Monday, March 19, 2007

The last 11 Weeks

Well, I have come to the end of another quarter. This was probably the busiest quarters that I have had a Fuller. I not only was taking 10 units this quarter but the reading and projects for my classes required a lot of extra time. For my Youth Outreach and Evangelism class I had to do 20 hours of observation of youth in a secular area. The youth had to be non-church students. After the 20 hours of observation I then had to lead 2, 30 minute focus groups in order to find out their thought on their family, school, friends, and what they did during their free time. For my Ethics class, Discipleship in a Secular Society, I had to read like 1,400 pages of reading in 10 weeks plus do 5 hours of outside volunteer work, which I did at Harambee Ministries.

Other than taking classes I was busy with at my church. Noah, one of our volunteer leaders, and I started a senior guys Bible study. I feel that the Bible study is going very well. Other than that, church stuff has been crazy with our Mammoth Winter Trip and other drama that will go unmentioned for the online audience. Three weeks ago we started our new sermon serious in which we will be going through the Sermon on the Mount. Janelle and I are very excited to go through all of the great topics and will come up as we go through this serious. We both feel that this serious of messages will help to bring new prospectives to our students as well as help to shape them as they seek to discover what this journey with God is all about. Finally, last Saturday I went with other members of Baseline, the church I am apart of, to a seminar at Fuller. Basline was one of 17 churches invited this all day conference on "Multi-Generational Ministry." I am very excited to see how Baseline starts to implement what we learned this weekend. Over all, I feel that these last 11 weeks have been really amazing. God has been and is doing incredible things in the students lives.

On a more personal level, life has been going well. I have learned a lot in the last few weeks, which can be both good and frustrating. This is definitely a time of preparation in my life. I know that in the next couple of months I will have to make some decisions that will affect my life greatly in the next couple of coming years. I pray that God gives me grace and guidance for I have no other idea how I will be able to make these decisions.

I know I haven't posted as much as I would have liked to over the last few weeks. Hopefully over the next couple days I hope to post more of my thoughts as I process a lot of what has been going through my mind as of late. The two posts that follow below are sections of two papers I wrote this quarter. I just wanted to post them to put them out there. I feel they reveal important information and I also just wanted to see what people thought of my ideas. I hope all you my friends are doing well, may God bless you as you are a blessing to others.
Youth Research Paper ( I didn't edit this version very well so sorry for any errors)
At 2 in the morning last night I just laid there, not because I was still excited at my win in an amazing game of H.O.R.S.E. with my roommates, on our houses’ in door basketball hoop. I wasn’t laying their reflecting on an rifting theological conversation that I had just had with my friends over some drinks. I was laying their because I was broken. As I lay there with my eyes closed, my mind drifted off. I started to think about the students at ___________, the sight of my Outreach project. Over the last ten weeks I have been substituting at _____________ Yet this time I wasn’t there just for the money I need to pay my bills. I was there because for the first time since I had started substituting there, I had to start to pay attention to what was really going on in the lives of the students at __________. Why? Because I had to for class, not because I wanted to or I thought it would be a good idea, being that I want to work with students. No, what made me do it was a project for a class. That’s what brought me to this point, a project for a class!
When I started this process I did not know what to expect, yet I never thought that at the end of this project I would feel so hopeless. This is the kind of hopelessness where you feel like no matter what you do you can’t do enough. It is the kind of hopelessness that brings you to tears just at the thought of students that are abandoned by there parents, teachers and any other adults that they might interact with during their day. It was with these thoughts that I lay awake, for how long I don’t really know, who does at times like this. I must have fallen asleep at some point because I awoke this morning, as I do every morning. Now I sit here trying to think about what it might mean to reach out these students. To share with them not only Christ’s love for them but my life, in hopes that I might enter their world as Christ entered this world, and love them as Christ loves them. Maybe then, and only then, will God use me to touch the students at __________________.
My First four Weeks (week 2 through 6 of the quarter)
I started my observation in the third week of January, exact date is unknown. For the first three weeks my observation was strictly in class or while walking around school to and from classes, lunch, arriving or leaving school. I had not really subbed at this school prior to this assignment, so my goal during the couple weeks was to be seen by the students in a normal substitute type setting. I did not want to move into their space to quickly. I subbed at their school about three times a week during these first four weeks.
