Thomas de Zengotita’s Mediated is one of my lateral summer reads. It fizzes with ideas; his reflection on the need for extended adolesence is one that caught my attention.
If "childhood" emerged as a category because people needed time to be modern adults, "adolescence" emerged because, the more elaborate popular culture became, the longer than process took. With the rise of recorded music, film, then TV and all the rest, the field of representations got so dense and extended that you had to, in effect, learn to learn to be an adult – that is, you had to learn to be an adolescent first.
I’ve used this ‘complexity theory’ to rationalise why few of my students read as much – and consequently write as well – as previous generations of university students. (PR students, above others, need to be alert to all these layers in popular culture.) Others scoff at this idea.
But there’s a category of student for whom life is much harder, and very much more real. They are professional students who are often changing jobs, moving house, getting married, getting divorced and having children. Sometimes all at once, while holding down challenging public relations posts. Yet few adults long to return to their adolescence.