DIGNITY OF YOUTH by Edgar Z. Friedenberg


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Midway in this uneven, but always strikingly individualistic and illuminating set of essays, Professor Friedenberg speaks of our deplorable practice of treating teenagers as a ""hot blooded minority."" It is an arresting phrase and a good indication of Friedenberg's philosophic and literary-minded approach to sociological problems. Elsewhere, for instance, he relates empiricism to Adam and Eve, tells us ""it is difficult to find Baudelaire or Beckett serving as Chairman on Political Arrangements, or Dale Carnegie in solitary confinement scratching a poetic masterpiece into the walls of his cell,"" and in a long, brilliant piece relates Nietzschean protest to varieties of contemporary rootlessness. He is primarily concerned with the lack of pertinent values and ideals within the general educational ethos and the resultant ""drop-out"" problem amongst adolescents, and adolescents of all classes. For his central point is cultural deprivation, rather than mere economic maladjustment. Schools do not nurture the gifted student, nor do they satisfy the young person's emotional needs-in short, they tend to produce a narrowing of the human potential during those years when a ""general liberation and spontaneity"" of thought and feeling should be paramount. Here he is very close to Paul Goodman, though his responses are more impressionistic or therapeutic than ""utopian."" Friedenberg is an extremely sophisticated writer, mixing aphoristic remarks about Lolita or Salinger with student interviews, statistics, footnotes and so forth. Coming of Age in America and, The Vanishing Adolescent, his two previous works, have already established him as one of the most important educationists we have.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1965
Publisher: Beacon