America's Teenagers--Myths and Realities: Media Images, Schooling, and the Social Costs of Careless Indifference

By Sharon L. Nichols; Thomas L. Good | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
The Continuing Myth of Adolescence

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way ...

—C. Dickens 1

By any standards, America's young adolescents have a great deal of discretionary time. Much of it is unstructured, unsupervised, and unproductive for the young person. Only 60% of adolescents' waking hours are committed to such essentials as school, homework, eating, chores, or paid employment, while fully 40% are discretionary.

—Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, 1992 2

Adam suffered from nothing more serious than adolescence, a disease that would eventually pass, like a particularly virulent episode of chicken pox: ugly to look at but temporary and certainly not life-threatening.

—R. Russo, 2001 3

Charles Dickens's vivid description of life in 18th century Paris might also be said to capture the contradictory experiences of adolescence. Adolescence is riddled with ups and downs, defined by radical biological transformations and characterized by boundless energy and enormous pressures to excel academically and to fit in socially. At a time when teens must cope simultaneously with numerous social, academic, and biological pressures,

-1-

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