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The “Teen Problem”…

In this series of essays, I’m addressing the ‘teen problem.’ It’s actually chapters in two books that I wrote on this subject a number of years ago. Someone encouraged me to publish it, because, from her point-of-view, the ideas I develop in the following ‘chapters’ are relevant to the discussion about raising healthy teens.

Bruce Bibee (2018)

Personal Note:

This work is separated into two volumes. In this book, I examine the teen problem. In the companion book, I examine one solution to the problem. I’ve dedicated an entire book to defining the problem because, as the Zen saying goes, “The answer is in the question.” We must first fully and completely define the problem before we can ever hope to find a solution to the problem.

In order to define the problem, we need some sort of template upon which we can hang theories, research, insights and so on. The template I chose for that task is Ken Wilber’s spectrum of consciousness model. I chose this because Wilber includes not only a developmental scheme that integrates all the developmentalists, but he also includes a spiritual dimension that caps human development. Human developmental processes, according to Wilber, find their end-point in safely bringing us to mature spirituality.

The organizing structure I am borrowing from Wilber is conceptually pretty simple: I follow the human developmental process as it is supposed to happen for both the individual and society and see where we may have gotten off-track. Wilber, in consolidating numerous sources, has mapped this territory for us. His map works for both the individual and for society. Put another way, society itself has gone through its own developmental process, which is no more and no less than the collective development of the majority of people in society at that time. For example, when humans as a group were mostly at the pre-operational stage of cognitive development (to use Jean Piaget’s term), the societies these humans lived in were also at that stage. Ancient tribal societies were those societies.

As humans pulled their awareness and individuality out of its embeddedness with nature, more evolved societies began to emerge that were, and continue to be, reflections of the majority’s state of development. In addition to this rather simple theoretical scheme, Wilber also assigns specific pathologies to each developmental stage. Therefore, if something goes wrong at the pre-operational stage, the concrete operational stage, or the formal operational stage, a stage-specific type of pathology is the result. Furthermore, that pathology can extend to the entire culture. It is my contention this is the case today, and teens have been, from the Sixties until now, rebelling against the pathological threads which are woven into the fabric of our cultures. Since they are teens, however, they can neither identify the problem as such, nor can they hope to solve it. Rather, they are either co-opted back into society as it is, or they end up acting out both their own individual pathology along with that of society. This, then, is a simple enough assessment. I like simple things.

Yet the overall issues I examine in this work are anything but simple. They are no less than a review of how teens have been led to adulthood since Western societies began. Then, I attempt to foresee what we will be doing as our next logical, evolutionary step. Currently, what we have, after centuries of social experimentation, is the type of society we now enjoy — high rates of crime and juvenile delinquency, voter apathy, epidemic sexual assault numbers, jails filled to overflowing, fanaticism, and terrorism.

In the pages that follow, a selective survey of our history is recounted, and I finally come to the conclusion that the current attempts to fix society are merely rehashes of the old attempts to fix society, and they still do not work. This is so because the definition of the problem is too narrowly defined. Typically, especially as related to teen issues, there are programs to prevent teen substance abuse, teen pregnancy, teen violence, teens dropping out of school, and so on. Could it not be that each of these isolated issues are merely symptoms of the same underlying problem? I believe so. In this volume I attempt to make a case for what that underlying problem may be. In short, society missed the developmental boat a long time ago and we have yet to correct those problems.

Certain tribal systems, which we can use as a comparison to Western civilization, long ago discovered what the famous psychologist Carl Jung described as the process of individuation. They saw that the child’s first task was to develop a healthy ego-self. Once this was accomplished, typically by puberty, the next task was to acquaint this ego-self with its spiritual counterpart. Rites of passage in their variety of forms was the traditional way this was accomplished. Once the adolescent was comfortable with his or her “dual” nature, s/he chose two roles within the tribal system: 1) the “work” they would do (carpenter, basket-maker, hunter, council-member, etc.); and 2) their spiritual roles (healer, shaman, story-teller, bard, etc.). They would apprentice at each job until mastery was achieved. This system of tribal organization enabled each member of the tribe to feel needed, appreciated, and valued. Because of that, their “belongingness” needs were fully met. Because of that, there was no need for a police force, nor jails, and judges were typically required to merely aid in conflict resolution rather than establish wrongdoing and guilt.

In the second volume of this work, I draw from many other sources to make the above kinds of corrections in a way that is relevant and useful to our current society. Those corrections are in primarily two areas: healing and spirituality. Why these are the antidotes to the “teen problem” is argued in this book. Hopefully, I conclusively demonstrate that the problem is such that these are the only antidotes.


I have been interested in this area professionally since 1988. That year, local juvenile probation officers asked me to develop a diversion program for violent teens. At that time, indeed until this writing, there is no diversion program locally for violent teens. They are sent to detention. The juvenile probation officers who contacted me wanted more options available for violent teens. The reason they contacted me was because I had been working in the area of domestic violence treatment since 1985, and as a kung-fu instructor since 1977. I had credibility as a counselor who worked with a difficult population; and, because of my martial arts background, I understood violence better than most. I put together a program which included martial arts training, and on that basis it was rejected.

A number of years later, I was asked to develop a program for teens in rural Alaska. Again, I put together a comprehensive package, beginning with community mobilization. After two major workshops, we conducted the third which included the teens. At the beginning of this workshop, the teens were hostile and resistant; the adults were frantic and concerned. By the end of the workshop, the teens were excited and ready to move forward; the adults became resistant and ultimately sabotaged the project. My co-facilitator of the final workshop, Barbara Flaherty, consoled me by saying, “Even communities have denial systems.” Some consolation. She, of course, was accurate in her assessment of what had happened.

After that, I pulled together a team of counselors and martial artists to help me figure out what the problem between teens and their societies really was, and to develop a system to address the problem. One result of our brainstorming was I returned to school and finished the second year of a Masters of Transpersonal Psychology course which I had been putting off for about 10 years. My thesis was on spiritual warriorship with a special emphasis on how to bring teens to this tradition.

Another offshoot of that early brainstorming was we made ourselves available to local teen functions so we could test various elements of the program we had designed. To date, all the program components have been tested “in the field,” and they work. What we have been unable to do is present what we have developed as an integrated whole. It became clear to me, eventually, why. As Barbara said it, “Communities have denial systems.” We were bouncing our ideas off community denial systems. We had provided society with a solution (our program) to a problem society did not recognize as such (society defined the “teen problem” differently). We would get nowhere until society could see the reason for what we were envisioning. These two books, then, are my attempt to stimulate community understanding and consensus so that we, as well as others I am sure, can proceed with what will work. In service of that goal, I am presenting here: 1) what I think the composite problem is; 2) why I think the problem exists as it does; and, in volume two, 3) some solution to the problem-as-defined.

…when the Constitution of the United States was written, we were viewed as a nation of individuals. (Greenleaf, R., The Servant Leader, p. 355)



The Constitution of the United States is a document about individual rights. No where in the Constitution is there even one statement of the individual’s responsibility to society. In short, there is no “community” defined at all; no community-individual reciprocity; no feedback loop between the community and its parts, the individual citizens. In all indigenous cultures, by contrast, there is a well-defined set of expectations for the individual tribal member to the tribe, and the tribe to the individual. Each is supported, valued, protected and honored by the other. This ancient wisdom about the interdependency of the member and the collective was ignored by the Founders of the United States.

Eventually, though, President John F. Kennedy admonished us with: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” And we asked ourselves just that. The Sixties can be viewed as a revolt of spirit that said, “This is what we can do: end the madness that has brought us to the brink of nuclear annihilation.” The teens of the Sixties provided society with the equivalent of a therapeutic intervention.

Fifty years has passed, and what have we been able to replace the madness with? We still have no true community. We have, instead, a variety of single-issue political action groups. These are collections of fanatics espousing their version of the One, True Way, which, sadly, embody our only version of a networked, solid community. The rest of us are adrift in our individuality, and our teens are the ones that suffer from this condition the most. They, of all people, are developmentally dependent on the input, validation, mentoring, and initiation-capabilities of the community. In fact, without the aggressive intervention of the entire community, a teen cannot, by his/her own means, develop into a confident adult.

Even those who are now comfortably “adult” (which means functionally that they have ceased trying to prove themselves to anyone) have achieved this status by other means — means that are outside the mainstream of normal American life; means that have included an integrated community base, spiritual rites of passage, apprenticeship, and recognition of mastery. It appears, then, that our infatuation with individuality has eroded away the community identity which is the only agency that has the authority to confirm the full status of adulthood on any teen.

