This is Part 5 in a 5 Part series of posts responding to Christian Smith’s Book “Lost in Transition.”
After all this talk, what are the conclusions presented in the book, Lost in Transition? The dismal outlook is that if emerging adults are unable to approach basic issues of right and wrong and possibly collaboration, they will be unable to lead lives which require significant investment “in the common good, or even actively contribute to institutional functionality by sustaining and practice moral virtues such as acts of care and goodness that go beyond simple procedural justice.”
They will also be unable to participate in the process of civil disagreement or community building. They are falling quickly into the hands of marketers, advertisers and salespeople who are growing rich off shrinking emerging adults idea of what their lifestyle should look like now and in the future. Their horizons are bounded by money and a comfortable lifestyle, nothing much more exciting or life changing than that.
Do I hold with most of the analysis and statistics presented in this book? Well, I think that based on the statistics Christian Smith provides some compelling critiques, and one of his final conclusions is simply emerging adults live in a vacuum of influences and responsibilities and duties. We/They live and party with people their own age, few wise voices, and lots and lots of time. (comparatively.) How then can we get out of this mess?
Smith suggests regulating advertising companies to not advertise to minors, offering required courses in moral reasoning, and families and older friends staying in contact with emerging adults as a starting point. What he’s advocating is an entire culture change however, a lifestyle change. And change of this sort won’t happen overnight, and possibly couldn’t happen for an entire generation (20-25 years) or more. That’s depressing news. But, this is hardly reason to give up, or to stop doing what it is that needs to be done on a personal level and more.
I think, speaking as an emerging adult, what needs to be done is community building specifically amongst and between the old and the young between healthy well adjusted emerging adults and their peers. There are young people that do contribute civically, that are committed to moral reasoning (or at least to discussing difficult issues) and to learning what types of dreams might bring more satisfaction than money. And how those dreams can be extended from themselves to include and prosper those around them. I guess, my answer to this problem, is to bring the solution back down to community and family, and even more so, to deep conversation.
Much of what passes for conversation in day to day life is trivial, mediated by television, blurbs, texts, and plenty of mediums designed to truncate discussion. It is easy to make it through the day with few meaningful interactions with friends, or conversations about morals and life dreams. So that is where I think we need to start, to form deep friendships, to form deep connections to others, and to dream and envision what might be created together with other. We must make places where we are connected and responsible.