If you’re sane and sensible, you probably have ephebiphobia, which is the rationally irrational fear of youth. And rightfully so. Have you seen the youth? They’re terrible.
“Phobia,” of course, derives from phobos, the Greek word for fear. And “ephebiphobia” derives from éphēbos, the Greek word for punk kids who probably skateboard.
In his article for education publication Phi Delta Kappan, Astroth’s headline asked “Beyond Ephebiphobia: Problem adults or problem youths?” Then he proceeded to write hundreds of unnecessary subsequent words. It’s the youth! End. Of. Story. Let’s go home and lock up our daughters (in a room, so they don’t turn on us).
But since he did choose to ramble on past his obvious premise, let’s see what he had to say.
Young people today are typically portrayed as an aberrant pariah class that suffers its own distinct “epidemics” bearing no relationship to adult patterns of behavior. Are today’s young people really so different?
Yes. Wait, what’s that? Show you an example? Astroth obliges.
Adult claims of degeneration among the young can be found in nearly every previous decade. For example, the cover of the 6 September 1954 issue of Newsweek blared: “Let’s Face It: Our Teen-Agers Are Out of Control.”
From that point on, we need only Newsweek covers to chart a course of the youth’s downward spiral. We’ll let the headlines do the heavy lifting.
1959 — The GOOD American Teen-Agers
“Good,” in case you’re playing along at home, apparently means preppy, sweatered and white.
1966 — The Teenagers: A Survey of What They’re Really Like
I haven’t read the cover story, but one has to assume it’s littered with phrases like “behind closed doors.”
1980 — Teen Age Sex: The New Morality Hits Home
It was fine next door. It really was. And even when it was outside on the patio, but in MY home? This has got to stop.
1999 — Tweens: Are They Growing Up Too Fast?
Yes and no, depending on which aspect of youth we want to fear.
2009 — Is Your Baby Racist?
Well, that’s silly. YES!
2010 — Why Aren’t Teens Buying Our Magazine?
To be fair, I probably could have done this with Time Magazine instead, but Newsweek made it really, really easy. Not to mention all the ones I left out.
It’s helpful to remember, as the American Education History Journal points out, that when teenagers were declared “out of control” in 1954, “Leave it to Beaver” was the moral vanguard and “Catcher in the Rye” was still scaring the hell out of people.
Our attitudes toward youth haven’t relaxed though. They’re probably tightened, and media sensationalism has got to be part of it. Yet, can you blame Newsweek? We need look no further than gold futures and zombies to remind us that fear sells. With an endless supply of youth, there’s an endless supply of fear.
Any time a magazine asks a controversial question, it’s essentially challenging the reader to answer a rhetorical “Yes” or to buy the magazine just to take offense.
Probably because the term was coined in the West, ephebiphobia appears to be functionally limited to the developed Western world, which is also the only world that affords young people the free time necessary to scare the adults (and the only one that coins words like this).
Despite this youth-fearing notion having existed for “time immemorial,” there’s fortunately a cure. Two actually! Hypnosis and, for your inner Andy Bernard, choral singing. For yet another option, there’s always the god-fearing method, where everyone fears everything equally.