A carry-over from the English of Old Earth, the word “teenager” only makes sense when dissected with reference to that language, and more specifically, its words for the numbers in an open interval between twelve and twenty. That specific range of numbers, however, is no longer relevant to our use of the word; it is now generally understood that the teenaged years of life extend until the late twenties. In fact, as I lately read, upon Old Earth it was once a subject of widespread concern that the teenaged years would continue their invasion of later and later years of life unto perpetuity, and that society would be saddled with a majority of its members unprepared for the rigours of adulthood, yet past the age of sympathy and support accorded to children.
This bleak scenario did not come to pass, however. The teenaged years hit a plateau, as if predestined, and there remained despite the passing of millennia and numerous environmental and evolutionary changes (including the loss of much redundant body hair, and thank goodness for that). This may be linked to a similar plateau in education, as one’s initial round of schooling – at least in the Loidial Economic Zone (LEZ) – carries on until the mid-twenties or thirty years of age, excepting those who pursue advanced degrees, throwing themselves in for another ten years or so.
A secondary round in the education system occurs at the individual’s discretion, and at the gentle insistence of their employer and/or the Social and Educational Advancement Board (SEAB), usually sometime between the ages of fifty-five and seventy.
Upon the introduction of this two-round system a few hundred years ago, SEAB at first insisted that it would be “beneficial for diversity and the greater illumination of the minds of all”, not to mention the SEAB budget, if the second-rounders shared the same facilities and classes as those youngsters who were running the gauntlet for the first time. People grumbled to no avail – at first.
For SEAB did about-face in no less than two years, remarkable for such a leviathan of bureaucracy. An atmosphere of predictable rancour had come to pervade campuses and classrooms, grinding learning to a standstill and putting professors on stress leave, due to all the obvious differences in maturity and taste one might expect in those separated by 40 or 50 years. The situation was, frankly, untenable, and had grave consequences for the very course of Loidial politics.
It was the worst period of intergenerational social warfare ever witnessed from the LEZ’s inception to date. Contempt reigned on both sides; on the one hand for un-coolness, and relatively stiff minds and bodies, and on the other hand for puerile preoccupations, cocksure attitudes and irresponsibility. Those who dared cross the lines to spark imprudent romances were veritable Romeos and Juliets, condemned by both sides if discovered, and enormously pleased with themselves so long as they remained secret, that being an added spark in the affair.
The conflict ignited in a matter of weeks, but lingered on for decades after the abrupt conclusion of SEAB’s ill-fated shared-facilities experiment. Some said the trouble was all due to the media, both institutional1 and independent2, neither of which seemed capable of letting go of “a good thing” insofar as attracting eyeballs and cochleae, this keeping the wounds fresh all around. Some said it was all due to the public’s bad taste in reading or listening to such rubbish, and discussing it anywhere outside of our own heads.
Publicizing the former point of view brought a certain Minister of InterZonal Trade in Services and Intangibles (ITSI) to office even though the issue was utterly unrelated to the position that she would undertake; she was elected by the slim majority of the population that had grown so sick of the topic that they preferred to swallow a politician’s condescension toward her electorate.
Given that another contender had far more relevant experience than the victorious Minister, and that the only thing to distinguish her3 during the election was her strange insistence on voicing her opinion on the Intergenerational Debate, taking a stance on the Issue became a bandwagon for politicians all across the Zone. The disease even spread to other Zones of the Huniverse, which had heretofore taken little note of our embarrassing internal tiff, as officials both elected and aspiring tried to curry favour with the young or the old, the interested or the disinterested. No matter the ideological differences from Zone to Zone, it seems that political expedience is indeed universal.
The matter was only laid to rest when a two full generations of students with no history of shared facilities passed through the two-round system, and we elected a First Minister who suffered from selective deafness, as ze was incapable of hearing or answering to anything that had to do with age groups, or any peripheral issues. Mentioning one’s parents was enough for ze’s eyes to calmly cloud over. This lead to other problems going unaddressed, including an oversupply of Lifestyle Aesthetics System (LAS) services to older members of the population relative to other demographic groups, as the First Minister simply would not hear about it.
However, most historians agree that, on the whole, First Minister Chihali was a good trade.
1 Such as the Loidial Meteorological and Trending News Service, MTNS, the “trending news” part added no doubt to boost ratings.
2 Such as my os-father’s personal blog, the Altuditarian (my mentioning it does not constitute an endorsement of any kind).
3 I take this to be a good sign about the policy work being done in the realm of ITSI, because they all seem to have reached some consensus on the sensible path forward. This in contrast to certain other Ministries, where candidates apparently feel free to throw out crackpot ideas as far to the Left and Right as the public can overlook.