One of the reasons for the wisdom literature in the Old Testament, we are told in Proverbs 1:4, is “to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth.” The discretion that wisdom bequeaths to those who take up abode with her is not simply a bare knowledge of right and wrong (though it is not less than that). It is the practical ability to traverse—patiently, courageously, astutely, rightly—the sometimes delightful, sometimes perilous, sometimes banal terrain of one’s own time and place. Modern Reformation has been thinking this year a lot about our time and place, our secularized and secularizing culture. In this issue, we ask how we can give discretion to our youth, who find themselves en route in precisely such terrain.
Our first piece is taken from a White Horse Inn interview that Michael Horton conducted with Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, just after the release of her book The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. In this interview, Dr. Twenge, who has carried out extensive research on issues of youth and culture, identifies some of the strong cultural forces that are currently shaping our youth (and ourselves) in very self-centered ways.
Although we all know it to be true, many parents would rather turn a blind eye to the sexual practices of their teens. Bringing us up to date on the Center for Disease Control’s massive National Survey of Family Growth and the National Opinion Research Corporation’s similarly large and prestigious General Social Survey, Dr. David Ayers, assistant provost at Grove City College, gives us the hard facts in “Parenting Through Puberty,” our second article in this issue. Here, Dr. Ayers encourages us that this perennial parental challenge is best countered by parental example—that as parents, we can model a sexual ethic for our children that exalts the glorious, faithful love of Christ for his church.
It is no secret that education in our Western world is changing—and this change, according to many, is on a downward trend. Ginny Owens, a teacher at Petra Academy in Bozeman, Montana, argues that education remains fundamental in shaping young people into human beings who love truth, seek goodness, and pursue beauty. In our third article, “Education and the Transcendentals,” she offers a bracing vision for education. It is not simply about job training, nor is it merely about personal fulfillment or esteem. It is essential to the process of maturation.
In this issue, we do not shy away from pointing out the challenges our youth face and the ways they are falling short. This is not meant to berate. It is simply an honest description. We do not intend, however, to leave it there. Let us so pray and endeavor that when they are older, our young people will be able to say with the psalmist, “O God, from my youth thou hast taught me, and I still proclaim thy wonderous deeds” (Ps. 71:17).
Joshua Schendel executive editor