Week Five to Nine (weeks 7 through 10 of the quarter)
Starting in week five I started to walk around at lunch. In the fifth week I ate half of my lunch solo and then walked around the campus eating as I walked. I soon transitioned to eating my whole lunch while out and about at lunch time. I would sit at different places during lunch and then walk around when I was done with my lunch I started talking to some students I had meet during class time. During this time I was still working at the school about 3 days a week.
Focus Groups
1st Focus Group
I set up my first focus group over March 2nd, 2007 during lunch. I asked a student that I had established a good relationship, on February 27th, 2007, if she would want to help me out with a project for one of my class. When I told her that I was doing the project to learn about whom high school students were, what they went through, and what they thought about things like school, friends, parents and what they did on the weekend. She was very willing and happy to help me out.
On March 2nd, 2007 I walked over to where she normally hung out at and she had 5 students there and ready to be interviewed by me. As we were walking toward the hall, where we did the interview, she got 3 other students to join the group. I opened up and told the students what I had told the girl a few days before and that they could as open with me as they wished. I told them that I would not tell anyone what they told me, unless it involved them hurting themselves, them hurting others or if it was about someone that was hurting them. From that point they were very open with me about everything, and also very excited to be doing the project. In this group I had 5 guys and 3 girls. The group lasted the whole lunch time, which is a half and hour.
2nd Focus Group
The second focus group was set up by another student that I met in one of my classes. This group was a little more random then the first one. I had been playing phone tag with the student for a week and we couldn’t find a time to meet and do the group. So, I decided to show up On March 6th, 2007 during lunch time and find the student who I had asked to set up the group for me. The student could not really find anyone to do the group with us so it ended up four students: two guys and two girls. Half way through the group a random girl came by and became a part of the group, so then we had five students total.
Since we are at school, let’s start there. What do you guys think about school?
Do you guys have a favorite teacher? If so why is he or she your favorite teacher?
What do you think are most important things to your parents?
Do you think your parents want the best for you?
Describe your group of friends to me?
Are you guys all good friends?
If you were to get in trouble and needed help who would you call or turn to, why?
Do you trust your best friends more then your teachers?
What do you guys do during the weekend?
Where do you guys hang out during the weekend?
Do you guys hang out anywhere other then your friends houses?
What else do you guys do in your free time?
Why do you guys drink and do drugs?
Do you only do drugs with your friends?
When did you guys start using drugs?
What do you guys usually do to get away from the stress of life?
If you could tell your parents and your teachers one thing what would that be?
The Classroom
Students in 9th grade and 10th grade were more open to trust adults than the 11th and 12th grade students were. In college prep classes students knew what they were suppose to do and did it. You could tell that they felt they knew what they needed to do in order succeed in the school system they found themselves in. The disabilities classes were less trustworthy of adults unless the adult was friendly to them. When the adult was friendly to them, they seem to open up more than other students. The older the student was the less they would interact with me, even if I engaged them first. In classes that were mixed grade levels you could usually tell what grade the students were in by how they reacted to adults.
Students felt that teachers do not understand who they are, respect them or care to find out who students really are. One student told me, “they (teachers) don’t think about what is good for us but just what is good for them.” Students feel like if they have a hard time succeeding in a class that the teachers put the blame on them. Student believe that if they are failing in classes it is the teachers fault for not helping out the student, not their fault. “How do they expect me to learn,” one student said, “if all they do is yell at me.” “Yea, like my math teacher,” another student said, “all he does is put the work on the board and expects me to get what they hell he is writing.” “Teachers are just there to get a pay check,” vented another student.
Most students that I observed or talked to said that they would like it more if the teacher was “real with them,” meaning that the teacher somehow becomes more than just a robot teaching a lesion everyday. The students want someone how tries to relate to them, who respects who they are and their differences. A girl I was talking to said that she likes one of her teachers because, “she is young cool and knows what is going on. She tells us what she did during the weekend, if feel like I connect with her.”
Lunch Time
I found it interesting that students would move away from where I was at or turn away from me when talking with their friends. Students that I had, had in class were more open to me sitting by them but seemed to find it weird that I was eating by myself sometimes. This is when I started talking to the students around me; it just seemed to be more natural. During conversations, where I was present with students, students would start a conversation with their friends about a topic but if the topic started to get to personal or to a point that they felt uncomfortable saying around me they would look me up and down, trying to sense something about me, or just strait up ask me if I was a sub. I would reply yes I am a sub, and try to let them know that I was cool, this means that I was trustworthy in a students mind. After students found out who I was, some would go on with their conversations and others would just change the subject. Students were uncomfortable with me being in their space if they could not feel they could trust me.
