades and bikinis have made things very tricky for parents, but a siege mentality will not suspend or blockade the future, worse it will accelerate the rebellion.
The camp we intended was one of simplicity. Getting the young together, making them know each other on good terms, build a network for future exchanges. There will be teambuilding, personality discovering and dialogue.
There is a long process between being a child and becoming an adult, and for far too long we have had a false perception that through a stronger leash we can keep the young on the straight an narrow. It is time for us to look at the young as adults in a very short time.