Streams

Why High School Is Sadistic

Monday, January 28, 2013

Jennifer Senior talks about her article “Why You Truly Never Leave High School,” in the January 28, 2013, issue of New York. Researchers used to think that our early years were the key to our social and intellectual development, but now our future success appears to hinge just as crucially on adolescence, a time that involves one of the most toxic environments imaginable: high school. Senior looks at the hierarchies and power structures in high school and they ways they influence us long after graduation.

Guests:

Jennifer Senior

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Comments [29]

Karl from Brooklyn

This is an interesting and important topic that, unfortunately, did not get handled with the required depth and compassion it deserves. For the first 15 min of the discussion the guest and Leonard spoke as if they themselves were still in a high school mind set. They seemed to reduce the high school experience to a battle between the smart kids (which, of course they both were) and the popular, and dumb, jocks and princesses. I couldn't believe the language they used to describe high school cliques. Surely the sociologists Jennifer Senior interviewed for her story had better linguistic labels to measure their data; Leonard literally refers to "the dumb kids." I expect more from this show. And yet, perhaps they were unconsciously demonstrating the point of her her article: maybe they haven't overcome the conditioning of high school and they still feel the need to bolster their own self-image at the expense of those inferior dummies they had to put up with.

I haven't read her article yet and i hope in it she does a better job of handling this subject. I believe most kids suffer in high school, some more overtly than others. Often those who seem the most popular and together (athletic, attractive, etc.) can be struggling intensely. Nor should we forget that not all bullying is done by jocks, or in a physical fashion. I recall very demeaning taunting being doled out by academically successful kids who would not qualify as jocks.

There were a couple of glaring omissions:economic class was treated cursorily at best, and also missing from the discussion were those marginal kids who are neither popular nor smart (because apparently you can't be both). What about them?

Feb. 06 2013 05:32 PM
Karl from Brooklyn

This is an interesting and important topic that, unfortunately, did not get handled with the required depth and compassion it deserves. For the first 15 min of the discussion the guest and Leonard spoke as if they themselves were still in a high school mind set. They seemed to reduce the high school experience to a battle between the smart kids (which, of course they both were) and the popular, and dumb, jocks and princesses. I couldn't believe the language they used to describe high school cliques. Surely the sociologists Jennifer Senior interviewed for her story had better linguistic labels to measure their data; Leonard literally refers to "the dumb kids." I expect more from this show. And yet, perhaps they were unconsciously demonstrating the point of her her article: maybe they haven't overcome the conditioning of high school and they still feel the need to bolster their own self-image at the expense of those inferior dummies they had to put up with.

I haven't read her article yet and i hope in it she does a better job of handling this subject. I believe most kids suffer in high school, some more overtly than others. Often those who seem the most popular and together (athletic, attractive, etc.) can be struggling intensely. Nor should we forget that not all bullying is done by jocks, or in a physical fashion. I recall very demeaning taunting being doled out by academically successful kids who would not qualify as jocks.

There were a couple of glaring omissions: class was treated cursorily at best and also missing from the discussion were those marginal kids who are neither popular nor smart (because apparently you can't be both). What about them?

Feb. 06 2013 06:42 AM
Alex

I'm sorry but Duran Duran rules.

Jan. 29 2013 02:17 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Rachel Maddow - WOW!!! WTFHTH?
http://www.vulture.com/2013/01/see-63-celebrities-high-school-yearbook-photos.html#photo=12x00007

Rick Santorum - LOL!
http://www.vulture.com/2013/01/see-63-celebrities-high-school-yearbook-photos.html#photo=46x00050

Steve Buscemi - LOL!
http://www.vulture.com/2013/01/see-63-celebrities-high-school-yearbook-photos.html#photo=52x00056

"George Constanza"!
http://www.vulture.com/2013/01/see-63-celebrities-high-school-yearbook-photos.html#photo=54x00058

Chris Christie!
http://www.vulture.com/2013/01/see-63-celebrities-high-school-yearbook-photos.html#photo=59x00063

Jan. 28 2013 01:52 PM
antonio from baySide

I agree in some ways. However I am light-years in every way than who I was in H.S.. I went to a city H.S., (Norman Thomas) and back then I never played sports, wasn't quite a "FONZIE" in the ladies dept, and not too interested in books, politics etc. NOWWW.. while I am no Jason Kidd, I play basketball and an accomplished runner! And totally love the kind of subjects found on the Leonard Lopate show...
hmmm maybe it was Norman Thomas after all...he was a socialist who ran for president many times...
;)

Jan. 28 2013 01:42 PM
emmanu.com from hastings

I think your guest could learn a lesson from studying that in medieval times, for 100s of years, all children were depicted in paintings as a kind of miniature children. How much of her analysis is victim to this notion?

Jan. 28 2013 01:41 PM
Jen from NYC

I do not think that this is everyone's experience. Just because you are a "Nerd" does not mean that you are an outcast. I always excelled academically, and never felt like an outcast. Maybe my experience was an aberration. But I enjoyed high school, and got great grades. Being stupid or not engaged was never cool to me or anyone at my school.

Jan. 28 2013 01:41 PM
Connie from nj

To Scott from South Orange

I agree with your mother. Please let your daughters know that they are pretty (even if they aren't conventionally pretty--everyone is attractive in some way). My parents never told anyone in my large family that we were good-looking, and we all felt ugly. Looking at pictures of us from when we were young, I can see that we were in fact not unattractive. But most of my siblings have problems with self-esteem about appearance. I can rarely muster a feeling of looking good--the best I can do now is not to care anymore.

Jan. 28 2013 01:39 PM
Coogan from NYC

I see the heart of the problem of why High School is so scarring is that Americans expect youth to fit into an artificial mold based on age and grade levels rather than respecting a persons natural ability and maturity. Essentially we collectively artificially extend adolescence and restrict growth by not giving room for responsibility and offering hands on experience in the real adult world.

We treat high schoolers as kids, rather than young adults, so it's no wonder self esteem is crushed and distorted by high school years. We should rethink how upper education levels are structured, maybe cut high school down to grades 8-11, then transition youth out of a boxed in classroom setting into the real world via vocational, volunteering and specialized education learning. This is common in Europe and other parts of the world but never the US. Imagine how much more mature and happier youth would be having a proper outlet for all that life force...

Jan. 28 2013 01:39 PM
Hilary from Brooklyn

When my Highschool Reunion came up a couple of years ago I learned of it by accident. As I looked into it further I found that the planners were the cliche
popular "kids" and it was amazing how many of the 'weird" kids were likewise not included in the invitation list.

Sheesh!

Jan. 28 2013 01:38 PM
Cupcake from Brooklyn

It doesn't have to be this way and fences can be mended. Along with 5 other classmates 5 years ago we brought together our class of '68. Prior to our reunion, we met on Yahoo. We got to know another again, meet people we didn't know because of our narrow vision and repaired past wrongs -- many people were apologizing for any wrongs they had committed. People have formed new friendships, we continue to meet up around the US and have dinners and weekends together. It is possible to grow up.

Jan. 28 2013 01:37 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates etc were probably invisible in high school but not anymore.

America of all places, is a country where one's adult does not have to be defined by their high school social strata. We are not England.

Jan. 28 2013 01:35 PM
Maude from Park SLope

I just remembered, whenever I meet a girl btwn the ages of 12-16 or so, if they are a popular girl, it's as though they can SMELL my nerdiness, and they always treat me just like the girls did in high school. Which is to dismiss me completely. It's remarkable.

Jan. 28 2013 01:34 PM
Dan L from San Diego

This is very intriguing, and I one of the great challenges: maintaining interest in activities and interests that typecast kids as outcasts. My forthcoming book "Soccer in the Weeds..." deals with growing up in a mixed-income high school in the context of wealthy Fairfield County with soccer as a prism for understanding life. I hope to connect with Jennifer at some point.

Jan. 28 2013 01:34 PM
Amy from Manhattan

What's going on these days in politics looks a lot like junior high school.

Jan. 28 2013 01:33 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Did any of the researchers Ms. Senior talked to look at the effect of moving & becoming the new kid?

Jan. 28 2013 01:31 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

The High School pictures of celebrities are here:

http://www.vulture.com/2013/01/see-63-celebrities-high-school-yearbook-photos.html

Jan. 28 2013 01:31 PM
oscar from ny

I went to art and design h.s in the early 90s with the rappers mobb deep and some wu tang crews and they will beat anybody that was a herb or if steal your clothes if you had original polo R.L.
I never went cut class almost every day, it was boring but i don't remember the kids talk about gay stuff..i actually learned it later in the service, i think its now a new thing to be gay... its a new generation thing..

Jan. 28 2013 01:26 PM
Christine from Westchester

Let's face it: whatever it is about you that's different or outstanding is the thing some doofus will pick on in school. I was small - I got picked on. If I were tall, they'd have picked on that. In the end I learned how to handle it. Might be what she points to that later on, the "smart" girls were more confident than those may have equated more to their looks. The key seems to be: join a group, have friends and try to ignore what those whose opinions don't matter say about you.

Jan. 28 2013 01:21 PM

@Scott from South Orange:

Only if they are developmentally disabled.

Jan. 28 2013 01:20 PM
Mel from Orange County, New York

I often think this has to do with the feeling of powerlessness. If only there was a way to TEACH compassion early, to everyone, the world would be a much healthier place. My theory is that people who take on jobs like police officer or politician do so to get retribution, find power. For example, I think most cops are either bullies, or were bullied, and want to save others from that fate. Sadly, they become bullies themselves.

Jan. 28 2013 01:19 PM
Scott from South Orange

I have two girls, 8 and 9 1/2. I've intuitively refrained from talking about their appearances, including praise, whereas my mother insists that girls need it for their self-esteem. So far they seem oblivious to how they look and dress and I'm hoping it will last. Will it?

Jan. 28 2013 01:18 PM
Maude from Park Slope

My time in middle school was far worse than high school (although the first few years of high school weren't a cup of tea either) I think the teasing was more overt in middle school. While in high school I figured out how to "hide" better, maybe the teasing was more behind my back, and maybe people weren't so interested in seeking out objects of ridicule

Jan. 28 2013 01:17 PM
Alex from Manhattan

Jennifer,

Do you believe that your beliefs about high school encourage people to stay in that mindset? That is to say, by placing so much importance on this time are we dooming ourselves to live in the past?

Jan. 28 2013 01:16 PM

It didn't occur to her that a girl can be beautiful AND smart? This is tedious.

Jan. 28 2013 01:15 PM
Christine from Westchester

From my own experience, 7-8th grade was far worse and from what I see now that I am a parent, middle school is worse than HS. To some degree, just going through the teen years and figuring out how to handle things will always be difficult.

Jan. 28 2013 01:15 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Hormones win over Brains every time.

Jan. 28 2013 01:11 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

I went to DeWitt Clinton HS - which was all boys.

I should have gone to Music and Art - for the chicks.

Jan. 28 2013 01:10 PM
Manuel from Bronx

As a high school teacher, what do you recommend we do to alleviate this time?

Jan. 28 2013 01:09 PM

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