AN ACID-REACTION or SOCIETY IN THE TEST-TUBE
By W. H. Allchin
we know from our own observations that the trends here, and probably in Western Europe too, are in the same direction. Behind it all seems to be the definition and exploitation of the teenage consumer, and the power of the business world, exerted through advertising, is evident. The authors point out how ordinary adults have abdicated their proper role, and become in some ways adolescent themselves. The general air of competitiveness and insecurity in a free, acquisitive society permeates all their evidence. The extraordinary mobility of Americans is noted, with some thirty-five million people moving home annually. The authors observe: "Large companies pick up their executives and their families like office furniture...."
Albemarle Committee put for7" ward the idea of adolescents as the ^tmus paper of a society, thus suggesting that to understand the problems ?f the adolescents would be to see something of the larger problems of society in which they find them-
selves. The authors of Teenage Tyranny,1 tv^o American journalists with a sPecial interest in educational matters, a hard, realistic look at the "ehaviour of teenagers in the U.S.A.
Strange parallel Strongly
biased against the psychochild-centred or permissive aPproach to child care and education, lhey draw a strange, if interesting, Parallel between the attitudes of adults American society to teenage proband those of the western nations towards what they categorise as the Voung and primitive underdeveloped
Nations". In describing teenage difficulties, they examine dating and the cult of
Popularity, and show some of ^Pending problems which emerge
y?Ung people as a consequence. They t^derline the effect of some of these Besses on boys, who may be less ready for them than the girls, and the disadvantages which accrue to j^eat those without money or prowess. ?rls, like cars, become symbols of ?tatus and popularity, and sex may be ^'ghly
over-valued. The authors diswhat they call the teenage Maturity symbols of smoking, drinkln? and driving, and they go on to the effects of mass media? films, books and magazines. Under
hese heads, they produce interesting and vivid illustrations and if those of .s living in England feel, from time 0
Out of all this, it seems true to say that adolescent problems highlight those of adult society. In my view, this book shies off the logical conclusion to which it points, for this would entail a critical analysis of the economic and political determinants of individual and social life under the American system. The authors show only too clearly how powerless the adult citizen feels, yet they do not see that this is a political question. Affluence goes with political impotence and conformity, and with the concentration of real power in a very few hands. As the adult cannot control the important factors in his own life, it is evident that he can compel little respect from the rising generation. As has been said elsewhere, young people at present tend to learn from adults what they don't want to be like. Thus, their heroes turn out to be the ephemeral figures puffed up by advertising, from the ranks of the entertainment world. In fact, psychological
turn out to be whole. And where both adults and adolescents are at the mercy of the manipulations of what President Eisenhower termed "the industrial-military complex", it is not surprising that behaviour is characterised by features of irresponsibility, frustration and destructiveness. Another issue, by no means confined to one side of the Atlantic, also emerges. Much of the effective control of people must be based upon a knowledge of individual and group psychology, and that it would seem professional workers, whether physicists or psychologists, may have been too little concerned with the ways in which new knowledge can be used.
Balanced and sensible By contrast, Dr. Casson's book, Sex and
the period of adolescence. It is balanced and sensible and easy to read. As Teenage Tyranny expresses the hurly-burly and chaos of life in cities and suburbia, so Dr. Casson's book is like suddenly going into a quiet consulting room and listening to a reasonable, urbane and friendly voice. It may lack the cutting edge of a more committed viewpoint, but it should be of undoubted value to intelligent adults who deal with this age-group; people such as teachers, club leaders and advisers. The authoritative knowledge which Dr. Casson brings to bear on sexual problems may eventually be
extended to the social difficulties of adolescents, and when this happens, there will be solutions to questions which at present tend to bring about only emotional reactions.
is a clear and calm of. information about the physical, psychological and social aspects of sexual development through summary
and Fred Grace Teenage Tyranny, (Duckworth, London, 1964.) Hechinger. 2 Sex and Adolescence, F. R. C. Casson(Foyle, London, 1964.)