Tag Archives: back to school adolescence

Ode to Football

6 Aug

Ode to Football

As the mother of two boys, I can remember taking long early morning walks in the heat of August praying for the beginning of football season. When the day finally arrived the boys would don there symbolic warrior pads and tight pants and prepare for their quasi war games.  From an exhausted mother’s perspective, this meant all of that adolescent angst that Lesko carefully discounts, would have an outlet in a culturally accepted rite of passage.

In Act Your Age! A Cultural Construction of Adolescence, Nancy Lesko questions these tendencies to label adolescents as deficient, controlled by hormones, crazy, and a little dangerous. She asks us to entertain a social-constructivist interpretation of the adolescent phenomenon. She attempts to debunk the popular assumptions associated with adolescents. She investigates how adolescence was conceptualized throughout history, and how ideas from the past affect current thoughts about youth.

Lesko’s discussion focuses on the Great Chain of Being, a symbol for  human development along the lines of race, gender, and national progress. The Great Chain of Being  depicts the hierarchy of animals, people, and societies that portrayed evolutionary history and sociological ranking. Evolutionary rankings were depicted from bottom to top. According to the Great Chain of Being, progress and civilization were the exclusive right of white men. Conversely, people of color, women, and youth were ranked lower and consequently regarded as being less civilized. The job of society was to help white male adolescents progress up the evolutionary scale, to become better, more civilized human beings. And what better way to accomplish this task than suiting them up in warrior costumes and letting them beat the shit out of each other. Wait a minute, how is this assisting in the journey of becoming an evolutionary superior? The alternatives presented to achieve this end are not as compelling as Friday Night

Lights. A trip to Juvie Hall rarely has a long term uplifting or rehabilitative effect. Perhaps the Young Men’s Christian Association and scouting have had more luck civilizing the savages.

I buy Lesko’s argument until she stretches her argument to assert that Great Chain of Being is a subversive metaphor for societal brainwashing in relation to race, gender, and national progress. She suggests that the Great Chain of Being insinuates the state of progress and civilization as being exclusive to white men, while people of color, women, and youth are ranked lower and regarded as less civilized. Personally, I wish my daughter could have suited up in warrior gear for a fall floundering. She needed an outlet for her adolescent angst much more than the boys.

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