AGE OF CONSENT

Although I catch myself in writing, my friends can confirm that in casual conversation I refer to my students as kids. "How was your day?" "Oh, the kids were really dead this morning, there must have been parties last night" or whatever. Technically this is a thing I should not say, because every single student I've ever encountered in my career has been, legally, an adult. Most are 19. The bare minimum for some overachievers is 18. The upperclassmen are like, SUPER adults. They're almost 22.

The reason I and so many other academics I interact with say "kids" is twofold. One is the recognition that even though we teach in universities, we are still teachers; there is a common thread to what I do and what a kindergarten teacher does, as it sometimes becomes all to clear. The other is that a veteran college professor can usually count on two hands the number of students he or she has had who truly carried themselves as adults. It's very easy to lapse into calling them Kids because they are, in all but the legal and physical-medical sense, children.

That is not a way of saying they're Bad. They are often a real joy to deal with. But on the whole they display distinctly kid-like behaviors. They pout. They eye-roll. They throw tantrums when they don't get what they want. They need to be told (begged, cajoled, threatened, etc) a thousand times to do things. They are readily distracted. Their interests tend toward the juvenile.

Again, that's not intended as a string of insults. It's just what they are, with some exceptions. Occasionally I lose time pondering what it says about me, about us, about higher education, and about American students that we call them "kids" when they are properly adults. In the long run it's likely a harmless reaction to forces beyond our control. Society encourages over-parenting and over-protection (Scary threats are everywhere!!) so colleges receive Men and Women who are in many important ways still Boys and Girls. So they mature a little later, socially and personally. No big deal in the grand scheme.

Last year during the Olympics, several famous American athletes embarrassed themselves and the country with drunken loutishness. It was widely noted that the IOC and many apologists for the men, notably Ryan Lochte, concluded that they were just kids having some fun and making some mistakes. Ryan Lochte is 32. This stands in contrast, of course, to black males who are adults – big, terrifying, scary Adults – the minute they graduate from diapers to underwear. The comments about Lochte and other famous "Boys will be boys" white adult men were widely contrasted, for example, with descriptions of 18 year old Michael Brown or 14 year old Tamir Rice. A 14 year old black male must bear the full brunt of the consequences of his actions, while white males of sufficient social class and fame get to play the Boys Will Be Boys card for half of their lives or more.

I bring this up now as I read this comment about Donald Trump Jr., here in WaPo but quoted widely this week:

"The kid is an honest kid," said one friend of Trump Jr. "The White House should’ve never let that story go out on the president’s son"

Donald Trump Jr. is thirty-nine years old. Perhaps the speaker is an older person and to him, everyone under 50 is "kid." But it seems more likely, given his behavior, demeanor, and absolute absence of contact with anything that could be described as Real Life, that people who know him think of him as a kid because he is not an adult in any meaningful way. And because nobody and nothing has ever forced him to accept responsibility for his decisions as an adult might be expected to, here we are talking about the 39 year-old son of a billionaire President of the United States like a teenager who egged the principal's house. Look at his innocent little face; how was he to know?

No one, it goes without saying, will synthesize this view of Donald Jr. as a helpless little puppy-child and his father's decision to give him a great deal of power and authority over a multinational corporation and the affairs of the state. "He's just a kid" and "I'm gonna let him and Jared handle China" blend together seamlessly in a country that's a half step away from just giving up altogether.

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39 Responses to “AGE OF CONSENT”

  1. 22/7 Says:

    Not that it really changes the point you're making (if anything it strengthens it) but Tamir Rice was 12 when he was shot.

  2. Konrad Says:

    I don't want to be that guy… who am I kidding? Being that guy is fun soooo – *too

  3. Andrew Says:

    I'll just drop this here for comparison

    http://www.theroot.com/black-teenager-mistaken-for-larger-bald-black-man-says-1796840022?utm_source=theroot_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

  4. Bill Says:

    He may be a "kid", but can be tried as an adult. That's all that matters to me.

  5. mothra Says:

    Bill: Daddy will issue a pre-emptive pardon for Jr. And anyone else in his family who might face criminal charges. He'll probably pre-emptively pardon himself, while he's at it.

  6. A Says:

    I thought that everyone looked up and wanted to be one of those "Frat Bros." The Trumps (Kardashians, etc.) are the epitome of what Americans, Brits, etc. want to be.

    (Brits can substitute Joey Essex, Katy Price, Peter Andre, Amy Childs, etc.)

    I'm not up on all of the cultures on the globe, but I'm sure there are similar examples.

    Unfortunately, 76,000 Americans in sparsely populated states voted for on to be their president.