It seems like every student has an ipod or some sort of mp3 player with them at all times. When students feel uncomfortable or know on one in the class, they put in their mp3 player and just drift away into music land. Students feel that music helps them relax and “escape” for their current situation. Music becomes a way for students to get away from everything else that is going on in their lives. “I just relate to the music,” one student said. Since they feel that almost no one can relate to them, music becomes their passage way into a land where people understand them, their problems and what they go through.
Students don’t know if their parents or guardians want the best for them in life. One student said, “They (parents) just don’t want me to be their responsibility anymore.” “Yea,” another student jumped in, “maybe my parents should have worn a condom.” For students how much their parents care for them is more about how were they rank on their parents list of important stuff. Students compare their importance to their parents along with the importance of money, their boyfriend or girlfriend, the house, work, and paying the bills. To students the way that their parents show they care for them is by keeping them off drugs, in school, home on time, or away from sex. Student believe that parent create rules because they don’t trust their own children. Over all students don’t feel like their parents understand them. “My mom was never a teenager,” one girl said, responding to the fact that she feels her mom doesn’t understand what she goes through. When students don’t feel that their parents trust them it seems to make students want to act out more to prove their parents right. Many students I talked to suffered through their parents divorces. They now feel that they are fought over for their parents love. “I like that my parents are divorced,” one student said, “I get money from my mom, I get two birthday presents, I get more stuff.”
Adults/ Student relationships (other than teachers or parents)
“A lot of older people just stereotype us,” a girl I talked too said. Students don’t think that any adults really understand them or even want to understand them. When I told my focus groups that I was doing this project in order to understand high schoolers more they were excited that I would want to find out who high school students really are. “I wish I could tell adults how I feel inside and about the world around me,” one student said. Students feel that adults don’t want to understand high schoolers today. Therefore, students don’t feel that they can trust them. Student are weary to let adults into their lives because they feel that they can’t be themselves around adults.
Substance Use
Drug and alcohol has become the social thing to do. For many students’ drug or alcohol use is a weekly activity. They usually do these activities in groups of friends at someone’s house. “We do it to have good time,” one student said, “it not like we are depressed and that is how we get it out.” Student say that they do it because they are bored and have nothing else to do. “It (drugs and alcohol) brings us closer to our friends,” one student said. When student do these activities they feel that they become closer and more excepted by their group of friends. For many students the times they were “wasted” brings memorizes of funny stories and good times, furthering their bonds of friendship. In fact many students said that they started doing drugs or drinking alcohol when they were asked to by either older brothers or sisters or when they were talked into it by friends. No students I talked to started using drugs just on their own, it was always a matter of fitting in with others.
Friend Group
Students during classroom time would act differently in each class depending on who was in the class and how the structure of the class was set up. The more people they knew in the classroom the more they talked. The people they talked to in the class were of the same self-concept level or close to their self-concept level. It was very rare to see them talk to someone, even if they sat next to each other if they were not in the same self-concept level.
During lunch time students would always hang out in the same groups. These groups where based loosely on grade level, race, socio-economic status, language, and interests. Yet, most of their group make up depended on their self-concept level. Most groups seemed too made up 3 to 4 smaller groups of students, or clusters. Some members of clusters would talk to other members of other clusters but not all members of one cluster would talk to all of the members of another cluster. You could usually tell as cluster because it was group of about 4 to 7 students that rarely left one another’s’ side. There was also what I will call floater students. Floater students walk around solo from group to group not really staying in one group for all of lunch.
For some students, friendship is the closest thing they have to safety the feel they have. This is why I believe students have formed smaller groups or clusters, were they feel they can protect themselves. The students I interviewed all said that they feel like they can trust their friends more than they can their teachers or parents. Even though students form clusters; they only have a few close friends that they let see who they really are, if that. “I don’t talk to anyone when I am in trouble or need help,” one girl said, “I just keep it all inside, that is just easier for me.” Another student said that if he needs to talk with someone that he would go to the Internet and talk to friends over the Internet, he feels that it is saver that way. The most important trait that students want in friends is understanding and trustworthiness.
