Skip to content

“It Gets Better”… But Why Can’t It Just *BE* Better?

October 7, 2010

By now you may have heard about or seen some of the videos that have been made by many adult gay men and women explaining to teenagers around the country and the world that “It Gets Better,” that life in high school–though it can be awful–does eventually give way to adult-hood which is often infinitely better, particularly if you’re gay or in anyway part of an outcast group as a teenager. They are very moving videos pushing a message of hope in the face of utter despair and, all too often, suicidality. Take a look at a few here.

But blogger Jason Kuznicki has mixed feelings about those videos and that “It Gets Better” message. He argues that we should not simply accept that high school can be such a hellish place for so many kids. Kuznicki writes:

It’s not enough to have a YouTube campaign… saying, “Yeah, high school is hell on earth. Everyone suffers there. It passes.”

It may offer hope, and hope is great, but it’s simply not enough that when you’re an adult, you get to move on. We need to face down the problem of high school itself. Rather than focus on the tragedies, let’s look at the deeply weird, deeply authoritarian place that is high school. Let’s look at how it’s set up, which seems designed only to foster cliques, to identify scapegoats, and to stomp out all individual differences. How a place like this can possibly be a good thing for our society is beyond me.

High school seems made to hurt, which is insane. I knew this back when I was in high school. I faced it every day. I also knew of social spaces for people my age that weren’t designed to hurt. I could never understand why I faced abuse by my schoolmates, but not by the friends I found outside my school.

As a Youth Group coordinator, one of my primary goals is for our church community to offer an antidote to the typical high school community Kuznicki describes, “designed only to foster cliques, to identify scapegoats, and to stomp out all individual differences.” Every time our teenagers get together, I have that in the back of my mind–this should be a place where all the hurt of high school is not perpetuated. But even the most active Youth Group member spends only a few hours a week here at church–while spending around 40 at school and however much more caught up in the vortex of high school culture.

Having served at a church where a teenager committed suicide, and having lived in a community that experienced a wave of teenage suicides, I completely agree that we owe it to our children to do something to change that deranged high school culture. We simply must. It can be a matter of life or death. And we might start by recognizing how much we infusing our own adult anxieties into our teenage children. We adults are so fearful of what may or may not happen to them as they grow toward adulthood. And I think they internalize all that fear, all that anxiety. And it’s often more than their immature psyches can handle–so they are brutal toward each other and brutal toward their own selves.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. C.A. Child permalink
    October 8, 2010 9:16 am

    Another viewpoint of sorts: For the bullies, it may not get better. Then what? Some may perpetuate the behavior and become inappropriately behaving adults over even sociopaths. While others may mature and gain understanding of their behavior. I cannot imagine the regret and guilt bullies who mature will have to live with when they realize what they have done. In addition, what unhealthy needs or self-loathing or anger are they satisfying at their moment of bullying? The need to belong to a crowd? To feel superior–or even adequate? Or is it ignorance of the effects of their actions? Why is cruelty a fulfilling outlet at any time? If we are to address the phenomenon, I think we have to address the bullies’ needs as well– however unappealing individual bullies may seem. Some anti-social need abides in these individuals. Negative sanctions, correcting admonitions (and, these are important) will go only so far. We also need, of course, to support persons bullied and help them protect themselves; but we also have to address the needs underlying the bullying phenomenon in those who bully to stop this behavior.

    • October 8, 2010 9:19 pm

      It’s no wonder, after witnessing events like the the “Pee Wee” football game riot, Moms out of control at ‘beauty’ contests and the Megan Meier suicide, that America seems to be infected with the notion that the more people you ‘roll over’ the more value you have; and parents allowing their kids to bully, or even helping them, seems to be a big part of the problem. The costs of the “be a winner, not a loser” mentality are sadly high. The question is, how do we stop? From the locker room to the classroom and the boardroom, it’s become as American as apple pie.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: