I recently read about a 16-year-old person soon to be graduating from high school – and Harvard University. It had me thinking about maturity, development, and the method in which we as adults defines an individual as capable of making adult decisions?
Some would argue that a 16-year-old person graduating from a prestigious university is an exception to the rule and in fairness a rare event. However rare events are measured by people using loose fact-finding data to justify an answer. If any 16-year-old person anywhere in the world didn’t graduate from high school early or be enrolled in a college does that make them less of a gifted individual allowable to make his/her own adult choices? The quick answer would be a resounding “No” by most. It seems that the exception rule is based upon privilege with an acknowledgment by others in power or control. A measurable formula is when others suggest gifted and talented acts by potential candidates, but they are not selected or overlooked in the rare process to seek mature and gifted students. It is strange that America has a vastly large magnet or gifted-talented educational programs, but the identity of allowing adult decisions and seeking qualified candidates are decided from ungifted or unqualified individuals. Instead, we continually drop the pursuit of maturity and gifted people through the cracks of our politized educational system using a formula of standardized tests that most people find boring and not engaging. These identifiers are our main selection process in the discovery of the future Stephen Hawking? No wonder its difficult to find maturity or raise the bar because of how we developed the bar or challenge.
Another maturity example that differs is that the Army of the United Kingdom allows military enlistment beginning at age 16 compared to the U.S. Army enlistment at age 18. The drinking age in the UK is 18 while all of the United States is 21. The age of consent in the UK is 16 while Americans have a mish-mash of consent ages usually beginning at age 18 but with various stipulations. A college education typically starts in the UK at age 16 while American colleges roughly range at 18 or just after high school. Does this suggest that American culture is lagging in maturity and development behind other industrialized nations?
Additionally, does it indicate that our system of the age of suffrage it out of date or lacking useful data? If you take notice that the UK enjoys a safe maturity level of age 16 across the board. Perhaps this is why that nation doesn’t have significant incarceration, sex registry, or costly educational system? It does beg to question American methods and practices if we can look outward for a moment.
The question about maturity and development is highly questionable because American culture takes excellent value in placing a numeric value on all individuals rather than exploring scientific data or the exploration of the exceptional rule. It seems as if the UK has done its fact-finding and created a uniformed and easy to understand practice all while embracing trust and maturity of its youth. This is not to suggest that we should begin immediately lowing ages to “keep up with the Joneses” per se. What I am suggesting is that we became a bit more uniformed and aligned with other industrialized nations especially in a globalized society filled with internet, apps, and shared educational values with regards to sciences, maths, and culture. Otherwise, if we fail to discuss the educational and maturity benefits of shifting the goal post of developmental maturity programs, then we will become as complacent as our poorly designed Great Depression educational school calendars that we continue to use today.