Student Dating
When there is a couple among a group of students, they usually stand off to the side of the group the larger group they were apart of. They are attacked to each to other throughout their time together through hugging and kissing. These students rarely talking to their students around them. Usually the couples’ friends liked or did not like that the couple was together. I could not tell why this was.
Sex is a semi-open topic for the students. Sexual acts are referred to in everyday conversation but sex between two members as a couple is taboo in open conversation. After the couple has broken up the sexual relationship of the couple is now fare game in conversation. Girls I are degraded to sexual hopes or “sexual conquests” which guys use to elevate their own selves egos.
Lying is an everyday activity to survive throughout the day. Students have no problem cheating on tests, homework or class work, whatever they can do to get it done. A student will lie to you strait in your face without even thinking twice. Most unethical decisions are done to protect themselves or other students. One of worst things you can do it to turn in or rat on another student to an adult. There was one instant where I was substituting and two students walked out of the classroom 10 minutes before the bell rang. I did not know who the students were so I asked other members in their class to tell me who they were. The students would not tell me who they where unless I threatened them in some way with punishment. This example shows that students will go to any extent to protect there fellow peers.
The Ethics of the United States Juvenile System
Duc is a 16 year old Asian-American teen who grew up an underprivileged neighborhood growing up. When Duc reached high school, daily gang members came up to him daily asking him to be apart of their gang, he refused. One day, like many teens his age, Duc was driving some of his friends in their neighborhood: things take a turn for the worst and Duc’s friend has a gun pointed outside the car window. This person fired four shots, luckily hitting no one. Even with no prior arrests or marks on his record, Duc was arrested, tried as an adult and found guilty of first degree attempted murder.[1]
Today in the United States there are weekly cases just like Duc’s. Even though the United States Juvie system was created to keep youth out of adult jails, today it incarcerates thousands of youth in adult jails. Citizens of the United States are made to believe something has gone terribly wrong with our youth today. Daily the media produces images and stories of youth who have robbed, raped or killed innocent victims. Despite the media’s depiction of youth crime, it has dropped 41% in the last few years. [2] Yet, stricter laws are being created to put youth behind bars and keep them there.
There is an injustice to the system of youth crime and “Juvies.” There is now psychological, neurological, and sociological evidence that suggests that adolescences should not be allowed to be tried as adults, yet they are today. While nay-sayers believe the evidence is not conclusive enough to change United States laws, the research continues to pour in and prove them wrong. It is in times like this that we need prophets to stand up and change this system of injustice, to set an oppressed people free.
The emergence of adolescence in the late nineteenth century Western culture, has caused adolescence to be a topic of much conversation and research.[3] At the top of this list is the moral development of adolescents. Psychologists and sociologists alike have been intrigued by this mind-boggling, ever-changing, period of time in a person’s life. In 1908 Arnold van Gennep called this process, which we now know as adolescence, “rite of passage.” Gennep suggested there are three important elements to this “right of passage:” separation from the old status, transition, and incorporation into the adult community.[4] The process of a child transitioning into the adult community is now referred to as individuation; when a person’s idea of their identity, autonomy, and belonging are formed.
