Prom Night: Youth, Schools, and Popular Culture

Prom Night: Youth, Schools, and Popular Culture

Prom Night: Youth, Schools, and Popular Culture

Prom Night: Youth, Schools, and Popular Culture

Synopsis

Best shows us that, while the prom is often trivialized, most kids take the prom seriously. The prom is a space where kids work through their understanding of authority, social class, gender norms, and multicultural schooling. Proms are more than just pictures and puffed sleeves--they are a mythic part of youth culture and, for better or worse, will always be a night to remember.

Excerpt

While I was researching this project, a student gave birth in a bathroom stall at her high school prom. News coverage reported that after delivery she dropped the newborn into a garbage can and returned to the prom for one last dance. This became a major story headlining televised and print news reports. Yet the media fury was quickly followed by a succession of public judgments decrying that the character of our nation's youth had plummeted to the irretrievable depths of moral degeneracy. The irony of this event was difficult to miss. An event often upheld as a last preserve of adolescent innocence, the prom, collided with a morally charged and tension-laden issue, teenage pregnancy—one celebrated, the other reviled. Further, the death of a newborn gave greater fuel to one of our nation's most recent media obsessions: senseless teen violence.

I first learned of this story not from the news, but from someone I worked with while living in New York City. It was such a bizarre story, fantastic in the true sense of the word, that I couldn't really believe it. But sure enough, when I returned home from work and turned on the news, there it was. For the next several days every time I turned on the television, updates of this story, termed the story of the “prom mom” in the popular press, were broadcast. That this girl was white, middle-class, and living in a suburb rather than urban, poor, or of color seems particularly relevant for understanding why this incident received so much attention. Since their development, the suburbs have been seen as spaces of shelter for white middle-class . . .

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