Starting in the 1970s, activists, counselors, and state school boards across the country have taken measurements to quell violence in middle and high schools. The violence stems from the adolescent tendency for concentrated peer groups, which leads to gangs and inter-gang violence, especially in inner-city public schools. Schools also attribute adolescent drug use to gangs. City governments have thought it necessary to impose campus police, metal detectors at school entrances, and escort services to and from school to keep the violence at least physically outside of the school. Schools have also received more funding for extracurricular activities, like sports teams, to keep students in a safe, adult-monitored environment outside of school hours. Other aspects of teen culture besides violence and drug use a threat to students' education. Alienation, low self-esteem, sexual promiscuity, highly divided cliques, teasing, and oppression have all become targets of modern public school regulation. The problem facing most schools is how to influence the personal aspects of a student's life while acting from the helm of a public institution. Even though these burdens on students do negatively affect their schoolwork, they must be dealt with personally and dynamically; a government cannot simply put up an installation (i.e. metal detectors) to cut down on teen loneliness.
[...] High School as a “Culture of Narcissism” The “culture of narcissism,” which usually characterizes modernity in contemporary Western life, can also be used to characterize modern day schools. The elements of “competitiveness, complexity, personal isolation, and fluidity” (Lindholm 95) are all things that modern adolescents face when they get off the school bus. And these elements of modernity create a yearning in adolescents for charismatic interaction. Academic competitiveness places great strain on the student individually, and also creates an underlying tension between students. [...]
[...] The basic ingredients for Challenge Day: a maximum of a 100 students grades 7th-12th and 50 or more adults (so that there is at least one adult per 4-5 students), a minimum of one passionate and committed school counselor, a cafeteria or gymnasium, and one chair for each attendant- placed in a large circle. The program suggests that assist with the overall flow [ ] it is important that the room be used solely for the purpose of the Challenge Day without any outside interruption. [...]
[...] However, Natalie's response to the activity reveals that it is more complex psychologically than a mere melting pot of peer empathy: feel like people try so hard to fit in that they end up kind of forgetting who they really are. Crossing the line kind of showed you what made you different from everybody else.” This experience is the opposite of Dale's, though Natalie also admits that the activity “gets people back to their roots” and “lets every one know they're dealing with the same problems.” This duality can be explained by the denominations. [...]
[...] Social fluidity and the tendency for “other-directedness,” emphasized by the importance of fitting in, are evident in the high school environment. mean I'm still the same person,” says Natalie, just change my personality type based on the personality types of who I'm with.” Essentially, she is role-playing. With her fellow senior friends she is more talkative and erratic, and when she is with her younger friends she plays the role of the calmer, “wise one.” Social fluidity is manifest in this role-play, for a student can slip in and out of roles with a natural ease and without losing a grasp on their identity. [...]
[...] Gaglia also admits that “occasionally we will see a really controlling boyfriend or girlfriend doing their best to keep their partner from connecting with anyone else.” This interaction may occur because the couple is not craving self-loss; they have already achieved transcendence through their relationship. Since high school romances and Challenge Day both seem to combat the same alienating characteristics of modernity, it is easy to see why both are very temporary and have short-term effects. High school students are especially susceptible to lose themselves and their emotions in a charismatic movement because of the deep entrenchment of bureaucracy [...]
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