Monday, October 27, 2008

youth vs. student

At AYME last weekend Rick Lawrence was giving out free copies of GROUP magazine. I've been an on again off again reader for years. I usually turn off when there is a bad issue and then later on read something interesting. This one opened up with what I thought was a great editorial.

Not sure if you checked out the comments but I was left speechless. Folks think that this is political correctness? That names don't matter? That Smith is wrong?

I could go through and refute each argument but I don't feel like Smith needs help here. A lot of young people aren't students (and no, some BS line about how all Christians should be students doesn't take this one away) and therefore calling this age students doesn't cover all of the people we would like to. When Men's Ministry becomes Gainfully Employed Male Tax Payer group, then we can call it Student Ministry. When we start letting the state develop our theological anthropology for us, let me know so that I can join the Old Order Mennonites who seem to be one of the only groups who understands the subtle dangers of letting the state exercise total control over society.

I'm so not in touch with a good chunk of the youth ministry world. Next post will prove that even more.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Stodgy No More

In case you think the ALA (American Library Association) is a tad stodgy in their list generation (they narrowed the nominations down so that young people could vote on a slate prepared by adults) you can click over to the Cybils.

The list is long and I definitely don't have time or money to look at the whole thing but I love the fact that the Internet has allowed disparate readers to gather together. As a young person, I would have loved to have had conversations about books but wouldn't want to be a geek in my own school. The Cybils represent a great new way of thinking about reading.

Top Ten Teen Books

The American Library Association has a teen read week every year and they allow young people to choose the past year's top ten books. Here they are (apparently over 8000 votes):
  1. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
  2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
  3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  4. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  5. Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports by James Patterson
  6. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  7. The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
  8. Extras by Scott Westerfeld
  9. Before I Die by Jenny Downham
  10. Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
Why care? First, unless high school English has changed a lot, none of these books are assigned reading. There is clearly a disconnect between the lists of what young people want to read vs. what adults think they should read.

Second, since there is such a disconnect, I've got to wonder whether young people employ different ways of reading for 'pleasure' vs reading for class. I'm thinking that young people are learning to read in one way (analytical) but are choosing another way to read outside of the school context. Should we not help young people integrate the two?

Third, I know Romeo and Juliet a whole lot better than I know the Twilight series. If I hope to talk to young people about reading, I better get cracking at reading about adolescent vampires.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Morality and youth

You may not agree with who they promote but the sentiment is bang on - voting is a moral action for young people and we need to treat it as such. Of course they are making fun of anti-drug PSA but that is the point. Adults get obsessed about the wrong moral issues, like drugs, and leave aside the most important ones, like who is the next president of the largest military power in the world.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Book lists

I'm ramping up a project on trying to figure out how young people read. I know that the physical process is similar for everyone but there are so many things different about young people - their developmental stage, the culture they are immersed in, the schools they learn to read in - that I'm betting that they read in a different way than people in other developmental, cultural or educational contexts.

Saying that, I've been combing the Internet for interesting places to find young people reading. One of the things that I've been interested in is lists of books that people now believe were important for them to read as young people. Jeff Keuss, who I met over the weekend, has such a list in his "book shrine." While I will never agree that Mill on the Floss should be required reading for young people, I wouldn't mind if my daughter read it as a young person.

All of this is to say, any lists out there? Any push back on Jeff's? He has no comments in relation to the post so who knows, maybe people don't care about books.

Nerd Girls

A friend emailed me this week about a talk he was giving. The group were claiming "nerd" as a badge of honour. Thought that he might appreciate this:

For my blue state friends

Perhaps because I currently live in NJ (a Democratic state) I often hear, "If McCain and/or Palin win, I'm moving to Canada." The following public announcement should help:

reading is good for your body

According to this article in the NYT (you may need to register to follow the link - it's free and easy) girls reading a particular book with an overweight heroine lost more weight than girls who did not read the book. Sedentary lifestyles, like mine, apparently aren't making me get blobbo.

Monday, October 20, 2008

yo yo guru

Marko found this. I'm convinced it is my new PTS colleague Stephen Cady as a middle schooler.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Winning without winning

The results are in. Harper, Layton, Duceppe win. Dion and May lose. In the end, nobody really won. Harper has more seats but not a majority. Layton has more seats but not as many as Broadbent. Duceppe holds even but hasn't furthered his separatist agenda. Dion clearly is the biggest loser. May didn't even get a seat (why the heck did she think she could beat McKay?)

I hope that Harper and the Conservatives do not interpret the rejection of the Green Shift plan as a rejection of the environment by the Canadian electorate. Can't the Tories reclaim the leadership that Mulroney showed regarding the environment? Can't they find a truly conservative policy regarding global warming? Can't they find a way to connect their economic policy with a progressive environmental agenda? My hope is that Layton and May can give up their left agendas and focus on crafting an environmental policy palatable to Harper.

