When I came back home this evening , my elder daughter of 13 years showed me an argumentative essay she wrote for her English homework. Topic she was given was , “All teenagers need to rebel in order to grow up”. Needless to say i was stunned. This is how it goes in-her-words as it is -
World renowned Astrophysicist Neil de grass Tyson says or rather begs all parents to allow their kids to break things because he says, “kids who break things when they are young are the ones when make things when they grow up “. There is growing community of Psychologists who believe that kids should be allowed to make as many mistakes as they want, as long as they are taught to learn from each of them and try not to repeat them. More number of mistakes they do, more they learn & experience and hence grow up to be more reasonable and rational people, is what they say.
If the goal of upbringing of children is to give them tools of reasoning and to think objectively, it is imperative that they experience life as they go along, themselves, and to be given that freedom to do so. When teenagers are denied this freedom by elders, is when they want to break free. This however does not relieve elders from their responsibilities of frequent guidance and perseverant supervision that teenagers need and would definitely need so, when their experiences turn negative.
To be a rebel means refusal to accept or to go against ‘set norms’ of the society one lives in. I am not however sure what is the real problem here, ‘to be a rebel’ or ‘the set norms’. I would like to quote here Jiddu Krishnamurti who said, “Tradition becomes our security and when the mind is secure it is in decay”. To elucidate further, eminent evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins in a letter to his ten year old daughter said, “There are three bad reasons for believing anything, they are called “traditions”, “authority” and “revelation”. Further to put in complete perspective this teaching of Buddha puts the point across succinctly,
“Do not believe anything simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on authority of your teachers and elders.
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
But, after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason,
and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all,
then accept it and live up to it.”
What we learn here is that tradition, ‘set norms’ , indoctrination is however the biggest cause of teenage rebellion , if at all it can be called so.
To conclude, I think no society can progress, if young people of that society are not able to and/or are not allowed to free themselves from the chains of dogma and authority, or without cultivation of freedom of thought. However I am against mindless rebellion against elders that emanates from peer pressure, which rather halts the intellectual growth of a curious teenager and leaves them with bad experiences for life. If elders allow teenagers their freedom and if teenagers understand the responsibility that comes with freedom, I don’t think “rebel” would ever be the right word to use in the context.