Understanding Youth Culture (page 2)

By — Online Journal of Urban Youth Culture
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

Our inaugural issue

This first edition includes an article written by the distinguished world citizen, Dr. Clifton R. Wharton, Jr., former Deputy Secretary of State under the Clinton Administration. We are proud to have such a distinguished scholar and leader provide us his views and insights. In his article, Dr. Wharton addresses the subject of tribes and tribalism within our nation and throughout the globe. Throughout hours of conversation he and I have discussed the question of where we as a society are headed. Dr. Wharton observes that as a nation we are not heeding indicators that suggest a less than promising outcome for our citizens both young and old alike.

I agree wholeheartedly with his contention that, despite how young people define themselves, it is imperative that "old" America must remain involved and active in the lives of young people. As in prior years, a generation gap remains and young people today have their own ideas, ideas not always shared by adult society.

A global youth culture

The difference today is that young people are connected to each other in ways never seen before. Today's youth are not solely dependent on their parents or traditional means for their knowledge and opinions. More and more frequently they are independent and as adults many of us do a very poor job of understanding them or even trying to. It is my sincere hope that researchers, policy-makers, parents, law enforcement agencies, teachers and others will begin to better understand the new challenges regarding our children and young people.

Young people today are defining themselves through hip-hop culture, new breeds of alternative music and a host of other methods. Dr. Wharton eloquently deemed it "tribalism" and the young followers of today's musical genres, whether they are devotees of Marilyn Manson or Marshall Mathers, The Insane Clown Posse or Justin Timberlake, are the voices of a new school. These new voices today echo what Bill Haley and The Comets, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and others meant in their parents' (or grandparents') day.

If America is to meet the challenges that now face our young people and our society, we must recognize the voices of our young people; we must understand their challenges and needs. If we are sincere in our endeavors to understand what is taking place with our young people, we must in earnest research youth culture and we must understand their language and their symbols. Just as Elvis was the face of rock 'n' roll and the personification of a generation, young people today have their own faces and those with whom they identify. To denigrate or demonize the symbols and voices of this generation only widens the gap between the old school and the new school, further exacerbating the problems.

I do not suggest that old school America necessarily embrace hip-hop or other expressions of youth culture, but I believe it is imperative that it be understood and respected. The failure of generations of parents and other adults to attempt to understand and communicate with young people has lead to countless incidents of suffering throughout communities. We must ask ourselves how many unfortunate circumstances and situations might have not occurred had the proper interventions been used with a child or young person throughout the years. Today we have the opportunity to begin a new method of thinking and engaging our young, for the betterment of our society and ourselves.

As I expressed earlier, it is critical that those who naively believe that their family or community is "safe' from outside influences begin to understand that a global community offers no such safe haven where your children are concerned. I am reminded of a recent conversation with a graduate student from Nairobi, Kenya. During the conversation she told me of the impact of hip-hop on the young people of her country, she was impressed with the fact that the youth of Nairobi identified with American youth. I shared with her my experiences traveling throughout Europe and how surprised I was to see very young children with their headphones on listening to hip-hop music. Neither of us could hide our surprise at the fact that very young children throughout two very far away continents were so connected by urban American music.

Overhearing our discussion, another graduate student entered the conversation and talked about how surprised she was during her internship in Mexico to find that the young people in an extremely remote rural section of that country knew in detail about the horrific events of September 11th in the United States. How is it possible for young people from a remote location with no access to television or computers to know about such events happening thousands of miles from them?

Whether we like it or not, it is a fact that young people all over the globe are connected by an ever-expanding technology. It no longer matters whether you live in upstate New York, the upper peninsula of Michigan or in the middle of a small fishing village in Alaska, the world is connected now in ways we are just beginning to understand… your children are no longer isolated because of locale.

View Full Article
Add your own comment
DIY Worksheets
Make puzzles and printables that are educational, personal, and fun!
Matching Lists
Quickly create fun match-up worksheets using your own words.
Word Searches
Use your own word lists to create and print custom word searches.
Crossword Puzzles
Make custom crossword puzzles using your own words and clues.