Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids: American Teenagers, Schools, and the Culture of Consumption

By Murray Milner Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE

Consuming Life

Public education is not value-neutral; its values mirror our larger society. The vision conveyed in the public school is one of homo economicus: rational men and women pursuing their self-interest, seeking material pleasures, guided toward individual success. Without…serious debate, this vision of the individual and the good life has been gradually adopted as the enculturation aim of public schools over the last century.

-Anthony S. Bryk, Valerie E. Lee, and Peter Holland, 1993

FROM THE LUNCHROOM: James and Charles brought up the topic of the preps who supposedly ate in Courtyard No. 1. This conversation quickly grabbed the attention of every boy in the group. Wilson talked about how, "The janitor had to put a garbage can…where the preps ate each day because they always left their garbage there for someone else to pick up." The boys also commented on how the preps thought they were superior to everyone else. Charles said, "We should go beat them up right now. We can take them easily"… Wilson remarks, "What do you have against all of them?" To which Charles answers, "It's not what I have against them, it's what they have against me. They are always rude to me and act like they are superior to everyone else." 1

Apparently everyone in this group drinks alcohol on weekends. [One male student] talked about a party that he had been to [at a fraternity at the local college] on Saturday night… "Two hot girls were there but they Left about half way through." Someone mentioned that a boy not at the table was having a party on Wednesday, and everyone commented on how stupid having a party on Wednesday was… [O]ne boy started talking about all the accessories he was getting for his pickup truck. He pulled out a car magazine/catalog and showed off the chrome plating

-171-

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Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids: American Teenagers, Schools, and the Culture of Consumption
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Part I - The Puzzle and the Tools 1
  • Introduction 3
  • Chapter One - Why Do They Behave like That? 13
  • Chapter Two - The Tools for Understanding 27
  • Part II - Explaining Teens' Behavior 37
  • Chapter Three - Fitting In, Standing Out, and Keeping Up 39
  • Chapter Four - Steering Clear, Hanging Out, and Hooking Up 61
  • Chapter Five - Exchanges, Labels, and Put-Downs 81
  • Part III - Why Schools Vary 97
  • Chapter Six - The Pluralistic High School 99
  • Chapter Seven - Other Kinds of Schools 131
  • Part IV - Teen Status Systems and Consumerism 153
  • Chapter Eight - Creating Consumers 155
  • Chapter Nine - Consuming Life 171
  • Chapter Ten - Conclusions and Implications 181
  • Appendix I 203
  • Appendix II 217
  • Appendix III 223
  • Notes 239
  • Bibliography 285
  • Index 299
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