  7. gromet Says:

    You just reminded me of how much I disappointed my mentor as an undergrad. At the end of freshman year, a little drunk, he told me if I stayed focused, I'd be hands-down the best undergrad he ever taught. Cue: girls and booze; steady, fun decline. Which culminated in trying to write my senior thesis during junior year, quickly realizing I couldn't handle it on top of the fun I wanted to have, and, in a triage effort, taking advantage of his goodwill by asking for an Incomplete. That summer, when campus emptied of distractions, I chained myself to a desk, went full ascetic, and got it done. Pretty decent, too! Handed it in right before senior year started — and he gave me an A, used some of my research in a book he wrote (thanking me in the forward)… aaannd never forgave me. Sigh. Kids!

    (I appreciate your actual point. Trump's sons just don't appear to be fully formed adult human beings. I have never looked at them and seen them as anything but kids, meaning I have been essentially "forgiving" them for being much dumber and more irresponsible than they should be — and I didn't even realize I was doing that. Thanks for pointing it out!)

  8. blahedo Says:

    For the record, I teach college kids and call them "kids" all the time—but I'm also pretty clear that they have to make their own choices and live with the consequences. You know, be adults. They're new adults and they're still figuring out how to do it. But I don't see any particular dissonance between them being both kids and adults; categories can overlap. (Also, I probably use it in part because it's shorter than "students", which is really the only other available word for them.)

    None of which to detract from your point about Tamir Rice, et al. Although, also for the record, I have some black kids in my classes (also Latino kids, etc). I like to think that I treat them as proto-adults in just the same way as the white kids, but I suppose you'd have to have a chat with my subconscious to be sure.

  9. jcastarz Says:

    Pain in life is perhaps a key factor in determining how fast one grows up. Never underestimate the power of money to insulate one from the pain – and real lessons – of life. Those students who are at college on a tight budget – especially when it's their money – are probably more inclined to act responsibly. I know MY college budget didn't give me a lot of free rein, but it was enough to glide me past some experiences that might have forced me to grow up sooner. At least, that's what I can recall from when I was in college decades ago.

  10. Nunya Says:

    The problem with being to the manor born is that absolutely no one ever tells you when you're being an asshole. Everyone is beholden to your money and won't risk that gravy train for any reason.

    Possibly the least developed minds in the world are born to the most elite families. I've never witnessed an exception to this rule.

  11. democommie Says:

    I live in a college town, SUNY Oswego is about two miles from my house. Some of the bars downtown cater to the college crowd and I run into a fair number of snotty little pricks from Lawnguyland in a few of them.

    The saturday before Easter I was photgraphing a band @ a popular dive bar and one of "kids" said, "Hey, take some pictures of me and my boeeeeeeez!". I snapped a few of the group and gave him my phone number. I told him to text me and I would send him a few frames.

    He sent me a text that said, "Pictures". Since I was busy (and he hadn't given me his e-mail) I did something else. The next day, while I was having dinner with some friends, he sent another text, "You got those pictures of me and my boys?". No, "Please", "Hi, how you doing?". I sent him a text that said, "U b tellin' me where we wus bein?".

    His next text was full of f-bombs and then about three minutes later he sent one that said he was gonna call the cops. I still have them on my phone. I never got back to him and haven't heard from him since. I really have to wonder how someone does something that fucking stupid and rude without thinking it through or offering an apology. I have his phone # and photos of him and his buds–I'm pretty sure that he doesn't really have an upside in this situation.

    Contrast that with young fella that lives across the street. He said he was taking a photograpghy at the nearby Community College and I gave him a half dozen or so books on the subject–ranging from simple to somewhat technical. He put a "Thank You" note in my mailbox.

    So, two "kids" one just out of HS; the other old enough to get a beer. The younger one seems to be a fine young man. The other one would seem to have a future in GOP politics.

    Trumpspawn? Fucking scum.

  12. Steve Holt! Says:

    Perhaps a long stint in a federal prison will help him find his mature self.

  13. leiac Says:

    Hell, I work with postdocs exclusively and often call/think of them as kids. Much of my job entails coaching them on how to adult in a professional sense (and sometimes an interpersonal sense).

    I actively force myself to say adults whenever I say or want to say kids – in my role, expecting them to act like adults often helps bring about more adult behavior, and I feel helps them feel more understood/respected, even if they're acting like my 3 year old.

    I'm sure there's a lesson related to the post in there somewhere, but I refuse to type or say the T word.

  14. Talisker Says:

    Many have noted that Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, is 10 days older than Donald Trump Jr.

    Junior doesn't act as he does because he's too young to know better, but because he's too lazy and ignorant.

