When I think of teenagers, I usually think of all the contributions they make, like their charm and wit, as well as their perspective and sense of propriety. Just kidding. I don’t think these things. And if you know me at all, you know that I’m not a fan of teenagers. If I see a group of them nearby, I avoid them at all costs. Not because they have cooties, but most likely because they’re going to steal my handbag and then use my credit cards to buy bath salts and tons of neon-colored rubber bracelets.
When I think of Edmond teens, I remember my days back at good ol’ ENHS. It wasn’t so long ago that I, myself, was a teen. I still remember it as if I were still crying in bathroom stalls and getting rocks thrown at me for refusing to help a bully cheat on a science test. But perhaps what I remember most about being an Edmond teen was thinking that I was poor, only to grow up and realize how incredibly well off my family is, just not in Edmond terms.
Allow me to clarify. In the parking lot at ENHS, there were plenty of normal cars, like my Toyota Carolla. But there were also Land Rovers, Hummers, so many Mustangs you wouldn’t believe it, a Mercedes, and quite a few BMWs. It goes without saying that none of these cars belonged to the teachers. So it’s easy to see how my perception of money could be skewed. That’s why I thought it was odd that the Oklahoma Department of Commerce would stage a “poverty simulation” with Edmond teens.
According to NewsOK.com:
EDMOND — For part of one night, more than 100 teens gathered at St. Monica’s Catholic Church got a taste of what it might be like to be poor. And they didn’t like it one bit.
During a “poverty simulation” Wednesday, they learned about challenges faced daily by thousands of people in Oklahoma County. The program is sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, a state agency that uses the exercise to heighten awareness of the day-to-day poverty they say 11.8 percent of Oklahomans experience.
Rebekah Zahn-Pittser, a program planner for the Commerce Department, laid out the scenario for participants ranging in age from seventh to 12th grades. Participants were gathered into homes — or circles of four chairs making up a family. They were given name tags and a scenario of their family’s challenges.
One “family” was headed by an unemployed information technology professional. His unemployment benefits were drying up while his wife worked at a job paying $8.50 an hour.
Some families had children with serious medical conditions. Others were told they had homes needing repairs but no funds available.
The youths were given a list of rules — requiring them to pay with fake money for utilities, child care, mortgage and other expenses.
Desks around the room were staffed with adults who handled the roles of bankers, grocers, school teachers, state welfare workers, pawn brokers and police. The youth went around to the various desks either paying bills, going to school or hoping to get more money.
Now, why did they do this with Edmond kids? Is it because they’re trying to reach out to future members of the Tea Party and teach them empathy before they’re too far gone? Is it because they wanted to find a concentration of teens that most likely had never experienced anything like this?
In all fairness, I think showing teenagers other perspectives outside of the ones they know is something that’s important. Otherwise, you wind up with close-minded sociopaths. But there is something a little disingenuous about a poverty simulation. It’s like each year at OU, we try to explain to the Greek organizations that having a “Shackathon” to raise money for Habitat for Humanity is a bad idea. But they don’t get that making a bunch of paper shacks on the South Oval is crass and degrading.
So, for the final line of the piece to be a girl stating “being poor is just terrible”, one might think that these kids would need a little more perspective than say, and evening that is basically the equivalent of a church lock in. Plus, we’ve written about what happens when you try to drop some knowledge on rich kids. I shall happily await the piece in The Oklahoman about teens who think that poverty is not everyone’s problem.
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