This is not new information. A variety of sources have addressed this concern, but we, as a society, have yet to find the magic key to unlock our ability to form ourselves into human collectives which will nurture us as we nurture them. We have not figured out the win-win scenario where our participation in society is a win there, and society’s interaction with us is also a win. My fear is, if we do not figure it out, more teens will be cast adrift; more teens will have to find their own way to adulthood, or pseudo-adulthood, through gangs, or climbing corporate ladders, or through sports,*  or through some anti-hero fantasy, or, finally, thankfully, through the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The individuality, showing up around the time of the American Revolution, sounded the death-knell for what Ken Wilber (1995) defined as the “mythic-rational” type of social organization. This social organization emerged with the great empires (Alexander the Great to finally the Romans). These civilizations were hallmark attempts at manufacturing a global consciousness, but did so with a very specific “myth” the true citizens of the empire had to embrace. Those who did not accept the myth were marginalized into second-class citizens, slaves, or hell-destined heathens. Most of our history as a species occurred within the mythic-rational social structure. The next collective evolutionary shift did not happen until about the 16th Century. The new form of group identity Wilber designates as “egoic-rational.” It is this stage we are currently enjoying. The problems we are having, however, suggest we may be starting the process of shifting to the next higher organizational order. Wilber calls the next evolutionary stage “vision-logic.” To accomplish the next shift, we need an understanding of all the factors needing correction so this shift can actually take place. We have a problem, then, that has layers to it. There is a developmental layer, both in terms of the immediate challenges facing each teen as he or she begins to negotiate puberty and adolescence, and in terms of society’s developmental process that has been incomplete. There is an educational layer, a socialization layer, a spiritual layer, a generational layer, a pathological layer, a cultural layer, a gender layer.

What follows, then, is my current best thinking on how to develop a healthy collective consciousness, which necessarily will include a shift to a higher order of reasoning (vision-logic); how to bring our teens to full adult status as welcomed members of the collective, which means that they will have to be grounded in the new way of organizing society; as well as a critique of current social policy which, in my view, is just adding more fuel to an already out-of-control fire. The organization of this book, as a result, examines the layered problem itself. In the companion book, a solution to the problem is offered.

Summary of Chapters:

In Chapter 1, we look at the violent trend in teens. This is the most dramatic symptom of a problem we have yet to even define well. The American Psychological Association has much to say about this, as does the National Science Foundation, the Justice Department, and others. We will review their explanations, their research, and the variety of strategies used in Western societies to deal with violent teens. We will also examine their results in addressing the problem.

In Chapter 2, we move to the role of education. I briefly trace the philosophical history of education, the history of children through the ages, and the developmental stages that children go through. By establishing this historical context, we can begin to isolate the healthy and pathological strains in child-rearing practices, educational agendas, rites-of-passage rituals, and so on.

In Chapter 3, we begin to define the relationship between the individual and the community. Here, we review the variety of contracts the individual has had with his/her society. These contracts will be viewed in their respective contexts (tribal, mythic-rational, egoic-rational, vision-logic), along with their respective pathologies (borderline/narcissism, script pathology, neurosis, existential despair), and their respective contributions to our current state of affairs. In this review, we will be able to identify more completely the pathological threads we have inherited from the past.

In Chapter 4, we extend the new definition of community (vision-logic) to the teen population (what does membership in a vision-logic society mean?). First I define the current situation, then I contrast that with a more integrated model. Finally, we begin to pull together what our reviews have highlighted as viable options for integrating teens into society.

In Chapter 5, we flesh out the ideas of an integrated community. From the review of history so far, we now know what has survived the massive, millennia-old, species-wide evolution of humankind: the wisdom of ancient and current societies; the methodologies used to solve the individual’s relationship to the society and vice versa; and the inherited pathologies. Societies have always found places for teens; therefore, how will the “new” society accommodate teens? How will that society encourage healing and spirituality?

The End Notes follow each Chapter and are more comprehensive remarks than the footnotes. The Appendices are next, and the Reference section is at the end of the second volume.

Root Assumptions:

The survival of a society depends on how that society trains its youth to become, in their turn, members and leaders who support the core values of that society. There are, within this scenario, two major variables: 1) the core values of the society itself; and 2) the means by which the young are brought into alignment with those core values (the training program itself). Before I start with the historical survey of how this has been accomplished over the last two millennia or so, which constitutes a major portion of this work, I want to focus on what our current core values are, the pressures of our own time that help to form those values, for I believe we must account for those assumptions: assumptions about what a child or teen “is;” assumptions about education, religion, economics, sports, politics, and so on. These assumptions can cloud critical thinking, and I want to address the primary ones here at the outset. For example, there are a variety of assumptions built into the following from the Office of Juvenile Justice, Delinquency Prevention Program (John J. Wilson, Acting Administrator, FACT SHEET #6, February 1994):


STRATEGY.  Based on the current state of research on the causes and correlates of delinquency, as well as over 15 years experience in implementing delinquency prevention programs, OJJDP has issued a funding guideline for Title V Delinquency Prevention Programs which is based on four precepts.

First, prevention programs must be based on sound theory supported by positive or promising research results.

Second, prevention programs must incorporate a system of data collection and analysis to evaluate program outcome and performance.

Third, prevention efforts cannot be effectively directed by public agencies alone — a dedicated community coalition of citizens, private businesses, and public agencies must direct a collaborative effort which draws on public, private and volunteer resources.

Fourth, the prevention program must operate pursuant to a comprehensive plan which periodically assesses and prioritizes the risk factors in the community which are associated with the development of delinquent behavior, and implements programs and strategies tailored to address the prioritized risk factors and enhance factors which protect children from the effects of risk factors.

The succeeding ‘fact sheets’ reiterate these guidelines, and we will come back to the Title V program later, as this is the funding mechanism for many teen programs. First, though, I want to examine the built-in assumptions in the funding guidelines. The first assumption is that a “sound theory supported by positive or promising research results” actually exists. There is none. If there was, I would not be writing this book. What this guideline in effect does is limit the field of applicants to those who have sound credentials. The second assumption is that there is actually a way to “evaluate program outcome and performance.” Realistically, one would need a longitudinal study to see if (1) the participants in the funded program actually did become viable adult members of society, then (2) were able to pass on those gains to their children. This guideline, in effect, calls on the funded program to merely do what it says it will do (i.e., provide a 20-hour course in substance abuse education, for example). Since this is all one can reasonably expect any program to do, the “performance” of the funded program cannot be tied to the recidivism of the population served. The third assumption is that there is “a dedicated community coalition of citizens, private businesses, and public agencies.” And that this coalition “must direct a collaborative effort which draws on public, private and volunteer resources.” There are, of course, a number of committed and concerned citizens and organizations now working diligently to solve the teen problem. The more intractable problem is there is no “vision” of what needs to be done that organizes all of them, along with the variety of agencies, into a galvanized, single-minded force. The Western cult of individualism (discussed above) has, in my view, effectively retarded our ability to work together in meaningful collectives. This assumption assumes that we can. The final assumption in the Title V document is if we guide teens away from the identified “risk factors,” we will have addressed the problem. The risk factors are built into the communities themselves, and as anyone who has ever worked a 12-Step program knows: a program of recovery based on “don’t” never works; a program based on keeping teens away from certain risk factors (a “don’t” agenda) is a program that has already failed; a program based on “instead” does work. An alcoholic drinks to avoid his problems; instead of that, a recovering alcoholic works the 12-Steps to solve his problems.

These guidelines are and will be governing the distribution of federal funds to agencies that are attempting to deal with the teen problem. The assumptions built into the guidelines limit the scope of intelligent inquiry and exclude relevant data which lies outside the box imposed by the funding guidelines themselves. In short, what is being said is: “If we can’t find the answer within our box, we don’t want to know about it.” None of this, of course, makes any sense logically, but that is the nature of assumptions — they do not have to be accurate or logical since they are founded in belief. For example, paradigm-shifts occur, and have occurred throughout history, when one set of beliefs (the Earth is flat) gives way to another set of beliefs (the Earth is round). Eventually the beliefs (which can be functionally defined as “hypotheses about the truth”) give way to verifiable fact (the Earth is a sphere).

The Right Way Assumption:

A core assumption that must be dealt with immediately is the religious fundamentalist view of the One True Way. Briefly, there is no “right” way; there is, rather, a way that works for some, a different way that works for others. Pragmatically approaching the “teen problem,” society can come up with answers that will work, but not if we are handcuffed by misapplied, or oftentimes misunderstood, religious doctrine. Simply stated, I will not be saddled with a “dualistic” assumption. At the root of dualism is the idea that there is an all-powerful, all-good God who is opposed by a tricky, all-evil Devil. The Devil, so we are told, uses a variety of human organizations, philosophies, disciplines, and people to seduce the god-fearing folk into his nefarious clutches. Therefore, anything that is not specifically blessed by the god-fearing folk is considered suspect and is probably “of the Devil.”1

