Socialization in High School Oversold

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 31, 2004 | Go to article overview

Socialization in High School Oversold


Byline: Michael Smith, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Every parent wants his or her child to grow up to be a mature, responsible adult. It's a natural desire, since well-behaved children reflect favorably on their parents. Also, young adults with good character tend to become good citizens who benefit society.

But what's the best method to achieve this result? Parents' choices include sending their children to an institutional school or home-schooling. Home schools long have been criticized as not providing an adequate social environment for children to mature into good citizens. As we shall discover, this isn't true.

Of course, no one can guarantee a child will turn out well, but it's possible to avoid pitfalls. Almost everyone agrees that particularly difficult years for children and parents are the teenage years. Why do so many teenagers behave badly? This is the subject of a new study by Murray Milner, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Virginia.

Mr. Milner concludes that because teenagers are sent to school by their parents and have little control over what happens in school, the students are rendered powerless. This encourages them to promote the only power they do have - the power to decide who's cool and who's not. In other words, teenagers can control the status levels of their peers.

What makes the question of status problematic is that everyone can't be at the top at the same time. The amount of available status is fixed, so if someone moves up, someone else must move down. Many former high school students can attest to the vagaries of this system. Common sense dictates that if numerous students are focused on their status, with many enduring endless putdowns, it will negatively affect their academic and social development.

Critics of home-schooling often claim that this form of high school socialization is necessary so students can face the real world. …

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