Today I am a
man. Tomorrow I return
to the seventh grade.
– Haikus for Jews
For the past few weeks I’ve been down with the Youth group, teaching them almost exactly the Church History curriculum I put together for their parents a few years back. Last week, we discussed matters of church and state. The week before that, the Trinity. When I mention this, people act surprised that we would touch on such weighty topics with such a young group.
I think this is absurd. In any other age, the “kids” I am teaching would have already formed their own households and be responsible for at least one child of their own by now. That we choose to infantilize them is to our shame, not theirs. It’s all the more absurd that we hold them back so long from becoming adults in the name of educating them, and then hold back the education as well because they aren’t adults. If you can’t teach them now, at the peak of their educational career, when exactly do you expect to be able to?
Jews historically considered their children to pass into adulthood at 13, becoming responsible for their own actions and sins. Jonathan Edwards entered Yale at that same age, where he had no difficulty absorbing texts like “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.” High schoolers are way past those milestones. If they act like children, it is because we insist that they do so. If they are unable to handle meaty topics, it is our failure as teachers, not their insufficiency as students.