Since its emergence adolescence has lengthened from lasting from age 14 to 18, to as many as 12 plus years, from ages 11or 12 to 24 plus. The lengthening of adolescence is because psychologists believe adolescence begins in puberty and ends in one’s culture context.[5] With the growth of adolescence, scientists noticed three stages of adolescence emerging in the early 1990s; these stages are called Early-Adolescence 11 to 14, Middle-Adolescence 15 to 19, and Late Adolescence 19 to 25. With the emergence of these new stages of adolescences came a new characteristic of these stages of life. During these stages of life adolescence are characterized different by their cognitive development. Early Adolescence is characterized by concrete thinking meaning that they care just about themselves. Middle Adolescence is characterized by ego-centric abstraction, realizing that they affect others but do not care. Late-Adolescents is characterized by abstract thought, realizing that the “I” and “thou” exist and they care about the “I” “thou” relationship.[6]
Adolescent Brain Development
Research on adolescent brain development is relatively new. In 1962 Hubel and Wiesle and in 1992 Kuhl, Williams, Lacerda and Stevens showed sensory regions of the brain go through development in the early stages of human life and that it is unlikely that the human brain might continue to undergo change after early childhood.[7] It was not until the 1970s and 1980s that studies stared to suggest the human brains might continue to develop in the prefrontal cortex into adolescents.[8]
Two changes revealed in the human brain before and during adolescence; as neurons develop there is a layer of myelin that is formed around their extension from the supporting glial cells. Myelin acts as an insulator, increasing the speed of transmission of electrical impulses from neuron to neuron 100 fold. The sensory and motor skills region of the brain become fully myelinated during the first few years of life, yet while the brain tissue volume remains stable; axons in the frontal cortex continue to be myelinated into adolescence. The studies suggest that transmission speed of neural information in the frontal cortex increases throughout childhood and adolescence.[9]
The second difference in the brain of pre-pubescent children and adolescents suggests changes in synaptic density in the prefrontal cortex. During development, the intricate network of connections between neurons significantly changes. Peaks of synaptic density followed by periods of synaptic elimination or pruning happen. During this process connections are strengthened and infrequent connections are eliminated, based on experience. During adolescence this pruning occurs mostly in the frontal lobes. The brain does this in order to fine-tune its functional networks enabling remaining synaptic circuits to be more efficient.[10]
The invention of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) allowed for scientists to create 3-D images of the brain, permitting them to further study the human brain during people’s lifetimes. Studies have since begin in which scientists have studied individuals throughout their childhood and adolescent development. One such study is underway by Dr. Jay Giedd, Chief of Brain Imaging in the Child Psychiatry Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health. Giedd has spent the past 13 years studying 1,800 children’s and adolescents brains through the use of the MRI. Giedd has build a record of brain development within children and adolescents enrolled in his study, following youth up to the age of 25.
Giedd’s study has helped to prove early brain research studies, like the ones discussed above. Giedd has found that between the ages of 6 and 12, the neurons grow outward connecting to other neurons and creating new pathways for nerve signals. With this growth the gray matter in the frontal lobe of the brain increases. The gray matter of the frontal region of the brain peaks in girls at approximately age 11 and in boys around 12 ½.[11] After peaking the frontal gray matter becomes thinned out at a rate of 1% per year until the early 20’s.[12] At the same time the white matter of the frontal lobe of the brain thickens. White matter is comprised of myelin sheaths that enclose axons. During this process the human brain as mentioned above, prunes away unneeded mass, while making existing connections quicker and more efficient.[13] Ruben Gur of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia suggests that until this process is complete the frontal lobe of the brain is not fully developed.[14]
Gur states, “The frontal lobe of the brain controls the impulses coming from other parts of the brain…if you’ve been insulted, your emotional brain says, ‘kill,’ but your frontal lobe says you’re in the middle of a cocktail party, so let’s respond with a cutting remark.”[15] Studies suggest the frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for functions such as self-control, judgment, emotions, and organization.[16] This is one reason adolescents do not understand conceptual argument that seem logical to adults. Another study by Beckman, came to the same conclusion as Gur did. Beckman concluded that the prefrontal cortex didn’t blaze in teens as it did in adults, suggesting the brain regions that process emotions and risk awareness are not fully developed in adolescents. This suggests that adolescents are more prone to erratic behavior than adults are.[17] An article titled, “Teen Brains on Trial,” by Bruce Bower states that “the last part of the brain that develops is the prefrontal cortex, where planning setting priorities, organizing thoughts, suppressing impulses, and weighing consequences…” occur.[18]
As the brain matures it slowly reorganizes how it integrates information coming from differing regions. As the brain develops it switches from relying heavily on local regions in childhood, to distributing and collaborating its interactions among distant regions of the brain in adulthood.[19] Studies suggest that because adolescents cannot use the frontal lobe of their brain, because is not fully developed, the body copes by using other parts of the brain. For instance, when processing emotions adolescents rely heavily more on the amygdala, a structure located in the temporal lobes which processes emotions and gut reactions; while adults rely less on the amygdala and more on the frontal lobe.
Despite all the research and findings that prove adolescent brains do not allow adolescents to make decisions that adults can many psychologists like Harvard University’s Jerome Kagan, as well as other professionals, still believes there is not enough evidence to change existing legislation that allows for adolescents to be tried as adults. While Kagan confesses this is a matter of ethics, he believes something about an adolescent’s cultural context must be critical. While Kagan makes a good argument, their must be some reasons why some adolescents can control their acts without a fully developed frontal lobe; Kagan is na├»ve to reject a change in legislation because the role that ones’ cultural context might play a role in their ability to make decisions. Research shows it is obvious that brain development plays a large enough role to make some waves toward legislation reform yet, for argument’s sake social context and moral development must also be considered.
Moral Formation in Adolescents
Development of each individual is an essential process. As a person develops through childhood and adolescence there are events, relationships, and decisions that can affect the development. During adolescence one goes through the process of individuation. Chap Clark, who is associate professor of youth, family and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, suggests that one does not pass through adolescence until one become individuated.[20] It is during this process of individuation that one’s morals become joined to who they are as an individual.
Daniel Hart of Rutgers University and Gustavo Carle of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln suggest in their study entitled “Moral Development in Adolescence” that moral life develops during adolescence more than it does during the rest of childhood.[21] Bernard Williams believes that when forming ones moral philosophy, one seeks to answer three questions: What is the right thing to do? What is the best possible state of affairs achieved? What qualities make for a good person?[22] These questions are tied to a person’s beliefs, attitudes, and values.
Clark argues that it is ones beliefs, attitudes and values that influence an individual’s Practical Conscience.[23] This level of consciousness is responsible for decisions made through mapping. The human brain maps certain decisions unconsciously, when these same decisions are made again your brain automatically goes to your previous mapped decision. If one’s belief, attitudes and values are altered then ones morals are changed and therefore so are one’s conscious decisions. Yet, as Kagan suggest, since one’s believes, attitudes, and values are tied to the social and cultural context of an individual then one’s social context has to affect their moral development as Kagan suggests.
Social Context and Moral Development in Adolescents
The sociological state of adolescent today is totally different then the sociological state of adolescents 20 years ago, when many adults who create legislation were adolescents. Clark conducted one of the largest direct studies of mid-adolescents in the history of the United States; after conducting this study he detailed his finding in a book called, Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers. Chap suggests that today’s adolescents have been systemically abandoned by adults in today’s world. He states, adolescent “abandonment has created an environment in which Mid-Adolescents believe that they are on their own; they pull away from the adult world.”[24] The result of this is that youth all over the world have created their own system of safety mechanism which he calls “the world beneath,” in order to get themselves through adolescence the best they can. Clark believes that there are three major issues related to “the world beneath;” first, adolescents naturally believe they have no other choice but to create their own world to survive. Secondly, because Mid-Adolescents are emotionally and relationally starved, the most important thing they need is a relationally-focused home. Thirdly, Mid-Adolescents have the ability to band together in a way that satisfies their longing for relationships with others as they try to navigate through adolescents.[25]
David Elkind believes, like Clark, that something is desperately wrong with our youth and family structure today. Elkind believes that our culture and family systems have ”stressed out” our youth. We have not been devoted to meeting the needs our youth today because of the world we have created for our children and adolescents is ruled by consumerism, busyness and neglect. Even our families have become “stressed,” stuck in a circular parade of issues that are created by culture and are creating our culture. Our own culture is making it harder for us to recover from our current state. [26]
Urban areas of our country are in an even worse state. Elijah Anderson, the Charles and William L. Day Professor of the Social Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, believes the state of our urban areas have become so bad because of the systemic depravity of individuals who live in urban area receive. They exist in a state of their own law, which he calls, “the code of the street.” This systemic depravity is created by racism, consumerism, capitalism, and the selfishness of our current culture. It is by the “code of the streets” that individuals govern themselves and allow themselves to be governed.[27] This “code” is so dominating that individuals in urban areas have convinced themselves they cannot escape it. The individuals that do believe they can escape believe they have to do so by their own “boot straps.”
The findings of Clark, Elkind, and Anderson all agree the one thing that youth today need to get out of these current situations are adults. In a study on adolescent development Laurence Steinber of Temple University and Amanda Sheffield Morris of Arizona State University find that adolescents with supportive families are more socially competent and have more positive friendships. This same research also shows that adolescents with less supportive families are influenced more by peers, especially during Mid-Adolescence.[28]
Contrary to studies such as these, things are not getting any better. Kagan was accurate; something in our adolescents’ cultural context is affecting their development. Our adolescents are in the worst state then they have ever been. Yet, like brain research, studies on adolescent sociology and adolescent cultural context have not affected how our legal system approaches crime and adolescents. Adolescents are still being tried as adults, furthering our systemic abandonment of adolescents. It is clear this treatment of adolescence is ethical wrong.
