Tag Archives: teen

Halloween Should Be Child’s Play

By Jason Menard

Apparently, without knowing it, I dressed up last night for Hallowe’en. My costume? A curmudgeon.

It didn’t start out that way. In fact, I inadvertently dressed up as something else Sunday evening – a popsicle. And apparently the cold had an impact on the trick or treaters, or lack thereof, on the evening.

As we were accompanying our eight-year-old daughter through the streets on her mad candy grab (she was determined to hit as many houses as possible), we noticed a marked lack of younger children on the streets. Only a handful of babies, a few toddlers, fewer still children my daughter’s age, and a smattering of pre-teens braved the sub-freezing temperatures.

But there was one group that seemed to be out in full force – the teenagers. Continue reading

I [Now] Love a Kid in Uniform

By Jason Menard

If the 17-year-old version of me knew what I was about to write, he’d probably give me a good slap upside the head, but here it goes:

I think school uniforms are a great idea.

Whew, no blows from the past yet – although I’m sure my nine-year-old son won’t be too pleased either when he reads this article. I’d like to think that my 180-degree turn has less to do with the mellowing of age, than it does with a broader sense of perspective and an understanding of what’s truly important. And I’m sure my idealist friends from the time would tend to agree with me now.

As you know, children at London’s newest elementary school, St. Catherine of Siena, will be required to wear uniforms. While past versions of me would have railed on at length about the thought of indoctrinating our youth to a mandated norm established by an authoritarian body, my present version thinks, “Hmm, I hope they’ll do that at my son’s school?”

I’d like to toss finances aside, although that’s an appealing argument for many families. Yes, it’s true that buying a few uniforms is cheaper than trying to keep up with the outrageously expensive fashions of the times, that’s not the issue that the kids care about – at least that’s not what we cared about in my youth.

What was at stake was the concept of individuality and freedom of expression. Many of you out there probably think the same way that I did, in that the buttoned-up collars and pleated slacks of a school uniform would somehow do more than choke your neck, but would also stifle your ability to make your mark and stand out from the crowd. The thought exists that by everyone dressing the same, you’re creating a society of submissive drones, cloned to mimic one another without any concept of dissention or individual thought.

First off, I now have two problems with that. To start, I remember what I wore in high school and the only statement I was making was that I had no taste! But secondly, and more importantly, is that if everyone dons a school uniform then, finally, it’s the individual characteristics that will make you stand out!

A lack of uniforms, in fact, works counterproductively to fostering creativity. It allows people to use their clothing as a crutch to display superficial differences, but does nothing to allow the true nature of us to come forth.

I find it hilarious to see these kids tearing their jeans, throwing on a retro-Sex Pistols shirt, spiking their hair, and piercing their assorted body parts in an attempt to assert their individuality. What they’re completely oblivious to is the fact that they’re simply trading one set of conventions for another and just conforming to another group’s ideals. The same can be said for any one of those subsections of youth society – from those who look like angstful middle-class rappers, skater-kid wannabes, and retro-preppies – each style of dress is nothing more than conforming to another societal norm.

That’s what’s great – and overlooked – about uniforms. They make you work to stand out from the crowd. You have to use your mind, your talent, and your creativity to assert your uniqueness, not just look for a specific brand label of clothing.

Our society is rapidly becoming more and more multi-cultural, and we’re being exposed to more influences that are broadening our frame of reference. It’s long since time to appreciate those around us for who they are and not what they wear. If everyone starts from a level playing field, then all will be able to shine – not this those who wear the right clothes or look the right way.

Despite the old adage, clothes don’t make the man. And if you’re so devoid of depth that you need a label to define yourself, then remember that you’re only in school for a few hours each day – you can always change when you get home.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Volun-told Policy Short-Sighted

By Jason Menard

Does anyone else find it somewhat curious that the very institutions that have been charged with educating our youth are the same ones that seem to need a refresher course on what the term volunteer actually means?

Forcing our high school students to perform a requisite number of volunteer hours as a compulsory component of graduation is just wrong and sends a terrible message to our society’s youth.

By very nature, compelling students to partake of this program in order to graduate goes against the very concept of volunteerism, and it stands as an insult to the intellect of our society’s youth to use euphemisms like volunteer, when compulsory societal assistance is the true name of the game.

And, in the long run, what we’re going to do is drive many of these students away from ever volunteering again.

The things I have become passionate about in my adult life are things that I drifted into on my own volition. In large part, the things I was forced to do were the things towards which I developed the most resistance – and I don’t think I was an atypical teenager.

Admittedly, when I was in high school, I was not the most socially conscious member of my graduating class. However, as the years go by and I learn more about the world around me, I’ve come to include volunteering in my life. I consider myself and enthusiastic and hard-working volunteer when I choose to commit my time to a cause.

But it’s always my choice – no adult would expect any less, but then we don’t extend the same courtesy to our children.

My participation has brought me in contact with our conscripted volunteer staff of high school students. Needless to say, my experiences have been mixed. I’ve run into kids who are more interested in socializing with each other and show no desire in actually being where they are. For them it’s a matter of doing their time – much like a prison sentence – until they’re allowed to go.

Then there’s the other group who actually takes an interest in what they’re doing and display a passion and work ethic, which shows that they are participating for the right reason. The kicker is that these are the kids who would be volunteering anyway. I’m not so naïve to think that volunteers aren’t needed in our society, but what we need are more of the latter and less of the former.

The school board desperately needs to get more creative in their attempts to encourage volunteerism. Let’s encourage behaviours and work ethics that will actually serve them later in life. Instead of making volunteer participation compulsory, let’s investigate ways to offer it as an extra-credit opportunity. Working with teachers, allow kids time away from class on occasion to help worthy causes and learn more about the world around them.

For the people who will complain that offering extra credit is unfair, look at the work force. If you want to impress your boss, you go above and beyond the call of duty. You put in the extra time – so why not promote and reward this work ethic at a young age?

Kids are under a tremendous amount of pressure. Between the demands of school, social pressures, and – for many – part-time jobs, we need to be understanding of their needs as well and not paint them all with the same brush.

There are a number of kids out there who would love to donate their time and energy to volunteer programs. But there are ways to channel their energies to these worthwhile cause other than through administrative force.

Think back to the things you remember from your own youth. Chances are your best memories are of your friends, sporting accomplishments, or experiences gained through participation in clubs. But the key in all of this is that these are all activities you chose to do.

Our high school-aged children are on the cusp of being adults. Part of their development during this time is to learn how to make their own choices and to do the right thing. So let’s trust our children and treat them as the adults we want them to be.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved