Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Beer, Art and the Teen Brain

Yesterday in Asheville, North Carolina, I visited so many galleries and art venues that most of it is a blur. The most disappointing was the Folk Art Center off the Blue Ridge Parkway east of Asheville. A big gift shop, some generic museum hype on the walls, and some admin offices. Sheesh.

Later, in town we visited Bellagio, a shop that featured art clothing for women. Thankfully, I found a comfortable chair. The clothes were gorgeous and the very best money can buy, but I had my fingers crossed that we would make a clean getaway without buying a thing.

Then one of the women in the shop began talking about the weather and when she found out I was from Texas she started a rant about Rick Perry, our loose cannon ultra-conservative governor who thinks he's handsome enough to fool most of the people most of the time and get elected president. But I quickly changed the subject to the focus of my work right now, which is advising the parents of teenagers about things that are both unknown to them and most critical to their kids' future success. I'm passionate about this because of the almost universal misunderstandings, shortfalls and tragedies that are the norm during the teen years.

What an interesting woman! She was my age and had grown kids. She wanted to raise her kids to be self-reliant, so she got them in the habit of making their own breakfast and lunch even before they started school. She told me that when her kids were teens she decided to send them to private school at $25K per year each because she felt the public system wouldn't teach them how to think - an enlightened perspective. For her, teaching critical thinking was more important than good grades. Of course, she knew the expense would drain her financial resources, so she informed them that they'd have to get good grades anyway and earn scholarships, grants and part-time jobs if they wanted to go to college, that she wouldn't be able to afford the expense. And that's what happened. She also said that every evening they ate supper together and discussed what they were learning.

She gave me the name of a friend - Chad Foster - who writes books for teens about how to manage finances and other life skills. Wonderful! How fortunate for me to encounter a kindred spirit, someone who is interested in my favorite topic.

Ben Pierson, photo by Kathleen Scott
Later that evening we went to the Lexington Avenue Brewery in downtown Asheville for supper. GREAT beer and GREAT burgers. The brewmaster, Ben Pierson, came out to talk with some of us who were eating at the bar and proclaimed with pride that one of his beers won first prize recently at a world competition. He was most pleased that he beat out his teacher in the beer business. "I f.....g kicked his ass!" he affirmed with gusto. I think drinking your own beer is a requirement in the trade. But to be rewarded like that for his passion for excellence...hoo!

On the way back to the car I noticed some UNC-Asheville students crossing the street, presumably on their way to one of the many venues for getting smashed and having fun along the way. They were horsing around and hooting it up, completely oblivious to the traffic. I thought - typical college students, they might as well be carrying signs that say, "Beware of adolescents," because for these 19- or 20-year old kids the window for development of the prefrontal cortex hasn't yet closed. Their rational judgment areas are still under construction and they are still accessing the amygdala for decision-making. The "teen journey" doesn't end when kids leave home to go to college. It's still in process until age 22-24.

So even here, wandering around Beer City, super-center for arts and crafts, I am stimulated to think about the teen brain, my passionate interest.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength .

1 comment:

JA Novac said...


Well, what I've found is not a lack of thought processes, it is more a case of a lack of an ability to form a proper principle to draw a conclusion.

Plenty of thinking happening in Asheville, very few conclusions.