I want to note here that this dualistic view of things is not exclusive to religion. Dualism shows up in the fanaticism and terrorism* we find in ecology, politics, education, business, and other human organizations. All dualism, fanaticism and terrorism are fear-based control mechanisms that end up injuring both society-at-large as well as the dualistic organization and its members themselves. Dualism, in its varied forms, in its need to marginalize “others,” is one of the ultimate root causes of society’s problems. Over the centuries, society has moved each of its members from “tribal” consciousness, a sort of “group-consciousness,” to “individuated” consciousness, which has given rise to the variety of “participatory” governing schemes from the limited monarchy to democracy. The time appears ripe for us to move to the next stage in our development as both individuals and as a society and combine group-consciousness with individual consciousness. Of course, that means we must consciously evolve. On the road to proving that conclusion, I will ask, then, that this literary effort be judged on the logical results of the following arguments. To do so, we must suspend the compelling forces of our own assumptions. Clear our minds and just see where the flow of history revisited and developmental logic take us.

Educational Theory:

There are those in education who tell us they know the answers to the “teen problem.” If, after all, they had the answers we would not be where we are today. While it is true the current educational model does work well for many of the students who have gone through its doors, many others have not fared so well. Again, a cursory look at the assumptions underpinning our educational system gives one pause. Inherent in just the “grading” idea is a built-in “failure” rate unacceptable in any normal business. (Imagine a 10% failure-rate, which is the norm for teachers who grade on a curve, in an airline company, for example.) There needs to be a zero-failure rate for our children, or our children will believe that they are failures themselves — at which point, they will have no investment in our society, and they will become a part of the counter-culture in its variety of forms. Failure, therefore, is an unacceptable condition for our kids, yet it is the norm within the current educational system. The concurrent paradox, however, is kids are often not allowed to fail if they actually flunk a grade, because not to advance with their classmates may be too much of a blow to their self-esteem. These kids are then sent this confusing message: 1) they are failures, but 2) they cannot handle their failures so the system is going to pretend the failure did not actually happen.

The assumption, that it is by avoiding failure (or avoiding its consequences) a child makes it through the teen years, is an assumption refused in this work. There must be ways for each child to achieve self-actualization. Indeed, there are, as all of us know. When one learns from one’s “mistakes,” then the cultivation of a child’s potentials can happen. On the other hand, when “mistakes” are graded as something “wrong” in and of themselves, fear-of-failure becomes a prime motivator in learning. Yet, when fear is present, higher learning processes shut down, and we all operate from our reptilian brains. Since no learning (except as needed for survival) is going on now, “failure” leads to more failure and becomes a closed loop for kids caught up in that dynamic. (See: Dryden and Vos, 1994)

All of the above is known to researchers who study education and brain functioning, yet nothing much has happened within schools to change the status quo. We pretty much have the same system we had in the early 1900’s when schools were training grounds for future factory workers. We really can do better than this, and in some places we are — just not enough places. One reason for this is the default educational system is a virtual monopoly. As a monopoly, it has one overriding goal: protect its monopoly status. The needs of the students, teachers, and parents are secondary to the need for monopoly-survival. Diversity is effectively outlawed, and a dualistic attitude between the “educated” and “uneducated” is fostered. The drift towards giving college credit for life-experience is a welcome shift, but we do not have the same latitude for our teens. Private schools, even though they seem to compete with the public schools, still must prepare their students for high school exit exams, the GED, or college entrance exams. This is a narrow view for education. What about, for example, basic life-skills such as conflict resolution, stress management, communication skills, listening skills, emotional self-awareness, relationship building, environmental sensitivity, creativity, and spirituality? At best, these are elective classes if they are offered at all; yet these are the necessary skills of the productive adult member of society. We have yet to even begin the process of measuring the acquisition of these skills or determining the situational components in their correct application.* A voucher system may work in diversifying education, but it may not. At the very least, however, in Chapter Two I examine the root assumptions in contemporary education and see if these assumptions are actually practical or need reworking. Further, I speculate on what an evolutionary shift up might look like for education as an institution.

Child Psychology:

Psychology comes from the Greek word “psyche,” which means “soul,” and the word “logos,” which means “word.” As a study of the “soul,” psychology in general has not done so well. It has done well in defining the variety of pathological states within which the human mind can find itself; it has defined the developmental stages attending to the maturation process; it has done a remarkable job of decoding the brain and its functioning; and in the last 50 years or so, some in psychology have turned their attention to “healthy” states of mind, even “mystical” ones.

