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

By Elliott Currie

     "The new Darwinism is not only tough but also distinctly uncaring and irresponsible; under its sway, we have become a society that is often self-righteously hard on children but simultaneously unwilling to accept the responsibility of actually bringing them up." Elliot Currie, author of The Road to Whatever: Middle-Class Culture and the Crisis of Adolescence.

     Many of us have seen them-white, middle class teenagers who don't seem to care about anything. Most of us have heard their mantra-"Whatever." They come from relatively stable familial and financial backgrounds. They have opportunities and means for which those in lower classes could only wish. Yet more and more of these adolescents are exhibiting reckless abandon. They've become drug and alcohol abusers, juvenile delinquents and suicide statistics. What's going on?

     Sociologist Elliott Currie, one of America's foremost experts on adolescence and crime, investigates this growing trend in The Road to Whatever: Middle-Class Culture and the Crisis of Adolescence. He interviews teens who have crossed into the abyss of care-lessness, most of whom have pulled themselves back from the precipice of tragedy. Their candid and astute opinions are eye-opening. He converses with their parents, whose attitudes are demoralizing, and reveals the common threads. Their misperceptions, heightened by shocking arrogance that also pervades the schools and institutions that have dealt (or not) with these disenchanted souls.

     The Road to Whatever: Middle-Class Culture and the Crisis of Adolescence is neither an emotionally or intellectually easy read, but it should be mandatory for everyone who deals with children. The author shows great understanding of each entity's limitations and does not place responsibility for this appalling state of affairs squarely on any participant's shoulders. He offers no quick fix, but he does propose possible solutions aimed at saving this and future generations from a similar downward spiral. "By establishing more humane policies for families, schools, and workplaces, we not only make life easier for Americans in ways that should reduce the stresses and fears that help breed a heedless 'me first' ethic, we also model the outlines of a more supportive community. A society that begins to care better for its people, in short, both diminishes the conditions that lead to carelessness and demonstrates that there are other, and better, ways to live." Simple common sense supported by cultural history, contemporary particulars and universal standards. Pay heed America! Our children need us!

The Book

Metropolitan Books
February 1, 2005
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The Reviewer

Lynda E. Lukow
Reviewed 2005
© 2005