Joseph Epstein , in a 2004 edition of the Weekly Standard, wrote an article called “The Perpetual Adolescent,” in which he laments the acidic effects of our culture’s idealization of youth. “Youth is no longer viewed as a transitory state, through which one passes on the way from childhood to adulthood, but an aspiration, a vaunted condition in which, if one can only arrange it, to settle in perpetuity.” The effects have been far-reaching, evidenced in clothing, music, television, politics, and economics.
Consider marketing. Epstein asserts that market forces “strongly encourage the mythical dream of perpetual youthfulness. The promise behind 95 percent of all advertising is that of recaptured youth, whose deeper promise is lots more sex yet to go. The ads for the $5,000 wristwatch, the $80,000 car, the khakis, the vodka, the pharmaceuticals to regrow hair and recapture ardor, all whisper display me, drive me, wear me, drink me, swallow me, and you stop the clock–youth, Baby, is yours.” But one is left asking, what is the real cost?
The idealization of adolescence has most certainly impacted education. Epstein writes that it is “degrading for a culture at large to want to be younger. The tone of national life is lowered, made less rich. The first thing lowered is expectations, intellectual and otherwise.” In a dumbed-down culture made all the more dumb by its adoration of youth, classical Christian education insists that there is an ideal not of immaturity but of maturity. This ideal of mature adulthood is filled with joy and laughter. But it is not the giddiness of a giggling girl. It has not the hallmarks of the irresponsibility of youth but of the intellectual seriousness and experiential courage of real adulthood.
St. Paul wrote in the 4th chapter of Ephesians of the day when “we should no longer be children,” but instead grow up into the image of the ideal Person, that of Christ Jesus. Classical education aspires to shape young people, through the rigors of grammar, logic and rhetoric, into their true goal – being conformed to the real grown-up who embodies everything we hope to be, Jesus.
Regents Academy aspires to aid parents who are aiming for this goal and produce grown-ups who reason well, think clearly, speak winsomely, know when to laugh, skillfully carry on conversation about consequential matters, and are not easily lured toward deadening triviality by the siren song of the promises of perpetual youth.
I feel very privileged to join you on this journey. We are together doing something quite counter-cultural. We are resisting the constant cultural undertow toward what Epstein calls perpetual adolescence. We are pointing our children toward real maturity.
If you’re like me, you don’t feel as young as you used to. We don’t look it either. But maybe that’s all right.