The assumption that needs to be put into a proper context, in my view, is the behaviorist’s worldview that “conditioning” holds central importance in psychological theory. Again, if conditioning, or socializing our children, actually does what we are told it does, we would not be where we are. Something else is at work in young people that can cancel the effects of conditioning. Ironically, it probably is the “soul.” Jungian psychologists will oftentimes break the human being into three psychological parts: ego, soul, and spirit. The soul, for them, is our unique set of gifts or artistic talents, our inherent need to create in our individual way. This “need to create” is as irrepressible as the sexual impulse (itself a slice of the creative pie). As such, no amount of conditioning or socialization can tame it. Since, however, the soul must act through the ego to actually manufacture one of its creations, therein lies the rub. The ego is highly susceptible to conditioning. Therefore, the “creations” may take on pathological forms, revolutionary forms, or counter-cultural forms. In extreme form, the ego can effectively stifle the soul’s need to create, which produces a kind of “imploded creativity,” which can be a definition of depression.

The biological assumption, held by many psychiatrists, is there are different chemical imbalances in the brain which can produce different types of mental illness. The first problem with this is a chicken-and-egg problem: what came first, the psychological condition or the biological condition? Did the biological malfunction create the psychological problem; or did the psychological condition create the biological one? That question has never been satisfactorily answered by anyone. The further problem with the biological assumption is brought to us by those who are studying the brain and its functioning. What they have found is the brain, when confronted with a new situation or environment, can actually turn genes on to manufacture the necessary new structures in the brain which enable it to adapt to the new situation. Furthermore, these researchers have actually found where PTSD shows up in the brain — the amygdala. Extreme psycho-emotional stress (such as rape, assault, Vietnam stress syndrome, and the like) actually brands the brain with a recognizable signature. (see: Neihoff, 1999) These new studies suggest strongly that brain processes are more dynamic, more adaptive than previously thought — the brain’s elasticity. And, of course, the bio-psychiatrists have no way at all to account for the soul.

The soul, apparently, cannot be conditioned or socialized (nor the “spirit,” which represents the God/Goddess-within). The ego can be, and definitely is conditioned by a number of factors, not the least of which are the anti-diversity bias contained in the dichotomy between Good and Evil (the dualistic, religious assumption), and the effects of “failure” (the educational assumption). Add to these the traumatization from chemically dependent, abusive and/or pathological parents, and the picture looks bad for our young people.


With the main assumptions (governmental, educational, religious and psychological) accounted for, I think it is safe to begin this review since we will be minimizing the “observer-experiment” effect (i.e., with the assumptions accounted for, they will not necessarily contaminate our observation of the data reviewed).

The scientific method, which I plan to follow in this work, seems to function best within the “hard” sciences (i.e., physics, mathematics, geometry, and such); it is less powerful a methodology within the “soft” sciences (i.e., sociology, psychology, anthropology, and such). The scientific method is, simply, the test of an hypothesis. For example, it is hypothesized that by combining two hydrogen atoms with one oxygen atom we will end up with water. The scientist does just that in an experiment, finds that he does get water. He publishes the results of his test and invites others to try this experiment for themselves. They do so and confirm the results.

Within the scientific method there are two ways of experimentation. They are called “quantitative” and “qualitative” research. Quantitative research (the measurement of “real” things, like hydrogen and oxygen) is considered, of the two, to be more reliable, more “truthful.” Qualitative research is usually used in the soft sciences to calculate trends or “quality of life” assessments; as such, it garners less respect from the scientific community. Yet, the scientific method only requires confirmation of an experiment. In our study, one confirmation is already there. It is in the historical record. However, I will be quick to abandon external verification of an experiment in favor of an internal verification of the experiment. In other words, some experiments, ones that involve a shift in perception, can only be verified by someone who has also made the same shift in “knowing.” In this work, the claim is made that the “quality” of a human experience can only be confirmed by those who possess that quality. For example, a Zen master can confirm a Zen student’s experience of enlightenment; another Zen student cannot. A father can confirm his son’s advancement into manhood; another teen cannot. Of these shifts, science can only hope to confirm a shift in brainwave patterns, for example, or some other quantifiable sign that something is different. While this verification is a comment on the fact that shifts of any sort do not happen in a vacuum (there are correlates between mind and body), it says nothing, indeed cannot say anything, about the quality of the shift. The qualitative element is “measurable” only by those who have experienced the shift themselves. For example, we all know what it is to have a nightmare. We probably all know that an EEG machine will register when someone is dreaming. The EEG machine cannot tell us: 1) the dream is a nightmare; nor 2) what the experience of having a nightmare is all about. Only someone who has had a nightmare can empathize with that.

