A Tribe Apart The United States is facing a critical problem with the youth of its own nation. The United States has dropped to 30th in the world in I. Q. scores as of 2005. Some nations ahead of the U. S. include Andorra, Estonia, and Singapore. This drop off has been steady for the last 2 decades, and we continue to drop on the list or reading, math, and chemistry scores. It would be easy for us to blame some of the distractions our western culture has created such as the T. V. , computer, teen sex and pregnancy, and the music industry.
In “A Tribe Apart” by Patricia Hersch, the author follows the lives of 8 teenagers as they embark on their four years journey of high school. She observes these students in the year of 1992, and invites the reader to a firsthand look into sex, tests, prom, sports, and everything else that makes up the life of an American High School student. It is also important to note that Mrs. Hersch observed mainly Caucasian and middle class students in the town of Reston, Virginia. Many of the problems associated with the students in this book can be amplified by lower class minorities who do not have the resources of the middle class kids.
The book starts out with prologue about a young man named Jonathan Tompkins. Jonathan is a seventeen year old who is about to embark on a college career, and has met a crossroad in his life. He has a history of being disrespectful to his parents, and is scared of the uncertainty that the future holds for him. Jonathan decides to go on a vision quest inside of the George Washington National Forest. He must survive with a small portion of bread, no shelter only a small amount of water for four days in the woods.
With nothing but nature to keep him occupied, he relies on it to distract him from the pains of hunger and thirst. By the fifth day, Jonathan realizes what his vision quest was all about. He starts to thing about all the times he has neglected his mom. He realizes all the things he has took for granted and takes a vow to change his life for the better. Shortly after his vision quest, he heals the relationship with his mother and goes with her to look at colleges. The significance of this story is that it is a reminder to all about how we are all attached to the material things in life.
Teenagers and young adults have their lives run by the television, video games, music, popularity, facebook, twitter, etc. The modern day teenager must adhere to these superficial things, or take the risk of losing in the popularity game. Sometime during the fourth and fifth days of Jonathan’s vision quest, he detaches himself from all things superficial and fake, and realizes what is really important in life. These include the relationship with his parents, friends, and inner peace within himself. Among the eight students that the book follows, there is a common theme among what is happening in the book.
The theme is that the mold of the parent has changed since the birth of the baby boom generation. The “hands on” approach to parenting in the good old days has given way to the multi salary working household of the 21st century. In the old days, many mothers would stay home with their children to take care of them. In today’s world, if the child is lucky enough to live with both his parents, chances are that both parents probably work at least 40 hours a week. The support and supervision of an adult is simply not available to the youth of America.
As a result, young men and women are not able to successfully grapple with the challenges of school, work, social life, integrity, and the work ethic it takes to function in our society. Because of the neglect of today’s parents, the youth of the nation has essentially made its own society within a society. Today’s teens and pre-teens have their own distinct style of dress, language, and means of communication. This is why the book gets the title of “A Tribe Apart”, because today’s adolescents are on their own when it comes to figuring out the meaning of life.
If we want order restored in our nation that is distracted by war, economic recessions, and falling tests scores, perhaps we should get back to the basics of having a nation full of respectful and hard working people. These include taking time out of our busy schedule to spend with our children, as well as getting to know them and talking to them about the problems of everyday life. It is easy for adults to get distracted by their jobs, choirs, and the television. Parents should realize that children need guidance, and that it is just not going to magically be given to them.
High School is a scary environment, and can be both stressful and rewarding. Sometimes grownups forget about how awkward high school can really be. Some of the ninth graders have not even reached puberty yet, while others have full grown beards. And the same is true for the girls when it comes to the development of the female body. When combined with the stress of homework, tests, quizzes, sports, prom, drug use, dates, and sex, it can be a jungle within the walls of a high school. Parents must take control of their roles and get involved in their children’s lives.
Unfortunately, many of the disagreements and feuds between the parent and child are due to small things such as household choirs, and homework. It is a shame that something that small can tear the bond within a family. Something like that could have been prevented had the parent instilled that the choirs had to been done from a young age. So often in America parents wait until the child has a post- adolescent level to condition them to do choirs. The conditioning must start as early in life as possible, before the hormones of puberty start to rage and the teenage attitude develops.
This can go back to my point earlier of the neglect that today’s parent present to their children. The main theme of this intriguing book by Patricia Hersch is that maybe it is time for all parents to step up to the plate so to speak. Everyone from teen parents to grandparents needs to take a role in their offspring’s lives. Being a parent is a full time job and whether you like it or not, it is simply something that must be done. I can remember my time as a teenager when I thought that I knew everything about everything.
I was fortunate enough to be guided by two loving and caring parents. Unless something drastic takes place within our nation, a tribe apart will continue to grow into a colony apart, and eventually become a nation apart. Our nation was built on people who sacrificed everything at a chance for freedom. Those people were respectful and unselfish in their actions. It is not a new President or economic bailout that is going to save this nation; it is going to be a change in attitude for us all.