Reading and listening to the teen-created content for this week, I was struck by the extremes in both subject matter and depth, often contained in the same blog, podcast, or book. I had forgotten how extreme emotions, thoughts, concerns, and depth in conversation can be as a teenager. A classmate mentioned in her blog that she thought "The Rose that Grew from Concrete" had some shallow poetry that wasn't anything special. Sure, some of the poems seem to be about small concerns, but others are broader -- freedom, being yourself, love. I can remember creating as a teenager, too, in the form of journal entries. Some of the entries, I admit, were really shallow, while others reflected a concern for politics, friends, the world. When I was writing, though, none of these concerns seemed shallow at all. They were important to me, and it's only now looking back on it all that I can say, "Yeah, that was shallow" because I have some of the larger concerns of adult life. In truth, I wouldn't be able to handle these larger concerns if I hadn't been prepared by smaller issues as a child, and then as a teenager.
I think adults are often too quick to dismiss children's/teenagers concerns as "shallow" -- and I'm guilty of this, too. It's important to remember that one teen's interests and issues can encompass a very wide range. We can't just focus on one end of the spectrum and ignore the other extreme. Empowering teens doesn't mean making them more "adult" and focusing on only those concerns we find acceptable or worthy or having depth. Instead, we should let them create and see content that runs the gamut from the "trivial" to the "important." In fact, it would be better not to make that value judgment at all. I think the podcasts from the Cheshire library do a fantastic job of this -- the episode I listened to had an interview with a teen about the Gossip Girls series, a comedy act a few boys put together, and a chapter out of a book that two of the teens had written. This library definitely shows teens that what they have to say is important, and this is really empowering and validating to teens.