I keep hearing about the “Teen Issue” in Craft circles, not only on the Internet, but also in real life face-to-face meetings. I have heard any and all arguments on this topic, and the purpose of this article is to see if I can boil the common arguments down and shed new light on them.
I will try to be as neutral as possible in this. I support teaching teens with parental permission, but not much else. So, that said, let me tear into the most common statements I have heard.
1) We can’t teach Teens because their parents will sue us. (Various causes for the lawsuit are given at this point, usually “parental interference”).
I can understand this position, and I have taken this position myself in the past. Basically the root fear is that we, as teachers, will be arrested and hauled away to jail for “daring to teach our satanic way to the malleable minds of the young” and from that start the problems mount. Projected out in a logical fashion, teaching one child under the age of consent with Fundie parents who won’t listen to reason could conceivably do great damage to the entire NeoPagan/Wiccan movement. Look at the documented cases of Wiccans/Pagans having their children taken away due to simply having a weird religion. Most of these types of arguments boil down to one thing, fear.
It’s hard to come out of the Broom Closet and expose your beliefs and yourself to everyone in the world, and then to stand there, blessing your enemies while they do their best to take you down and remove your basic human rights. So, why should we do this to our teens? They are taking an even larger step in coming out and asking for help, because they don’t know enough. And for this courage, I applaud all of them.
If the next generation of Wiccans can take this step, the one that will isolate them from their friends, their peers, and their family, then why can’t we be there for them? The legal aspects are easily gotten around, such as having parental permission, or having the parent present at the class sessions. In short, basically, the teen in question is taking a step that may take away their entire emotional support structure and open them up to character attacks and paranoia, so we need to be available to them to help in that time. The average age we are talking about here, 13-19, is one of the most emotionally tumultuous that there is. I think the only thing that comes close is the birth of the first child, and that doesn’t last for 7 years.
But as I said, the legal considerations can be gotten around with simply sitting down and talking with the parents. No ritual robes, no athames hanging from the Cords wound around your waist, but simply sitting and talking with the parents in a neutral place, or on the parent’s home turf. Your goal here should be to show them that you are not a child eating monster, nor a psychotic pedophile. Invite the parent along with the child to the classroom, let them take the classes too so that they can see that you are not teaching anything that will warp their treasure for life, nor are you taking advantage of their precious.
That’s the Parent’s fear after all. They are worried about their child. Or most should be. They don’t want to hear that this person on the bus has been showing their genitals to a child on the bus, nor that there is any number of horrid things happening to their child. It’s not that they don’t trust you, the teacher, but they don’t trust the world in general. They have basically taken an oath to stand between their child and all danger, and you could be seen as a threat to their child. Understand that, and work to disarm that fear.
The other parental fear is that the child will fall away from the church of their fathers, and so on ad neausium. That the family values they have worked to instill in their children will be corrupted by your teachings. This is where the parent’s participation can be so important to disarm this fear. By them seeing and hearing just what you are teaching their child, you can avoid this altogether in the long run.
2) The Teen can’t control their powers until they are out of Puberty.
Well, I have never been one to give credence to the “inborn powers” mindset. To me, anyone can learn to do anything they want to. But let me ask the proponents of this argument this, if a teen can keep their temper when all the popular kids in school are laughing their heads off because you just found a dissected starfish in your book bag and coat, don’t you think they can keep from doing something stupid? And isn’t it our job to teach the controls to our students to keep something like what is feared from happening? Isn’t that our purpose? How do Martial Arts teachers do such a good job of this with pre-teen students? Is it a mindset difference?
No. Martial Arts teachers do it the same way we teach older students, and that is through showing discipline to the student first, before throwing them into ethical conundrums. We show the student how to swim, support them for a bit, then let them flounder for a bit while giving advice, then we let them make their own mistakes and take the consequences for their actions. That is the way we are teaching, and it is what it should be.
So if we do our job and teach the controls first, then this argument looses effectiveness.
3) I’m not sure that my path is correct for others. /Others are not worthy of learning what I know. /How can I be sure that what I teach won’t be corrupted?
This objection almost convinces me, since I suffer from this problem myself. But let me ask you this…. If this path is right for you, and you will let someone else go once showing this path to them, what is the problem?
You found this path correct for you, and all you can do is present it to another who will make their own judgment on whether or not this is correct for them. Refusing to teach what you know deprives your way of survival. That is how the Craft propagates itself, in being passed from teacher to student. If you have come to certain conclusions, then you need to share those with others. Too much of what we need to know now, like what the Druids did and how they did it, is lost because others were not worthy to hear it. So sharing your beliefs and knowledge is important, even if it is only to your children or grandchildren. And if you don’t teach what you know, all that is left for those seekers who would benefit are books like “5 Easy steps to being a REAL Witch” that perpetuate the same old stereotypes.
Change is a part of life. Taking knowledge from someone, you have changed it simply by incorporating it into your life and consciousness. So teaching others is what is important, not that your knowledge remains uncorrupted. If your teachings are worth keeping in the original form because they are true for someone else, they will stay that way.
Teaching a teen is easier than teaching a small child. It won’t be corruption if you do it with some simple safeguards to keep you on the “righteous” side of the law. First, sit down and talk with the parents of the person you are thinking of teaching before you start. Answer their objections if they have some and try to tell them in plain words what their child will be learning. Don’t do initiations for the teen until they are over the age of the majority. Just pass on wisdom until then and teach them by example how to be.
I think we all do our teens a vast disservice by insulting their intelligence with “You don’t know the powers you are messing with” and so on, when most teens that I know do know and respect the power they have. It’s the same power that was there in the first place, but now it’s going to be channeled in a new direction. Hopefully by having an outlet for some of that energy, there won’t be a repeat of some of the more notable disasters of recent years involving teens.
Yes, you do have to be careful, but if you look at it as an apprenticeship rather than a takeover from the parent, it will go easier.
And always remember that you too, were once “that age”. Try to remember what it was like when you started looking.
Originally posted 2009-11-11 19:09:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter