Culture Soup, Maps and Mirrors

How do you make sense of it all?

The 30th annual MTV Video Music Awards 2013 took place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on August 25. Over 13 million viewers, most of them under 25, were treated to the now notorious performance by Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke. One month later, a Google search of Miley provides 827 million pages in 0.26 seconds. Pop culture is currently consumed with everything VMA.

Welcome to the world of today’s teens. This is their culture. Culture is what we believe, what we do, and how we live our lives. It binds us to those who think and live in a similar manner. It’s the values, attitudes and behaviors that drive how we live our lives. might find it easier to think of it as the “soup” in which our kids are swimming. It is like lifting the lid on a pot of soup only to discover what you see on the surface isn’t really what the soup is all about. You need to stir it up to be sure of its contents. The same can be said of youth culture. There is much below the surface to be considered.

No one really saw what was coming at the VMAs but it is all young people (and adults) talked about for days after. Everyone had an opinion about Miley’s performance with Robin Thicke. She took twerking to a new level. (The Oxford Dictionary defines twerking as dancing to music in a provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.) It is very much the soup our kids have been swimming in. We might not like what we see when we stir the soup but it allows us to engage our young people in meaningful ways. Our job as parents is to know what’s going on out there and how it is impacting our young people.

Culture also serves our youth as a “map.” The reality is that in today’s world, where traditional life-shaping maps of family, church, and school are breaking down, kids still need a map to guide them through the question-filled years of adolescence. Music and media are maps for kids as other traditional institutions have failed to lead and guide them ethically. Kids are exposed 24/7 thanks to technology

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Paul Robertson


Paul Robertson is the Youth Culture Specialist for Youth Unlimited (Toronto YFC). He has 38 years of working with youth including raising four grown sons of his own. Paul graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degrees. After teaching high school for five years, Paul has been with Youth Unlimited for 33 years. Paul has done various radio interviews, television appearances, and written many articles on youth culture. He has spoken extensively in Canada and the United States. Paul also partners with Walt Mueller at the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania. His "Understanding Today’s Youth" seminars have been presented to thousands of social workers, professional groups, civic leaders, parents, educators, pastors, and youth workers. Paul has been married to Marg, a public elementary school teacher, for 38 years. Their four grown sons, Ian, Aaron, Bryon, and Nathan have been the joy of their lives. He is also the proud grandfather of Matthew, Owen, Colin, and Avery Robertson.


  1. Paul what an excellent article! I especially like your principles for parents, pastors, and youth workers in the newsletter! Thanks so much for being a guest blogger on our site!

  2. Gil Mirasays:

    Ron, please include me in your network. Thanks!

  3. Sure thing Gil –did you try the subscribe function?

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