Independence comes with responsibility

Genna Danial, Viewpoint writer

We want to drive our own cars. We want to stay out all night. We want to make our own choices. As teenagers, we crave all the aspects we see in adulthood: independence, freedom, autonomy. Unfortunately, even though we are nearing or at the exciting age of 18, we do not have most of these liberties. Why? There is one aspect of adulthood none of us wants to embrace quite yet: responsibility.

“As you grow, you’re forming decisions and forming your positions on ideas,” Kent Nightlinger, principal, said. “It’s very important we do learn as we grow because as you do get older, the consequences for your decisions are much greater and have a bigger impact on your life then when you are younger.”

Teens want to be thought of as grown up, but that cannot happen until they embrace all aspects of adulthood, the fun and the serious. Biologically speaking, thinking ahead is not a strong suit for most teenagers, when compared to adults, because of their lack of brain development.

“It now appears the brain continues to change into the early 20’s with the frontal lobes, [which are] responsible for reasoning and problem solving, developing last,” according to ED Informatics’s website. “In calm situations, teenagers can rationalize almost as well as adults, but stress can hijack what Ron Dahl, a pediatrician and child psychiatric researcher calls ‘hot cognition’ and decision-making. The frontal lobes help put the brakes on a desire for thrills and taking risks, a building block of adolescence; but, they’re also one of the last areas of the brain to develop fully.”

Whether it be drinking and driving, having unprotected sex, or cheating on tests, teens usually do not expect to suffer the consequences and take the responsibility until they are in court for a DUI, pregnant, or failing a class. If teenagers want the benefits of adulthood, they must prove themselves worthy by consciously making smart choices and taking responsibility.

Recently, some students were suspended for using fake parking permits to park in the senior lot. The school enforces strict parking procedures to be fair to the students who have paid for legitimate permits, according to Melissa Pikul, dean.

“I want people to learn from consequences, but school consequences are very different than real world legal consequences,” Nightlinger said.  “If it’s the first mistake somebody’s made, obviously there are consequences they need to deal with and be responsible for, but as a young adult, sometimes the heavy legal consequences can stay with you for a long time. And if this is somebody’s first mistake I don’t feel we should always, as a school, go that direction. I think they can learn from our internal school consequences.”

Even though it is better to make mistakes before adulthood, teens must start thinking ahead to the consequences of their actions. We only have a few years left before we will have to handle these situations by ourselves, so learning how to accept responsibility and the outcomes of our actions is crucial to learn now. If not, learning to be an adult after the fact will add a lot more stress to adulthood.

“We’re not perfect. We are human beings and we’re going to make mistakes from time to time,” Nightlinger said. “Unfortunately, sometimes we choose to make big mistakes, and they’re much harder to move forward from, but you can. Learning is the key. That’s the whole point of education.”