Friday, July 20, 2007

Coleman's Adolescent Society

Close to 50 years ago, the eminent sociologist James Coleman’s book The Adolescent Society studied several high schools in Illinois. Coleman made some pungent observations that still apply today, I think. He found that even back then, the peer culture in high school was a poisonous mix in which boys were prized most highly for their cars or athletic ability, while girls were prized most highly for “physical beauty, nice clothes, and an enticing manner.” He then observes that in no respectable area of adult life are these qualities “as important for performing successfully as they are in high school,” and that the typical high school might as well be designed to turn girls into “chorus girls” or “call girls” who exist only to “serve as objects of attention for men.”

James S. Coleman, The Adolescent Society: The Social Life of the Teenager and its Impact on Education (New York: Free Press, 1961), pp. 50-51.



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