  15. geoff Says:

    Jeez, A, I don't like the fucking guy, but Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida are hardly "sparsely populated".

  16. geoff Says:

    Also, my kids are both in their 20's (early and up). The younger"s living on her own (more or less) and the older's still at home with me– go figure.

    GEB Jr. is NOT a kid.

  17. Katydid Says:

    @jcastarz & Nunya; agreed. Periodically I get stuck with "interns" at my IT job; not actually college students studying computer science, but always kids of the boss/"leadership" who want to earn some money. Frequently they're nice kids, but they're always kids, even when they're 21, 22, 23 years old. They're still in school, earning about $50k/year, and imagining that they're "paying their dues" as they surf the internet all day and take 4-hour lunches…because they have known no better.

  18. Major Kong Says:

    Trump Jr is 39?

    At 23 I was an instructor pilot in the Air Force.
    At 27 I was Aircraft Commander of a strategic bomber.
    At 28 I was commanding a flight of bombers on combat missions.
    At 39 I think I pinned on Lt. Colonel.

  19. PhoenixRising Says:

    I own rental property in a college town.

    The more wealth my tenants have behind them, the less mature they are. Wealth insulates children from consequences unless their parents actively manage everything to avoid that, and that explains both POTUS and his spawn.

    …it's really hard, I'd guess, to raise people of good character under conditions of great privilege. All I ask is the opportunity to try.

  20. Poultine Says:

    I see similar things from people just out of school in the tech industry. Folks from cultures where it's common to have "help" trend toward… unrealistic expectations from their coworkers and minor delusions of grandeur about their own political capital. Those who come from modest backgrounds often try to emphasize with others instead of finding a way to win the argument in their favor.

    These are gross generalizations, obviously, and those fitting the bad behavior trend are the minority. But there is a decent correlation in my personal experience.

    There may be a reason why those I get along with best are people who actually worked hard to get where they are, which seems to be largely independent of culture and country of origin.

  21. Talisker Says:

    @Major Kong: Yep. It's not just exceptional overachievers like Macron, William Pitt the Younger (British Prime Minister, age 24), or Alexander the Great (conquered the known world, age 26).

    It's normal for people in their late 30s to conduct themselves as mature adults. Absolutely, totally, boringly normal. Surgeons, airline pilots, police officers, civil engineers, all are responsibile members of their profession well before they hit 40.

    Then again, Trump Senior still hasn't learned about responsibility, so I don't hold out much hope for his offspring.

    @Phoenix Rising, Poultine: It depends on the individual and culture. I've met a few members of the British aristocracy. Some were braying, overprivileged idiots. Others had taken the principle of noblesse oblige on board, and genuinely would step up and try to help others (many of them were mad as hatters in other ways, but that's by the by).

  22. maurinsky Says:

    Trump Jr is 39?

    At 23 I was an instructor pilot in the Air Force.
    At 27 I was Aircraft Commander of a strategic bomber.
    At 28 I was commanding a flight of bombers on combat missions.
    At 39 I think I pinned on Lt. Colonel.

    At 18 I was on my own, working full time.
    At 19 I was a mother
    At 20, I was the primary breadwinner for my family of 3
    (that continued for the next 20 years, with one additional family member being added)

  23. John Danley Says:

    Welcome to the age of the gold standard and the double standard.

  24. Joe Chastain Says:

    A college professor calling students "kids?" When I was a graduate teaching assistant we would often say "off to do battle with the fleshy headed mutants." From the opening in Strange Brew, a most fantastic movie.

    Once asked a professor what he said when teaching our classes, no hesitation "I'm off to cast pearls."

  25. democommie Says:

    I'm still not exactly sure what maturity is.

    Sometimes I think I have a handle on it but then it slips away when the rage comes–and it's always in the wings.

    I have done some immeasurably stupid things in my life and, somehow, survived.

    I had someone tell me a year or two ago that I was "wise" when I told them how I might handle a situation involving their 20-something son who was having some serious issues with a freeloading, abusive roommate (who was also some sort of sexual deviant). I thought it was just a common sense approach and a fairly obvious, low-risk solution. In the event I told the person that wisdom did not come from introspection but from observation, practice and failure.

    I am not, in my own estimation, "wise". I have learned many things and I try to apply that learning in practical ways.

    One thing I have learned, over and over and over again is that MY fuck-ups are not someone else's fault.

    That lesson is not only unlearned by Trumpliguspawn and their Puketriarch–it's not in the curricula.

  26. Jim Says:

    Just a general comment, it seems like our culture/society is infantilizing people at a greater and greater rate. The "kids' I teach in hs are mostly between 14-18 years old, and with very exceptions, socially they seem to be a good 2-3 years "younger" than the kids I taught when I started my career in education 25 or so years ago.

