Metal Heads: Heavy Metal Music and Adolescent Alienation

By Jeffrey Jensen Arnett | Go to book overview

7
Sources of Alienation II: School and Religion

[American] schools often appear to be lonely, even harsh places, and children become increasingly disengaged from school the longer they are in attendance.

-- Harold Stevenson and James Stigler, The Learning Gap

The crisis of society is, of course, the crisis of organized religion too: religion is no longer valid as a hero system, and so the youth scorn it.

-- Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

The fraying and breaking of traditional social ties experienced by many contemporary adolescents is evident not only in the family lives of the metalheads, but in other areas of their lives as well, particularly in their attitudes toward school and religion. School is an active source of alienation for many of them; they do not like it, and they resent and resist having to attend. Religion as a source of alienation is more complex. There are some who are contemptuous of it, who cite the hypocrisy of televangelists and the acquisitiveness of organized religion as evidence that all religion is a sham, but most are simply indifferent to it. It does not move them. It adds to their alienation for what it fails to provide for them: It does not give them comfort, reassurance, a stable social network outside the family, a ready source of meaning -- the way it has in virtually every other society historically and cross-culturally.1 Friends, meanwhile, are for many of them the most consistently positive source of emotional gratification in their lives.


School

Compulsory education for children is a recent historical development. It is only since the beginning of this century that Western countries have required children to attend school, and many non-Western countries still do not. The change in Western countries was based on developments in the

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