Real Grown-ups, Part 1
Alex & Brett Harris make a good point in their blog, the Rebelution, that it isn’t good enough just to best our culture’s current expectation of teenagers. They argue that the whole system of definitions and standards are hopelessly off-kilter. Every expectation drawn from allowances made for “adolescence” needs to be tossed off and replaced by another standard. Gentlemen, I couldn’t agree more!
Still it is difficult for people, who have been steeped in the notion that “adolescence” is a necessary stage of development, to imagine what young “non-adolescents” would look like. I have found a number of wonderful teenagers, who seem to define themselves completely outside the accepted norms. They are people upon whom I can depend to come through with creativity, energy, discretion, self-control and courage beyond even most adults I know.
They are the sort of people one needs if one is interested in serious cultural renewal. They are not yet the masters of their respective crafts, but unlike most adults, they are not people who “know only the limits of the possible” (Terry Pratchet, The Last Hero).
Over the next few days, I’d like to introduce you to a few, starting with a dynamic duo of devoted friends separated by hundreds of miles.
Natalie and Petra met through their participation in the homeschool speech and debate league, NCFCA, in Colorado. Accomplished musicians, both run music studios from their homes. Both have been nationally-ranked speakers. And both have a dedication to serving others, between them racking up a jaw-dropping 650 hours of community service, facilitating hands-on exhibits at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, teaching speech and debate, running speech tournaments for elementary school children, volunteering for local-to-national political campaigns, serving on municipal youth courts which administer restorative justice to other teens, touching literally thousands of people – and still counting. The two have a deep connection that cannot be shaken by distance or difficulty.
When Natalie’s father took a job in Oklahoma, the girls were distressed, as most friends would be, about the separation. But instead of wringing their hands, they embarked upon a project that would not only bring them closer together, but would also benefit other homeschoolers who live on the mission field or in remote rural areas. They launched the International Debate Society Network.
The IDS (pronounced “Ideas”) Network allows students to debate in real time over the internet. Petra and Natalie have lined up experienced and award-winning peer mentors, and well-respected coaches to provide teaching and training for students who have no debate experience. They will provide a series of fresh scrimmage match-ups for beginners and experienced debaters each week. Students can affiliate with the national homeschool forensics association (NCFCA), and compete in NCFCA tournaments, arriving with experience similar to that of students who can attend a debate club meeting every week. In fact, they will BE a club with all the camaraderie and personal connectedness that implies.
Incidentally, as of this writing, neither Petra nor Natalie are yet 16 years old.
There are a few spaces still available in this year’s IDS Network, which will begin its virtual meetings in October. Contact IDS Network for applications and information at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Next time: An interview with Natalie & Petra