  27. NickT Says:

    On the bright side: we have apparently found the Fountain of Youth.
    On the dark side: ain't nobody really likes this version of de youf.

  28. Katydid Says:

    In more anecdata, I met a friend today for lunch, who's been ranting about a mutual friend's niece, who is spending the summer. Niece walks out of the house leaving the stovetop flame burning. Niece takes 3-hour showers and drains a huge hot water tank. Niece runs and hides rather than do the most basic of household chores. Niece is always asking for money to go out and spend.

    Niece is 27 years old. She graduated art school at 22, and has done nothing since. She's not intereted in working…because that's work.

  29. jcastarz Says:

    @Major Kong and maurinsky: VERY impressive resumes. Either of you in the White House would be a big improvement over the current management.

    @Katydid: I spent almost my entire career in IT, though I had never touched it in my first degree. In my early days, I was probably one of your 'difficult' kids: I worked hard, but w/attitude issues. Years on, I had developed a better sense of my place in the scheme of things (it wasn't all about me), and could see my younger self in the incoming youngsters (except that some of them were genuinely smart). But I think you're right about today's kids being on the spoiled side; I don't think I ever would have chosen some of their screen backgrounds – even if the old h/w supported such things!

  30. Brian M Says:

    Ah come on, guys.

    At least we didn't elect the literal Demon who was going to bomb Russia!

    And I knew that Trump would be disruptive and teach those naughty elites a lesson

    ….ooops. I guess not.

    https://muricaderp.wordpress.com/2017/07/02/strangers-who-want-me-to-commit-suicide-and-other-internet-treasures/

  31. Katydid Says:

    @jcstarz; the kids aren't difficult; they're actually pretty nice. They're just extremely not-work-minded and don't actually have the talent to do the job–they're there because their fathers are in high positions. This is why I thought of them when the topic was Trump and his kids (except I suspect Trump's kids aren't pleasant to be around).

  32. democommie Says:

    @ Katydid:

    Tell your friend to buy her neice a non-refundable bus or plane ticket and change her locks. I would not put up with that shit from my own kids or even a spouse. Not working because you can't find a job that you can actually do is one thing. Not working, 'cuz reasons; sorry, go sponge elsewhere.

    @ Major Kong and Maurinsky:

    You're both like some really hard working members of my family–I hate them! {:>)

  33. jcastarz Says:

    @ Katydid; OK, point taken. I've also seen a few of the kind you're talking about: light on the qualifications, but relatives w/connections got them promotions. Kind of craps on the people trying to play by the rules, doesn't it?

  34. Brian M Says:

    Nepotism is THE RULES. Almost always has been!

    We just kid ourselves sometimes about things like "meritocracy".

    And, I am skeptical there can ever really be such a thing. Even as we double down on the testing and only the top 1% can go anywhere.

    As for the niece, I think this will be more and more common because I wonder if there will be enough "jobs". Maybe the mistake is to focus on "jobs" as our primary means of self identification???? Heck, I am certainly ready to not have a job at this point in my career. :(

  35. Major Kong Says:

    @maurinsky

    Your background sounds similar to my wife's.

    She grew up in a rural area, got married and had two kids right out of high school.

    When the SOB started getting abusive she left him and raised the kids on her own. Managed to put both girls through college on a state worker's salary.

    I have never met her ex, but I need to send the bastard a thank-you note for setting the bar so low for me.

  36. Katydid Says:

    @Demo, you always give good advice, but in this case it's a mutual friend of the friend I had lunch with, who has the lazy niece. Apparently her parents have indulged her, her whole life, but they don't have the contacts in "art" to get her a job, and the only job she'll consider is "art". I have no idea if she's any good at it.

  37. Katydid Says:

    @Jcastarz; yup, nepotism sucks. Look at Don Jr and Ivanka, in particular. Would these schmoes have jobs if they weren't related to Daddy?

    Recent anecdata; the customer boss asked me to find a job for his kid's girlfriend, who graduated from college in May and can't seem to find a job. Her major? Jewish studies. Her work experience? Zilch. Again, I work in IT; Jewish studies are an interesting holiday party topic of conversation, but doesn't prepare anyone to code.

    However, I see the writing on the wall–if I don't find a job for his kid's girlfriend, how much jeopardy is my own job in, in this "at-will" state?

  38. Brian M Says:

    Given that most coding will be automated (for all except the most particular and odd projects) or off-shored to India, Eastern Europe, Russia, or China…is learning how to code that valuable of a professional skill?

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