For years I have subscribed to the Hedgehog Review: critical reflections on contemporary culture. Published by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, each volume is always intriguing and worth reading cover to cover. The following is taken from the introduction for the Spring 2009 issue focused on "Youth Culture". The quandaries it explores and the questions it raise need to be explored by all of us.
The radical and rapid transformation taking place in America and global culture are keenly seen when viewed through the lens of youth culture.
Take technological changes, for example. Young people are at the forefront of the use and adaptation of these developments, and their day-to-day experiences–their modes of being, if you will–have been markedly transformed. The way they interact with their peers, and present themselves to others is unlike that of any generation that came before them… How have these technological changes affected what it means to be human?
The cultural changes of late modernity have produced pressures to adapt to, and succeed in, an increasingly complex social sphere. This is felt acutely by the young, particularly in relation to their academic achievements… In an effort to cope with the world around them, young people are taking more and more medications. The increase in the use of medications to negotiate these demands affects the way young people see themselves and the world around them. How does a young person understand what it means to be human or to be good when she views her struggles through a medical model?
Changes in the meaning of adulthood in contemporary life is in a state of confusion… Once a stage of life towards which to aspire, adulthood has come to be seen by many as neither inevitable nor necessarily desirable…What happens to a culture when people don't want to grow up? What does this say about our ideals for what it means to be human and for what it means to be good?
Young people are often the first to adopt to new cultural forms, and we often express our anxieties about those new cultural forms as concerns about the young… They are the ones ultimately who will reap the benefits or the deficits of how we negotiate the cultural changes of contemporary life.