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on the suppression of youth culture - Accretions

Fata Morgana
2005-11-02 20:22
on the suppression of youth culture
Public
activism, highschool, personal, utah
Danah has written a fantastic call to arms over the systematic suppression of youth culture (also reminding me of another essay that resonated with my experience). I was a senior in high school when the Columbine shootings happened, and remember the district-wide announcements of locker searchings, suspensions, and cultivation of a culture of aggression and "zero tolerance" by district officials and the media. I remember when local malls started hassling groups of teens, and when cruising was banned, and when the local Dee's (a regular teen hangout) was closed. I remember being hassled by police on several occasions for breaking curfew. I watched as the physical venues for youth expression (and especially non-Mormon youth expression) in Salt Lake City were suppressed, one by one. Fortunately, I was blessed with a host of fabulous teachers, an understanding dad, and a strong community of fellow intellectuals, loners, and outcasts, including the most wonderful friends I'll probably ever have in all my life. Though I was a miserable pariah in junior high, I was able to ignore much of the high school popularity contest and could dress as I wanted and speak my mind freely. We protested Channel 1, The Gap, and in-school advertising; we attended high-school dances en masse, pairing off randomly at the door, and did the hokey-pokey during the slow songs; my school's English teachers handed out our liberal, queer-friendly 'zine for us; and we were vocal about our liberal views in classes and often had teachers agreeing with us (though few other students did in conservative eastern Salt Lake City). I don't remember instances of friends getting hassled for their gaming or dress in my school, even the most extreme goths. But these articles remind me that many aren't so lucky. I shudder to think what would have become of me if my high school experience had been like my junior high experience. By the end of junior high, I was a mess: I was depressed and a recovering anorexic, and had attempted suicide at least once. And I knew countless others - smart but often shy teens - who were in similarly dire straits. If I hadn't met like-minded others and if we hadn't collectively named and repudiated the insidious side of high school culture, I don't know where I'd be now. Of course, I still had to struggle with low self-esteem, which kept me in an abusive relationship and spun me back into depression before high school was out. But it could have been so much worse, and for many, it is.
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Darth Absinthe: Master shake
darthabsinthe
2005-11-03 07:30 (UTC)
(no subject)
picture_keywordMaster shake
On an interesting aside, the shop manager (as in bike and ski shop) where I'm working was going to school at Columbine when that happened. I'm thankful that we never had to do the school uniforms or anything like that, like some folks have to deal with.
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Jeff
lbchewie
2005-11-03 08:00 (UTC)
(no subject)
I hated the aftermath of the Columbine incident. California had a couple of school shootings that appeared to be somewhat inspired by the tragedy in Colorado, so there was a lot of tension within my school district. A local radio station took callers (mostly catering to a 30s and 40s-something crowd), where the general consensus was that teenagers were out of control and "the quiet ones are the ones you need to watch for."

Because of that, I was given a lot of grief by classmates and school administrators simply because I was a bit of a loner. I made it out pretty well, but still... I think there has to be far more public acceptance and affirmation that the struggles through adolesence are *not* to be trivialised and that much of the psychological torture people endure can be very real and long-lasting.

Oh man, if I were an activist in those days... sheesh, I might have been jailed. *shrugs*
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shallwedance_
shallwedance_
2005-11-03 08:46 (UTC)
(no subject)
My school's reaction to Columbine was have a series of fake bomb threats around finals time. Besides that, life went on as normal. On the other hand, when you have a violent crime, like attempted rape, occur in or around your school every couple years, a distant shooting doesn't make a big splash.

But your post that teens need to find acceptance among a group of like-minded people to confirm their identity rings true. I was blessed with a junior high and high school (at least half of them) culled from the nerds of the city, so there was no comparible stratification since we defined the school's culture.
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Olego
olego
2005-11-03 18:13 (UTC)
(no subject)
I admire you for admitting this much about your past, this openly.
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