Have Teenagers Lost the Meaning of Citizenship?

Some teenagers seem to have lost their way of citizenship, at least if it was compared to the ideas Shklar present. A few teenagers have become spoiled and earning, as well as voting, have become but a memory for most. Teenagers expect their parents to buy them everything and if they buy something that is not what they wanted or forgot to buy something after already being showered in gifts, they still complain and post it online, rather, than trying to find a job and earn their things and create a social standing among the community rather than their own selfish circles. These complaints are highest during Christmas. Here is a blog where teenagers and spoiled children complain about their many generous gifts. There is also one on Twitter and many other sites, but I do not have accounts in any of those other sites.


My class had been talking about Shklar and it flowed over to this last weeks lessons as we discussed Shklar’s themes within the book The Classic Slave Narratives, specifically Frederick Douglass’ account and a documentary called Poverty in Chicago . We cited various examples of Shklar’s citizenship meanings throughout the account and video, such as voting, earning, inclusion, and standing; also, ways to achieve citizenship through labor and education were discussed. Then, we restated who actually had citizenship and those who do not. I would think it safe to say that the few teenagers, much like the homeless, have lost their standing of citizenship or never even had it to begin with like Frederick Douglass. Unlike the teenagers, Frederick strove for citizenship. Many teenagers drop out of school for various reasons, some of it being “too difficult.” Frederick Douglass thought so too, but he kept going. He gave away his scarce amounts of food, risked being caught, and even got punished for trying to learn. He did not even get to go to a proper school. Some teenagers nowadays give up at the first sign of difficulty and willingly relinquish their right of education.

Furthermore, some teenagers think about living off their parent’s fortune instead of getting a job. At a Shklar standpoint, these teenagers would grow up to be non citizens because earning has become a lost merit. Some teenagers always claim that they will get a job but succumb to laziness or were never planning to get one. They blame it on the economy. There is a point to that argument, however, this merit dissipates when the teenager never even tried to fill out an application. Getting job or education and making one’s self known have become a lost ambition.

Voting has also become a lost cause among many teenagers. There is nothing that can be done for the underage, but teenagers who are 18+ do not vote simply because they do not know who the people they can vote for are and they do not know what the props are. More feasible reasons are, they are too busy or too lazy. Being too busy is understandable as teenagers may have school, work, and need to take care of other situations, but the latter is the more common reason. The time is not taken to research and go to the booth. Instead, the time is used to watch MTV.

Teenagers who stay out of Shklar’s model of citizenship tend to keep out during adulthood. The meaning of citizenship among teenagers have been lost and perhaps it’s time to put an emphasis on this concept before more teenagers lose it.

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9 Responses to Have Teenagers Lost the Meaning of Citizenship?

  1. ryrooney says:

    I totally agree that teenagers who live off their parents for their entire life is not earning and not contributing. But when Shklar talks about citizenship and who she considerers a citizen I get the idea that she is really only talking about adults. Teenagers who tweet about how horrible their parents are because they didn’t the iPhone 5 for christmas is indeed pathetic, but I don’t think she would say they are not citizens because they’re ungrateful. Maybe she wouldn’t consider them to be citizens if they were 20 year old, able bodies who were still living off their parents complaining about their lives. But if you are talking about 13 to 17 year olds, I don’t think she would have the same ideology about voting and earning.

    • newbieblogster13 says:

      That’s kind of my point and indirect question about Shklar. There is no mention about what age the concept of citizenship includes and so I pondered about it and came up with my own opinion of how teenagers nowadays may be classified based on actions and behaviors I’ve seen. Even if this concept was aimed more towards adults, I’d love to hear what Shklar thought about teenagers as they are close to maturity, make up about half the population, and are still people of the nation regardless of age. Hearing this different ideology would be interesting.

  2. dlsimps2 says:

    I hesitate to say that the problem stops with teenagers though because eventually those same teenagers who couldn’t be bothered to register to vote turn into adults who aren’t registered or are ‘deterred’ by the long lines at the polls. I remember when I turned 18 shortly before the 2008 elections and my mother registered me to vote, instilling in me that it is our charge as citizens to take advantage of the right that many have died for and many others don’t have. During this election though I was surprised to see that many kids younger than me were wishing that they were old enough to vote. They were passionate, outspoken, and upset that they were one to two years too young. Upon further inspection though, those bright enthusiastic minds were driven only by the fact that Presidental Candidate Obama was black. They didn’t know what his platforms were, how he planned to run the country, only his race mattered and I believe that once he won they never again gave it another thought. I would hesitate to say that any of them registered to vote in this last election (they were definitely all of age then) and have no faith that they will do so by the next presidential election which, in my mind, negates any claim they have to citizenship teenagers or not.

