Tatiana Curran, right, and her boyfriend Jake Cowen-Whitman say their three-year relationship is an anomaly amongst their peers. But they readily concede that even they have serious issues around intimacy. Experts say the so-called "iGen" is woefully unprepared to have healthy, caring romantic relationships and young people need more guidance. So schools are adding classes that are less about the "plumbing" of relationships, and more about the passion. He loves teaching about love so much, he finds ways to delve into it every chance he gets.
In his American Literature class recently, he launched into a discussion about love songs. But now that he's got their attention, he starts drilling them on what the song says about love — and lust.
Senior Tatiana Curran wades in cautiously. Matthew Lippman loves teaching about love so much he finds ways to slide in a lesson comparing contemporary and decades-old love songs during an African-American Literature class.
The song starts to unfurl so slowly, you can literally see these millennials getting antsy. Several seem relieved when Lippman finally stops the song, and starts pressing them on its underlying message. Aiden Geary Curran and her boyfriend Jake Cowen-Whitman, who've been together for three years, are something of an exception. But as one of those "iGen" teens who tend to text more than talk, even Curran readily cops to having some serious issues with intimacy.
It took me almost two years to actually fully make eye contact with Jake for a full sentence. Rick Weissbourd The struggle to be present "I think that's the biggest piece to all of this," says Lippman.
Some young people are persevering and managing to forge meaningful, intimate relationships. And in some ways, technology can actually enable some difficult conversations. Some teens text things they wouldn't have said at all if they had to do it face-to-face.
But, Lippman says, a significant number of young people are clearly struggling to make those real connections, and classes like his dovetail with a trend toward whole-child education.
He doesn't pretend that one class can be a cure, but his lessons do seem to be resonating with his students. While kids get instruction on things like consent and sexual violence, she says they desperately need more coaching "on a much deeper level [about] what really taking care of someone else means.
His recent research shows young people are struggling with how to conceive of romantic relationships, let alone how to actually navigate them.
According to his data, about 70 percent of young people crave those conversations. For them, the motivation may be a more fulfilling love life. But Weissbourd says the societal stakes are high; healthier relationships, he says, will pay dividends on all kinds of social ills, from sexual harassment and domestic abuse, to depression and alcoholism.
Relationships beyond Snapchat Another school that's trying to answer the call is The Urban school, a private high school in San Francisco. Health teacher Shafia Zaloom says she too was alarmed by teens' social struggles and their belief that they "can build relationships over Snapchat or Instagram.
In one recent class, students brainstormed out loud. In one lesson they critique Hollywood love scenes. It all unleashes a slew of confessions about how much more awkward their own encounters usually are, and how insecure that makes them.
So when things don't go as smoothly "in your real life, it feels like you're doing something wrong," he says. Kids nod and snap their fingers in agreement. Because [this generation is] terrified of failure. And resilience is a major issue. She says educating kids about love should come from parents, not schools, especially given how schools have handled sex ed. So, no, I just don't trust the institution to do it correctly. He agrees that the instruction is critically needed, but he says "we shouldn't pretend that we have anything like agreement on these subjects.
And while many parents may think their kids don't want to hear it from mom or dad, Weissbourd's research shows they actually do. As Professor Cronin put it, this generation was raised by helicopter parents — they expect to be coached on everything.