Teens Vs. BS is Not New News!
This week, the internet is (understandably) suddenly loving teen students, because of their rallying cry against BS.
Some of us have always known this is true about teenagers. I have always loved working with teens because their BS detectors are so strong. The teen years are about learning survival: fit in or perish. To get through middle and high school, you have to know the real thing from BS. Sometimes you yourself have to BS painfully in order to get by, as you figure out who you are and who you want to be. This is also, by the way, what school should be for. NOT relentless tests which call for projectile regurgitation of arbitrary knowledge. And definitely NOT for hiding under desks.
Teens have the clues for us
I know this to be true because my students write about this all the time, unsparingly, if you give them a chance. Adults so often assume teens are clueless, shame on us. I think the opposite is true– teens are picking up ALL the clues. It’s unrelenting. So teens sometimes have to act clueless because getting hit with what life is really like, and the BS people settle for, is sometimes just too much.
The classic adolescent struggle–fit in or perish– is supposed to be psychological, not literal. This week, like many weeks in the recent history of this country, it was also literal. At Parkland, the teens who survived their classmate’s gunfire, refused to accept the BS condolences that didn’t signal real, immediate tangible change in gun laws, gun access, and school safety. They used their superpower to say– we don’t want your BS, we don’t want your prayers, we want things to be different. And we will make you listen.
And this was somehow staggering, because who knew teens could call out BS when they saw it? (Writing teachers).
Aim for transformation of BS in your college essays
If what the Parkland teens said and did isn’t adolescent bull-headedness turned toward the light, what is? They were unafraid to shake the status quo and say YOU ARE KILLING US– YOU MUST STOP!
This is also the work you– as applicant- can do in your college application essays. Your essay doesn’t have to be about government, gun control, or anything political–and it often shouldn’t be, unless you handle it without alienation and soap-boxing. But you can still say, I don’t want the old BS, I don’t want anything but positive change. Transformation.
When horrible things happen, it pulls the ground out from under us. Security? What security? If kids aren’t safe in school, where are they safe? ABCDEFGunshot?
Once the ground is pulled out from under us, what good can come? We have to rethink our entire lives.
A mature perspective
This is what maturation, growth, is: We are no longer spoon fed, nor do we only want what is sweet, mushy, or infantilizing. We must find a way to get food for ourselves, we must decide what we will eat, we must decide, literally, what is crap our body won’t handle.
Emma Gonzalez, teen survivor of the Parkland shooting, who has gotten much press for her irate and impassioned truth-speaking– advised that we just ignore the President’s lame, unthinking tweets. We don’t have time for this/his childishness, we are busy trying to help our country (like ourselves) grow up and become accountable. We don’t have time for the lies, empty prayers, or anything but non-BS action that shows we value our children’s lives more than anything else.
These teens are not biding their time; they (you?) will walk out of school. They will tell their stories and fight for their lives, if we won’t.
Freewriting Prompt to shed the BS and find your topic
What BS are you feeling totally, completely, done with?
How will you let the world– any audience you have– know about it? Where does it fit into, or shape, your personal story? How will you transform BS into something new, beautiful?
Choose somewhere quiet to write, where you won’t be interrupted (sometimes headphones help). To start thinking about the prompt, set a timer for 10 uninterrupted minutes. Free-write on the question, “What BS are you feeling totally, completely, done with?,” without stopping, judging, planning what you will say, or pre-thinking. Do not even reread it until your timer goes off.
Then go back and look for gold nuggets, places where you said something true, important, or that could be pushed farther, explored more deeply. Set your timer again for 10 minutes, and use this line, insight, or idea as your next prompt.
You can keep working in 10-minute “free-writing” increments for as long as you have time or creative juice or deep, burning need.
Next, make an honest list of all the BS you are tired of, done with; all the stories about yourself that have gotten a little too old, that you are ready to transform. Get down as many things as you can think of, none too big, none too small. Is it BS that we haven’t colonized the moon yet, that you are still taking PB&J for lunch, that your single-parent has to work three jobs?
This is your chance. You decide what’s next.
Need some guidance?
If you need help thinking about this raw material, and how you might turn it into a really great BS-free essay, contact us.
And if you are reading this as a survivor of a school tragedy, we will help you with your college essay FOR FREE. Please tell us in your message.
If you are considering walking out of school in solidarity and protest, walkouts are being organized here.
A great in depth profile of the Parkland activists can be found here.