    • newbieblogster13 says:

      I didn’t state it into this post but that was kind of my assumption of what happens to teenagers and how the current thinking of a lot of teenagers affects their adult life. Also, that was nicely put. I was only thinking about teenagers voting or not and completely forgot about how the concept of citizenship is affected by how and why they vote and then relinquish their duty because the voting is no longer of interest to them.

  3. yesdelrinc says:

    “Being too busy is understandable as teenagers may have school, work, and need to take care of other situations, but the latter is the more common reason. The time is not taken to research and go to the booth. Instead, the time is used to watch MTV.”

    Can you please clarify this? It seems as though your arguement is conflicting with itself. Are you saying teenagers have responsibilities that impede on their ability to vote/become knowledgeable about voting? Or are you saying they are unenthused by the voting process and prefer to invest their time in popular entertainment?

    Also, do you not think that a cause for some teenagers’ uninterest in voting can be that as a society we do not harbor a culture of civic duty for our youth?

    • newbieblogster13 says:

      I see how my words came out weird, sorry about that and it’s the latter. Teenagers use their time for other things rather than to vote and my reason actually relates to your other question. Yes, I do believe it has to deal with society’s view on civic duty but I’m thinking more close to home. A household that holds particular interest in politics, voting, and etc. seem to produce children who later participate as well. Seeing as this interest is declining in most households, it’s safe to assume that teenagers grew up without an interest which affects their adult life as well.

  4. I think you are missing the aim of Shklar here. She is not o much knocking on people who choose not to vote but rather using people who cannot as contrast. If you are allowed to vote yet choose not to then simply put there is no exclusion. In her eyes you already feel like enough of a member that you really feel no need to vote. And in the part about employment and wages, similar case. However at some point i would concede that you are right and having an actual job is equally important has having the right to work for your own wages. But remember Shklar is more of a theoretical person in terms of citizenship. Such as in Arizona we have the right to carry a firearm openly at the age of 18(except schools, courts etc.) but not exercising this right does not make you a non citizen. you simply feel comfortable enough that you do not need to exercise this right anymore.

    • ryrooney says:

      Wouldn’t Shklar say that exercising your right to vote is your right which makes you a citizen. I don’t think she would say the same for earning. From the reading we did in class, Shklar was more saying that having money and being able to spend your wage is what made you a citizen. You were able to make choices about whether to save your money, spend it on bills, or a movie. People who have the ability to earn but don’t exercise is wouldn’t be considered citizens. It was all about earning the money and more importantly being able to do what you please with it. Being able to exercise a right only pertained to voting. At least that is what I got from the reading.

  5. aussielandmn says:

    I think it’s a bit unfair to state that teenagers have lost the meaning of what it is to be a citizen. As the majority of them are children they are still learning how to be citizens within our society. While one of the reasons for education is to create a new generation of productive individuals but it is also to mold our upcoming children into proper citizens. Hence the insistence on having an American Flag along with a copy of the Bill of Rights and Constitution in every classroom. In addition, the Pledge of Allegiance is doesn’t hurt in that regard either. Thus if you think that teenagers have lost what it means to be a citizen then I would argue it is because they have not be properly taught how to be a citizen.

    As for Shklar’s point of earning being part of citizenry, I am tempted to agree that it is important but I would like to change the key word from earning to contributing. This would allow those that do not earn to be part of the citizenship. When it comes to teenagers and this dynamic I would say that most teenagers are not citizens, but not because they don’t want but mainly because they haven’t had the opportunity to do so or they haven’t been properly educated as how to. Basic educate is great a providing tools to our youths but not necessarily the direction about how to use them. Overall, I think your post is interesting but relies a lot on either using very specific examples and then generalizing upon that or misinformation. For example, I don’t know anyone that watches MTV anyone. In truth, I think this post harkens back to the complaint that every preceding generation has against the up and coming one. I’m sure that a lot of people had the same complaint against us when we were teenagers, and so on and so forth for at least for the last seventy years.

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