Adolescence in America

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Adolescence in America is largely a disaster, Michael Strong says:

Bill McKibben, the environmentalist writer and advocate of natural living, is as harsh as any fundamentalist parent: “If one had set out to create a culture purposefully damaging to children, you couldn’t do much better than America at the end of the 20th century.” Patricia Hersch, in a book titled A Tribe Apart: A Journey into the Heart of American Adolescence, states: “All parents feel an ominous sense — like distant rumbles of thunder moving closer and closer — that even their child could be caught in the deluge of adolescent dysfunction sweeping the nation.” According to a USA Today poll, although 75% of American parents say they have taken steps to shield their children from outside influences deemed undesirable, 73% concede that limiting children’s exposure to popular culture is “nearly impossible.”

WWF wrestling is the most popular television show among adolescent males. Mary Pipher’s well-known book Reviving Ophelia makes the case that contemporary teen culture amounts to an assault on teen girls: “America today is a girl-destroying place.” Students across America acknowledge that the viciousness of high school cliques and hierarchies could lead to another Columbine massacre anywhere.

The obvious power of teen culture to shape human lives has only recently been re-recognized. We were much wiser in the 19th century. Emerson summed up the perspective well: “I pay the schoolmaster, but it is the schoolboys that educate my son.” More recently, Judith Rich Harris, in The Nurture Assumption, has shown that the majority of evidence of psychological research suggests that peers have a greater influence over young people than do parents: “In the long run it isn’t the home environment that makes the difference. It is the environment shared by children. It is the culture created by these children.”


  1. Saw the name “Bill McKibben” and suffered some sort of catatonic episode that blanked out the rest of the text.

  2. Dan Kurt says:

    Read Boys Together by John Chandos if you want to see how to raise Hard Men.

  3. A Boy and His Dog says:

    Boys will be OK, but how to keep one’s daughters from becoming Miley Cyrus…

  4. Bruce says:

    Thanks for the recommendation, Dan. Just bought the book. Always liked the Flashman flashbacks.

  5. AAB says:

    “America today is a girl-destroying place.”

    The statistics on suicide rates proves that boys suffer considerably more than girls.

  6. Dan Kurt says:


    The book is great, but you owe it to yourself to read Boys Together with the book that reformed (destroyed) the English Public Schools, just as Uncle Tom’s Cabin contributed to the American War Between the States. That book is, of course, Tom Brown’s Schooldays, free from here.

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