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The Road to Whatever: Middle-Class Culture and the Crisis of Adolescence

by Elliott Currie

Published by Metropolitan Books

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From one of America's foremost experts on adolescents and crime, 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, destructive violence, 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 in-depth interviews with troubled adolescents, he links the crisis of today's youth to a pervasive culture of exclusion and neglect that has left young people with diminishing supports or options as they face an ever-more unforgiving adult world. Currie describes a society in which severe punishment and "zero tolerance" of adolescent misbehavior have become the norm, where "tough love" has replaced engagement, and where medications readily stand in for guidance. Broadening his inquiry, he explores the worrisome social changes--the strains on the family, the erosion of supportive communities--that have contributed to the growing vulnerability of the young. And he dissects the increasing rigidity of a competitive middle class that is quick to reject those who do not fit in, and whose sharp divide between winners and losers and narrower definitions of success reveal a culture that is extraordinarily harsh--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.


pub date: 2005-02-01 | hardcover | 9780805067637