Show the ropes of life to teens who trip up

Most youngsters are caught between their own personal inclinations and the urge to follow the crowd when it comes to higher studies
Last Updated 24 April 2022, 19:56 IST

April and May present an array of possibilities to youngsters. Exams over, it’s the time for some fun and excitement. It’s also
a risky season as many mishaps and accidents occur during this time. Better watch out.

For teenagers who finish their school education at Class X, it is a significant milestone. They are virtually at the crossroads of their life. They are also on the horns of a dilemma as they have to choose the subjects for higher studies.

This dilemma is likely to be acute especially if they have a sense of individualism. If they are aware of their autonomy to make choices that their hearts desire, and still come under peer pressure to go with the ‘crowd’, they face a conundrum of sorts.

On the one hand, they have their loyalty to their peers, and natural inclination to fall in line with them. On the other hand, they have serious doubts about the validity of those choices.

Surrendering one’s individuality to the wishes of one’s peers may be an easy option to many. There is not much effort or struggle involved. But intelligent youngsters find this a matter of confusion and concern. They have clear awareness of their desires, often based on their aptitude. For them, this becomes a hard nut to crack, resulting in a lot of heartburn.

The choice is between two equally competing forces — one’s own personal inclinations and the bandwagon effect, meaning the latest trend among the peer group. To follow the crowd or plough a lonely furrow?

Robert Frost, in his poem ‘The Road Not Taken’, speaks of two roads that diverged in a wood, and how he took the one less travelled by, which made all the difference. To walk on the beaten track and to go on one’s chosen path are entirely different.

Bandwagon effect is difficult to resist because it gives the impression of being the right option. The publicity given by coaching institutions is too alluring to put aside. They exploit the fear, confusion and anxiety of ambitious youngsters to full advantage. Their enticements and inducements will put other commercials to shame. The amount of money spent on media ads shows the enormous budget they operate.

Our teenagers are caught in the maelstrom. They know well that everybody is not cut out to become doctors and engineers. The world is too big for just two professions. Secondly, these professions need a distinct aptitude and a certain frame of mind. Furthermore, the world needs writers, artists, scientists, lawyers, diplomats, teachers, administrators, et al.

Parental pressure and societal expectations also play their part. While some parents encourage their children to make informed choices of their own, and facilitate such choices, there are others who thrust their choices on children. Then there are parents who seek ego-gratification through their children. They want to achieve through their children what they could not themselves achieve. Some parents vow that they would make their son/daughter a doctor by hook or crook.

If the choice happens to be wrong, nobody will own up the responsibility. The youngster has to bear the cross alone. This situation points to a fatal flaw in our education system. We teach children everything. No subject on earth is left untouched, but one critical subject is left to chance.

We do not teach them how to live, how to make decisions in life, how to identify their innate potential and how to nurture and develop them, and above all, how to be a worthy individual, fully creative and alive. After all, everybody has to chart his/her own course, and one must be one’s own friend, philosopher and guide.

Therefore, our teenagers have to learn decision-making. They should be capable of making decisions of their own and stand up to them. They must be the architects of their own destinies. They should not fall victim to others’ whims and fancies or manipulations.

Career guidance and aptitude identification are essential for young children. These have to be dovetailed into the curriculum and handled by experts in the field.

If we trivialise life with wrong choices, we will get devastated by the harsh realities of life.

Some frustrated youngsters, unable to cope when caught in the whirlpool of cut-throat competition, are driven to suicide. Such deaths, which are reported occasionally, should be an eye-opener to education planners to do something meaningful on priority. We cannot afford to lose talented young people to wrong professions, wrong choices and premature deaths. They belong to us. Let’s show them the right path.

(The writer is Director, Little Rock, Brahmavar, Udupi)

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(Published 24 April 2022, 17:27 IST)

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