How Much Of Life Can You Still Blame On High School?

“Today, we also live in an age when our reputation is at the mercy of people we barely know, just as it was back in high school, for the simple reason that we lead much more public, interconnected lives. The prospect of sudden humiliation once again trails us, now in the form of unflattering photographs of ourselves or unwanted gossip, virally reproduced. The whole world has become a box of interacting strangers. Maybe, perversely, we should be grateful that high school prepares us for this life. The isolation, the shame, the aggression from those years—all of it readies us to cope. But one also has to wonder whether high school is to blame; whether the worst of adult America looks like high school because it’s populated by people who went to high school in America. We’re recapitulating the ugly folkways of this institution, and reacting with the same reflexes, because that’s where we were trapped, and shaped, and misshaped, during some of our most vulnerable years.”
—Does the cruel crucible of high school make you better prepared for the difficulties you will confront later in life, or does it warp you forever, cursing you to live out the rest of your days in some strange, sad version of the person you were during the most difficult part of your adolescence? I’m not quite sure—I personally think we are a bunch of hairless monkeys who are more or less a prisoner to genetic and biological urges that we either manage to keep under control or surrender to and, in our search for significance, drape in some kind of moral code the better to justify why we did or didn’t do something we don’t quite understand in the first place, and then we die and none of it matters—but Jennifer Senior has some thoughts.

Photo by Anatoliy Samara, via Shutterstock