11/9/06 - teenagers

In today's encore excerpt - teenagers. It was primarily labor unions, in order to preserve jobs at the height of the depression, who pushed for mandatory attendance of high school, and thus created 'teenagers' as we know them -- along with a presumption of immaturity and an imposed uniformity of experience on those teenagers:

"What was new about the idea of the teenager at the time the word first appeared during World War II was the assumption that all young people ... should have essentially the same experience, spent with people exactly their age, in an environment defined by high school and pop culture. The teen years have become defined not as an interlude but rather as something central to life ...

"Today's teenagers serve a sentence of presumed immaturity, regardless of their achievements or abilities. The prodigy has to finish high school. The strapping, well-developed young man shows his prowess, not at work, but on the football or soccer team. The young woman who is ready to be a mother is told to wait a decade instead.

"That doesn't mean we have given up thinking about ourselves and others in terms of size, only that this mindset coexists uncomfortably with our practice of regimented age grouping. ... Today's young people grow to their full size and reach sexual maturity sooner than did members of earlier generations. The mismatch between young people's imposing physical development and their presumed emotional, social, and intellectual immaturity is dramatic. Will these powerful young people, who are judged not ready to join the adult world, assert themselves and immediately careen out of control, endangering themselves and others? This is the perennial anxiety that's near the heart of the teenage mystique."


Thomas Hine


The Rise & Fall of the American Teenage


Bard an imprint of Avon Books


Copyright 1999 by Thomas Hine


11, 16-17
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