This proposal stretches the definition of qualitative research, perhaps, but is necessary to the overall goal of this work. To summarize, then, the pieces of a youth training program already exist, and the components of this training program have already been confirmed by the societies that developed each component; further, these pieces of the puzzle, when replicated now, within a evolutionary or developmental framework, can produce results in teens. Confirmation of this hypothesis is twofold: 1) the historical record; and 2) current initiators who represent the vanguard of the next societal shift.

Hopefully, it will be found in this inquiry that our contemporaries and our ancestors have found the ways and means to solve our current dilemmas with our youth. The final proof, though, is how well a young adult integrates into society over his/her lifetime. The caution is to account for the prevalence of “dualistic” assumptions slipping in to contaminate the review of history, the variety of distinctions I will make, and finally the conclusions that are derived from the data under examination. My own bias, which has already announced itself in this overview, is a vast skepticism with our current approaches to the “teen problem,” and with the organizations attempting to address it. I have read the books on “spirituality in the workplace;” I have attended the trainings that attempt to bring us into a more compassionate relationship with our clients or patients; I have attended the meetings to humanize the face of education and make it more relevant for our kids; I have met with religious leaders who are building the bridges between the variety of religious traditions. And while there are many individuals who are firmly committed to making this a better world for us all, I do not see the same kind of attitude from their “corporate sponsors” — the church hierarchies, the professional organizations, the political machines. The old organizational forms, rituals of advancement, and fear-driven psychologies exist as the reality. I wonder what form they will take when society evolves to the next level.

End Notes: Introduction

  1. The dichotomy between God and Devil, so fervently invoked by the folks who engage in the perennial battle between Good and Evil, does not hold up under even minimal scrutiny. For example, in Isaiah 45:7, the God of these god-fearing folk makes it clear that He actually is all-powerful, and the battle between good and evil is a rigged fight:

I am the Lord and there is none else.

I form the light and create darkness:

I make peace and create evil;

I, the Lord, do all these things.

Satan, during his appearances in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, seems to have been an agent of God (see, for example, the Book of Job), or he performed as a “devil’s advocate” sent to test man’s faith (the temptation of Eve in Genesis, the temptation of Jesus in the desert in Matthew). Satan, as with all shadow material, can provide us with deep and lasting insights, as well as powerful lessons about our faith, ourselves, and our purpose for being on planet Earth in the first place. Additionally, from God’s point-of-view, there is only the One. Within that One, all dichotomies abide, all divisions are nullified, all paradoxes and all polarities are collapsed. Since this idea appears in all other major spiritual traditions, especially Eastern ones (including Eastern and Celtic Christianity), the majority of humans seem to have found the idea that the One precedes the Two resonated with their inner knowing. A thoughtful person can conclude that there is an all-encompassing One. The light and the dark, good and evil, and so on flow from that original Source. Diversity, then, is a part of the creative impulse; whereas, the imposition of doctrinal uniformity, itself a dualistic notion, is anti-God.

On the other hand, however, there is evil. Scott Peck, most noted for his classic book on spirituality, The Road Less Traveled, took up the topic of evil from a psychiatric point-of-view in People of the Lie. The battle between good folks and evil folks is real. The good news is people who have chosen the path of evil have also chosen a path which includes domination, fear, and the impossibility of working together with others. They have chosen a life that is a giant king-of-the-mountain game. Those who have chosen the path of goodness have also chosen a path which includes compassion, empathy, healing, and the ability to work together with others. So, evil people may outnumber us 100 to 1, but we have the ability to create synergistic organizations that can effectively bring the Light into the world despite their superior numbers.

*  Not that I am opposed to sports or corporate ladders, but these do not, indeed cannot, confer the status of full adulthood. Witness, for example, world-class athletes who end up as addicts or wife-beaters.

* See Appendix 1 for a quick study on terrorism.

* The open education experiment of the Seventies and Eighties notwithstanding. These approaches failed because teachers abdicated their roles. Sudbury Valley School survived because teachers taught  to motivated kids. {Greenburg, 1995)