Parents must challenge high school culture

Recent tragedies remind us of how dark and terrible a place high school can be to some of our children if they are made to believe that they do not fit in. The high school years coincide with the tremendous physical and social changes of adolescence. Changes to one's voice and body and shape cause powerful feelings of self- consciousness and self-doubt. In order to cope with these anxieties, teens are quick to form sub-cultures that assure them they are not alone. These little groups then adopt behavior, speech patterns, and tastes in clothes and music that they use as criteria by which to judge who is 'in' and who is 'out'. These cliques are both the cause and the cure of teenage insecurity. Any high school will contain numerous sub-cultures, such as jocks, goths, metal-heads, preppies, or skaters. The names might vary but everyone in the school will know who belongs where. Each group will have an ‘Alpha male' (a boy who is the undisputed leader), and perhaps an 'Alpha female' too. In the world of high school, there will be those who are respected and those who are widely hated, and most kids will learn it is best not to stick out. Athletic skill gives prestige to male students, the library club does not. Conventional physical beauty and a good fashion sense are prize qualities for females. Girls are allowed by their peers to get good marks, but being an intelligent boy can be a disadvantage. A strong anti-intellectual current exists in most high schools.

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