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M Light

All very interesting. I could write a whole post in response, but I have a book review I want to write so I'll settle for a long comment (grin).

I like the list of 40 assets. My favorites, though not necessarily the most important ones, were "reading for pleasure," "creativity," and, as I see my daughter using it - "interpersonal competence."

The ones that struck me the most, however, were the ones having to do with empowerment - doing something, as a teen or young adult, that's considered useful and valuable. The lack of that I found very frustrating as a teen. Yes, it was important to do well at school, and the subjects were interesting, but I wanted to do something that made more of a difference. There doesn't seem to be much that's intellectual, at that age, and useful that you can do. OTOH, playing music in concerts, or at churches or nursing homes, was appreciated - and that was very important to me.

I see the same thing in my older kid's experiences. Older son has volunteered for almost 6 years at the entomology department of the science museum. Daughter was frustrated, when she got into adolescence, that so many useful things at church were closed to kids - though she understood why, for practical reasons, 12 yo's couldn't help out at the community kitchen. She loved being in the adult choir last year - just being another soprano. Her major thing, however, is dance, where, along with dancing and helping the instructors demonstrate, she's also counseled at camps and helped out with the office work and the cleaning.

What's interesting is that we've been very lucky in running across these opportunities. They're generally not advertised as something specifically for teens (which, I think, is part of why my kids have enjoyed them so much).


I was also struck by the empowerment assets, as they seem to be the most constructive in nudging teens to adulthood without the physical and psychological violence associated with traditional coming-of-age rites.

Community service gets a bad name in schools sometimes, especially when it's mandatory. Last year my son and I volunteered with other high school studentsat a community garden, some of whom had a less than stellar commitment to pulling food out of the ground for the hungry. But this is exactly what is needed-- activities that constructively point the way to inclusion in adult community.

I have for some time been thinking that maybe we need a new national service obligation, sort of like the draft. But this time, everyone who has never worked a year in public service would have to do it. So if you were drafted or in the military you wouldn't have to do it. Or if you were in the Peace Corps. But everyone else would have to spend a year out of their lives in the next, say, ten years, doing something that helped the nation. So a cardiologist in New York City might go to a rural area and be a general practitioner for a year. A university professor would teach in an inner city. A CEO would work as a debt counselor. Young people would plant wildflowers on highways, tutor, help renovate housing. It might be as easy as having a national database of opportunities and then matching them up with volunteers. Sign ups on the Internet. A year out of one's life is not that much in the grand scheme of things. Doing the service would make you eligible for your social security. Don't do it, no social security.

I think that after 9/11 we had a chance to make a real sacrifice for the country, and most of us did not make a sacrifice, but left the sacrifice up to our military and military families.

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