Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids

Freaks Geeks and Cool Kids American

Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids: American Teenagers, Schools, and the Culture of Consumption, New York: Routledge, 2004.
By Murray Milner, Jr.

Welcome back to high school. Is it different? In some schools the pecking order hasn't changed, only the names; in others ranking is gone, but clique boundaries are even more rigid. From the lunchroom to the prom, students are obsessed with who sits together, who goes together, and what people are wearing and driving. In addistion new kinds of relationships, anxieties, and conflicts have emerged. Both these old and new features of teen culture shape our children in ways tat are more fundamental than the content of the curriculum. Murray Milner revisits the most character-shaping status system we ever encounter, explaining how it works and why-and how it is also shaping our entire consumer society.

Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids argues that the teenage behaviors that annoy adults do not arise from hormones, bad parenting, poor teaching, or the media, but from adolescents' lack of power over the central features of their lives: they must attend school; they have no control over the curriculum; they can't choose who their classmates are. What teenagers do have is the power to create status systems and symbols that not only exasperate adults, but also impede learning and maturing. Ironically, parents, educators, and businesses are inadvertently major contributors to these outcomes.

An absorbing journey that stirs up a mixture of nostalgia and dismay, Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids shows how high school distills the worst features of American consumer society and shapes how we relate to our neighbors, partners, and coworkers. It also provides insight into how our schools and the lives of teanagers might be transformed.

"A rare book! Social science at its best, yet full of messages for parents, educators, and anybody who care about the next generation."
- Amitai Etzioni, author of My Brother's Keeper: A Memoir and a Message

"Milner explains why high school cliques have so much power and can inflict so much pain. Anyone who cares about adolescents-parents, teachers, principals, and teenagers themselves-should definitely read this book. I couldn't stop reading it, and can't wait to discuss it with my students. It is sociological analysis at its best!"
- Caroline Hodges Persell, co-author of Preparing for Power: America's Elite Boarding Schools

"Milner has done more than perhaps any other American sociologist to remind us that 'status' remains a primary mode of stratification,m one that is dependent on cultural, not material power. Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids is exemplary sociological research and theory; it is wise, witty, and often touching as well."
- Jeffrey C. Alexander, co-editor of The New Social Theory Reader: Contemporary Debates

"What do high school kids and Indian castes have in common? Murray Milner, expert on both, presents the results of a collective ethnography which is surely the most comprehensive sociological picture we have of high school society. Methodologically, theoretically, and substantively, this book is state of the are."
- Randall Collins, author of Macrohistory: Essays in Sociology of the Long Run

American Teenagers, Schools, and the Culture of Consumption
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