The Church’s Response
There is something ethically wrong about the way the legal system trying adolescents as adults. Despite all of the brain and sociological research proving that trying adolescents as adults is unethical, little change has occurred. The people of this country and the church within the U.S. have just stood by watching, or not caring enough of listen. This needs to change, especially within the U.S. church. When looking at the life of Jesus we can see a person who stood up against the systems of injustice. Jesus came to proclaim a message of freedom saying, “[God] has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free (Luke 4:18).”
The Church should take the role that Jesus did, proclaiming the “good news” of freedom. In times like these, I am reminded of Israel during the time of Amos. Through the prophet Amos God declared, “…you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood (Amos 6: 12).” Again the prophet proclaims, “Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land (Amos 8:4).”
In this land, during this time, we have “turned justice into poison.” We “trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land.” In this system we have created, it is our adolescents that we have made the poor and the oppressed. It is an injustice that we are trying those who we shouldn’t as adults; life-imprisonment for nothing more than driving a friend down the street. Adolescents are not in a developmental or sociological place where this is practical. We have not only systemically abandoned them but we now mistreat those in need. Nothing will change in this system unless someone stands up. We as the church must become like the prophets of old. We must hear the word of God and stand against injustice that tries to encircle us. It is not only our duty to be these prophets, it is our calling.
[1] Neale, Leslie. Written and Director. Densmore, John & Wahlberg, Mark. Executive Producers. Director. Juvies: What Some Kids Face Behind Bars is a Crime, 2004 Chance Films
[2] (Neale, Juvies, 2004)
[3]Clark, Chap. Hurt: Inside the World Of Today’s Teenagers. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 25.
[4] (Clark 2004, 26)
[5] Dean, Kendra and others. ed., Starting Right: Thinking Theological About Youth Ministry. (Grand Rapids, Minchigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 2001,)45.
[6] Clark, Chap, Intro to Youth Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, Ca., October, 2006,
[7] Blakemore, Sarah-Jayne and Choudhury, Suparna. “Development of the Adolescent Brain: Implications for Executive Function and Social Cognition.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (2006), 47:3/4
[8] (Blakemore 2006, 296) Studies done by Huttenlocher, 1979; Huttenlocher, De Courten, garey & Van Der Loos, 1983; Yakovlev & Lecours, 1967
[9] (Blakemore 2006, 296) studies done by Yakovlev & Lecours, 1967
[10] (Blakemore 2006, 297) ( Huttenlocher, 1979; Bourgeosi, Goldman-Rakic, & Rakic, 1994; Woo, Pucak, Kye, Matus, & Lewis, 1997; Zecevic & Rakic, 2001)
[11] Alice, Claudia, Park, Wallis. “What Makes Teens Ticks.” Time, Vol. 163, Issue 19.
[12] Beckman, Mary. “Crime, Culpability, and the Adolescent Brain.”, Vol. 305, Issue 5684. July 30, 2004.
[13] (Alice, Claudia, Park, Wallis)
[14] (Beckman 2004)
[15] (Beckman 2004)
[16] Unknown Author. “Adolescent Brain.” Youth Studies Australia (2003) Vol. 22 Number 1
[17] (Beckman 2004)
[18] Bower, Bruce. “Teen Brains on Trail.” Science News, Vol. 165, Issue 19.
[19] (Beckmand 2004)
[20] (Dean. ed, 2001, 55)
[21] Carlo, Gustavo and Hart, Daniel. “Moral Development in Adolescence.” Journal of Research Adolescence (2005), 15(3), 223-233
[22] (Carlo 2005)
[23] Clark, Chap, “Strategies of Youth Outreach” at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, Ca., February 5, 2007,
[24] Chap Clark, 54
[25] Chap Clark, 59-60
[26] Elkind, David. Ties That Stress: The New Family Imbalance. (Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1994)

[27] Anderson, Elijiah. Code of the Street: Decency, Violence and the Moral Life of the Inner City. (New York, 1999)
[28] Morris, Amanda Sheffield and Steinberg, Laurence. “Adolescent Development.” Annul Review Psychology (2001), 52:83-110