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What Scandinavia Can Teach U.S. Teens About Coming of Age - Atlantic Mobile

Stashed in: Character, Young Americans, America, Virginia, History, Ohio

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To be sure, “rites of passage” for young people still abound: hazing, bullying, and ritual humiliation of newcomers thrive in American high schools, fraternities, gangs, pro sports, and other professions. On the healthier side, many adolescents still learn a family religious tradition and mark their own transition out of childhood through rituals like bar and bat mitzvahs and confirmations.

But what if a rite like that existed for everyone in America, attached not to a specific faith tradition but to a national creed of values, political traditions, and pro-social character? What if we created a civic confirmation experience that was both constructive and common to all?

It turns out something like this exists already in Scandinavia. As I learned when a friend recently returned from a trip to Iceland, at 14 or 15 Icelanders can sign up for a secular coming-of-age program akin to a Christian confirmation. Participants meet weekly for nearly a year and study national history, world affairs, ethics, ecology. “In the end,” my friend reports, “they have a ceremony celebrating their accomplishment and the beginning of their ‘adult’ civic life.”

Only two states (Ohio and Virginia) require students to pass a civics test to graduate high school:

Great idea but it's difficult for me to imagine an "American secular experience" envisioned by religious fundamentalists as anything other than a threat.

You're right.

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