I hope that this environmental soul searching will also lead to a renewal of the Conservative party. I'm dismayed that they can't win in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver. Maybe Harper needs to look to Britain for ideas on how to renew the party. If he doesn't, he may end up like Diefenbaker - a Western prime minister unable to govern a majority who gets pushed to the edges when the opposition party finally elects someone who can rally the troops against him. Heck, there is even a Trudeau in Parliament again.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Do Hard Things

Marko pointed this meme out to me through his blog. I wasn't aware of these guys before but I think that they are entirely correct in their assessment that young people are significantly more competent and able to deal with challenge than the "mook" or "mid riff" image of adolescence promotes.

Tie this into one of the questions asked by an elderly man from Chicago at last night's Presidential debate. "What sacrifices, other than military service, are you willing to ask Americans to make?" (I'm paraphrasing). Obama started to get it although I thought that his answer wasn't as strong as it could have been. He should have gone the direction that the Harris twins go - life has more meaning than consumption and we need s to step up and start to claim meaningful challenges for the young people in their lives.

New Blog

I recently found a new blog that ties into my interest in how young people read - Guys Lit Wire. It is mostly written by those who are invested in the YA genre but who aren't young people (largely, there does seem to be some young reviewers). To that extent you get an alternative take on YA lit, alternative that is from the industry but not alternative as in from young people themselves. Still, worth checking out, especially if you want to help a young male in your life find interesting things to read.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Please Register to Vote

I have a bias for who you vote for but it is more important to me that you vote. Democracy matters.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New Book

My friend and colleague Jason Santos has a new book out today. Here is what Publisher's Weekly said about it. Haven't got a copy yet so more later.

A Community Called Taizé: A Story of Prayer, Worship and Reconciliation
Jason Brian Santos. IVP Academic, $15 paper (180p) ISBN 978-0-8308-3525-6

When he first visited the Taizé ecumenical community in France's Burgundy region, author Santos, now a doctoral candidate at Princeton University, had no plans to write a book. By his second trip, however, the idea for one had taken root. Geared to an English-speaking, North American audience and said to be a first-of-its-kind account, this lovely and instructive book mingles the community's history with descriptions of day-to-day life and practical information about making a pilgrimage to Taizé. Although many American Christians are familiar with Taizé's chants, few may know the details Santos imparts. Most compelling among them is the author's witnessing Taizé founder Brother Roger's violent death in 2005 at the hands of a disturbed woman during evening prayers. Santos insists that this did not lead him to write the book, but it provides a remarkable context for writing about the community that has attracted so many with its message of reconciliation, trust and freedom. Besides Santos's careful research, readers will appreciate his thoughtful ideas about how to take Taizé's spirit beyond the community. (Nov.)

Mixed Race and Risky Behaviour

I'm sure its because of Obama that the Atlantic drew attention to this piece of research but, regardless of motivation, it is an interesting look at why mixed race young people seem to engage in riskier behaviours than their peers.

Changes in University/College

I'm working on a project at the moment that is trying to take a big picture look at youth ministry. I've been trying to get the scope of the project pushed wider than we normally use in youth ministry. We often look at individuals or specific churches, maybe even readily apparent trends that impinge on our ministry efforts, when we want to diagnose what is going on with youth ministry. We'll talk about how sports and sports culture means that young people can't come to church because they have to go to practice. Good but not complete.

Admittedly we don't all have time to do massive amounts of research but some of us should push back to get a 30,000 foot view. Our sense of history seems truncated. For instance, how can we do youth ministry without understanding how the education system in North America has changed through history? I get a campus update email and this little piece was in it the other day:

How Higher Ed Has Changed: The greatest boost to higher education came with the GI Bill following World War II. With government funding, college enrollment increased from 160,000 two years before the war to nearly 500,000 in 1950. In 1952, veterans made up 49% of all students. By the time the Baby Boom Generation graduated from high school, college was no longer just for the elite, but had become more accessible to all. Between 1960 and 1980 the number o professors in the US rose from 235,000 to 685,000. America had created a large educated class of people. In the last 15 years, much attention has been given to the lack of interest and spirit of entitlement among many today's college students. Parents are over-involved and students want to be entertained. The quality of college education has been lamented with many students scoring little better than high school graduates of 50 years ago. According to the US Department of Education, nearly half of college students need remedial courses in math and reading. Tuition costs have outpaced inflation and even health care. Thirty years ago, the annual cost of attending a private university equaled 21 weeks of pay for the average US worker. Now that figure is more than 53 weeks, more than a year of work to pay for a private college. (Salvo Magazine Autumn 08)

Now, Salvo magazine might not be the best source for some of these things (as the comments to the article indicate) and they are clearly polemical but Ivyjungle has done a good job representing the salient facts. Those facts should cause us pause when we think about our young people and helping them figure out what they want to do in the world. Larger educational trends through history seem to impinge significantly on our current practice but we may be unaware of how because we don't ever look.

I keep saying "our" and "we" but maybe it is just me. I'm pushing myself to look bigger, to see bigger trends than we normally look at.