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From the Pulitzer Prize finalist, a sharp and compassionate investigation of the root causes of the epidemic of drug abuse, violence, and despair among "mainstream" American teenagers
In the past few years, it has become painfully clear that all is not well with the children of middle-class America. Beyond the shootings at Columbine, hardly a day goes by without stories of drug use, binge drinking, fatal accidents, and senseless suicides among middle-class adolescents. But the "why" of these tragedies has eluded us.
In this groundbreaking book, acclaimed sociologist and Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie rejects such predictable answers as TV violence, permissiveness, and inherent evil. Instead, drawing on years of interviews, he links this crisis to a pervasive "culture of exclusion" that has left young people facing an ever more unforgiving world. Currie describes a society in which severe punishment and "zero tolerance" of adolescent misbehavior have become the norm, where "tough love" and medications have replaced engagement and guidance. Broadening his inquiry, he dissects the changes in middle-class life that have enforced newly rigid divides between winners and losers and imposed an extraordinarily harsh culture-and not just on kids.
Vivid, compelling, and deeply empathetic, The Road to Whatever is a profound investigation of what has gone wrong for so many American teenagers and a stark indictment of a society that has lost the will-or the capacity-to care.
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Elliott Currie is the author of Confronting Crime, Reckoning, and Crime and Punishment in America (0-8050-6016-2). An internationally recognized authority on youth and crime, he is a professor of criminology, law, and society at the University of California, Irvine.
From The Road to Whatever:
Over and over, the kids I spoke to told me how they had hidden their troubles from adult authorities for years. The only people they talked to "for real," if anyone, were their friends, who were usually kids in the same boat-the ones on the outside, the ones nobody else liked. And so they stewed, their sense of failure and grievance festering. Quite often they tried on new identities, predictably those that combined serious "badness" with great power. Better to be identified as a villain, a monster, or a vampire than just a dumb screw-up; better to be Satan, or Hitler, than a messed-over little nothing. Better, at the extreme, to go out in a blaze of glory than to face more of that excruciating sense of rejection and insignificance. When the explosion came, it was usually a surprise to the surrounding adults, but was almost always understandable from the kids' angle of vision. Driving their parents' car into a wall, shooting someone, defacing a church-these represented both an assertion of identity and the drawing of a line, a refusal to "take it" any more.
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