Do teenagers deserve the Apathy label?

For as long as I can remember, teenagers have been called apathetic. Supposedly, they don’t care about much.. well, except maybe themselves.

When I was a rising ninth grader touring my soon-to-be new high school, I was wide-eyed with wonder. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the biology lab and how my head spun with the possibilities of dissections and other smelly scientific pursuits. I remember my excitement over finally having my own locker. I remember the smell of the dirt, grass, and sweat when I tried out for the high school field hockey team. I remember my first Friday night dance, the first time I got into trouble in school, the first friends I made, and the first people I decided to avoid.

Outside of school, I was still a Girl Scout working towards the highest honors. I rode horses, read voraciously, went on dates, volunteered at nursing homes, attended church every Sunday. I think I had a full, well-rounded life as a teenager, and I actually cared deeply about all of the above.

Some argue that a busy life like the one I had can actually lead to apathy. According to recent statistics, 3 out of 5 seniors and approximately 50% of sophomores work a job outside of school. The argument is that students are too tired from their jobs and extra-curriculars to focus on their academics. If so, is this really apathy, or just misplaced priorities?

If teenagers are busy and engaged, why do we keep hearing that they don’t care or seem completely unmotivated to do anything? What is the truth behind supposed teenage apathy?