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
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Chapter 8
Youth and Education

After decades of business-as-usual, school reform, too many of our nation's children still cannot read ... After spending $125 billion ... over 25 years, we have virtually nothing to show for it.

—R. Paige, Education Secretary 1

The adolescent peer culture in contemporary America demeans academic success and scorns students who try to do well in school.

—L. Steinberg, 1996 2

The young men and women of America's future elite work their laptops to the bone, rarely question authority, and happily accept their positions at the top of the heap as part of the natural order of life.

—D. Brooks, 2001 3

There is a widespread myth that today's youth are less committed to education than their parents, grandparents, and their foreign peers. This myth has been prevalent since the 1983 national report A Nation at Risk. In this chapter, we systematically debunk the myth of teen as educational laggard. We show that today's students are as diligent as ever and that a higher percentage of youth, including those from low-income households, are enrolled in college than ever before.

Oddly, despite the documented high educational performance of youth, there is a demand for higher performance, a push that comes more from policymakers than from parents. Indeed, many parents don't mind their teens achieving at somewhat lower academic levels if it means that they can participate in other activities and be better rounded. 4 Still, many teens feel pressured to do more.

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