Life Then and Now: Struggles of a Modern-day Teen versus those of 1911 This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

February 21, 2012
At first glance, one might believe that any generation preceding this current age was inferior, incompetent, and set back in comparison to today. People everywhere will speak up to say that life was harder “then”, whenever “then” was, and that it was practically impossible without today’s technology and viral advances. But have super-computers and smart phones really improved our world, or have they diminished virtues that were once so valuable? Americans will say that their government is flawless compared to years before when it was lead by previous presidents, speakers, and representatives. The laws America has now are surely better for the community than those that were in place before. America may be more corrupt than ever before, but if this is the price to pay for advancement and improvement of the economy, reputation, and statistics, then this does not matter! Teenagers today are thrown into a world that believes in its superiority over its aforementioned self, failing and refusing to acknowledge that perhaps simpler times were better times. In 1911, adolescents understood the importance of simplicity, whereas now, simplicity is practically a myth. One hundred years ago, the world was without much technology, but it was entering an age that would throw it on its side by many discoveries, progressions, and inventions. The question that begs an answer is whether life was better for teenagers a century in the past, or if those years have created a far more successful and happy life for teens today.

Evidence can be given to support both sides of this argument, but evidence can also be given to deconstruct each side as equally. By weighing the hardships and advantages of both situations, one can come to a conclusion and form an answer to this conundrum based on fact. In 1911, child labor laws, placed in effect by the American government, still held their own in teenage lives; by the time a child reached his adolescent years, however, odds are that he already held a fairly successful job or apprenticeship, provided for him by a family member or family friend. The fact that children often worked far before they were deemed prepared to can be compared to the early age at which parents force young children into schooling. Most people would agree that holding a job is very similar to attending school: the primary difference being that students intently pursue success by achieving good grades rather than pleasing an employer and making money. Though physical strains on the teenage body were greater in 1911, many would agree that the emotional and mental strains placed on teenagers today to achieve at great lengths in high school, through SAT testing, and in college are far greater than any strain placed on children before this time period.

Advantages held by teens in 1911 include the ability to provide for themselves and their families from an early age, the opportunity to obtain a job that ensured security for life, not needing to attend school past a young age, being able to spend great stretches of time with family, experiencing little peer pressure, experiencing greater community connections, and more. As afore mentioned, teenagers made a life for themselves very early on and continued to carry out this beloved job, until death. This provided them with security, support, and a promise for a bright future. Teens in 1911 were far more connected to family, despite the lack of modern advances that the world has today, including smart-phones, web-cams, internet connections, and efficient postal systems. Morals were very important to all people, primarily teenagers that were beginning to build their lives as men and women, so peer pressure was seldom seen as a method to distract young people from their virtues. Community was vital to teenagers; families from towns all over America at this time met every Sunday for a church service or a temple gathering. Because of these meetings and the constant interaction with other people, teenagers bridged the communication gap that is very relevant in today’s society, leading them to develop valuable communication skills needed to forge relationships.

Though ignorance is not nearly as prevalent as it was in 1911, today in 2011 the ability to access any sort of information by the click of a button has made teenagers lazy and incompetent at actions that were very common in years before. Despite boasting of freedom to make their own choices, students are still pressured by teachers, family members, and mentors to work as hard as possible while they are still young in order to be successful in school and move on to bigger and better things in college. This pressure often leads to submission to another kind of pressure: peer pressure. Peer pressure often pushes young people to engage in formerly viewed taboo motions such as alcohol consumption, illegal substance consumption, abuse of legal substances, sex before marriage, and law breaking. Despite all the hard work that is invested in bettering the world for times that are to come, teenagers have been tossed into situations that they have not been prepared for because they were not brought up traditionally.

In short, life in 1911 may have been advances depreciate, but teenage life today is filled with far more ignorance than anyone cares to admit. Though people pride themselves in the leaps and bounds man has made within the last century, if not the last decade, they are uninformed of the beauty of the simplicity that teens in 1911 were witness to. Life was simpler, more secure, and more spiritual than life today is for teens, despite the effort the world has made to provide them with all they could ask for.

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