Books and media

YouthFacts reviews and fact-checks the most popular, influential books and media on youth today. A few are good. However, the most popular, publicized authors (some of which boast of academic or professional credentials) project a self-indulgent, superior attitude which is entirely unwarranted. Their “facts” rely heavily on breathless news reports, gross generalizations from rare anecdotes, grossly butchered statistics, and panics so bizarre and baseless as to raise questions about basic sanity. Most authors don’t seem to understand that fictional teens on TV shows aren’t real teens, that youth in therapy and sensational news reports don’t represent all teens, that glorifying their own hazily-recalled, sanitized childhoods in comparison to some newsmagazine horror-report on teens today is just plain idiotic.

The “rotten parents” books may be the worst, in which a parent who subjected his/her kids to all sorts of troubles from mental instability to bitter divorce now whines (as if he/she is the victim) that teenagers are returning the favor with some well-deserved payback. (Note: if you write a book, go on TV, talk in public forums, etc., about how bad your kids are, you’re automatically a rotten parent.) Authors like these are guaranteed a couple of rounds of sympathetic tongue-clucking on the daytime talk shows. Close behind is the “egocentric professional” genre, in which psychologists, journalists, and academics praise themselves (and invite pliant readers to do likewise) as all-knowing and morally superior to the naturally stupid, pop-culture-corrupted “kids today,” wildly misciting the numbers of the poorest, most abused youth as typical of white, suburban teens (the only ones they care about) — then, amazingly, fail to mention poverty and abuse as the worst problems! In a society that liked and cared about the young, books like these would be neither credible nor popular, and while we can’t determine popularity, we can at least examine their credibility.

“Teen Brain” and “Adolescent Risk” Malarkey

The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults (2015). Frances E. Jensen, M.D., with Amy Ellis Nutt.

What Are They Thinking? The Straight Facts about the Risk-Taking, Social-Networking, Still-Developing Teen Brain (2013). Aaron M. White, Ph.D., Scott Swartzwelder, Ph.D. These two books are representative of the bizarre malarkey doctors and professionals dispense about teenagers that relies on provably untrue assumptions. Reviews by Mike Males

Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain (2014). Daniel J. Siegel. A somewhat better book, but still makes colossally mistaken assumptions. Amazon review by Mike Males

Generation Mean

Psychologist Jean Twenge’s Generation Me (2006) and The Narcissism Epidemic (2010, with W. Keith Campbell) grossly misrepresent psychological measures, research, facts, trends and basic logic to brand young people today as “narcissists” and “entitled.” Their narcissism construct is shallow, silly stuff when you examine its selectively nonscientific, pop-culture/quip/anecdotal “evidence” — but it enables the authors and their followers to pronounce themselves morally superior and invite readers to do likewise, so it’s wildly popular. Review by Mike Males

The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America (Drew Pinsky, M.D., and S. Mark Young, 2010). After Dr. Drew rose to Hollywood stardom with his own VH1 “Celebrity Rehab” show, Oprah interviews, and constant E-media attention, he descended into the same arrogant, self-superior celebrity he deplores in his trashy, stereotype-stuffed book, co-authored with academic star-chaser S. Mark Young. And, based on quips and anecdotes as usual, he blames young people for being the most star-seduced.

The best book on Columbine

Columbine (David Cullen, 2009). Even favorable reviewers years later still fail to get what the real crisis is. Columbine is a very important book warning us profoundly to reject the news media and interest-group discussion of sensational issues involving teenagers. Cullen’s indictment of press coverage of the 1999 Columbine massacre is deservedly devastating, and his re-explanation of the killers not as typical “kids next door,” but as a rare psychopath and pathological follower.

Girl Bashing

Authors are vilifying teenage girls, in particular, as ever-more violent, mean, shallow, materialistic, slutty, and self-destructive. When scrutinized, these girl-bashing books are themselves shallow, destructive, and, yes… mean. A few of the worst follow. More book reviews on a broader array of youth topics will be posted in the future.

See Jane Hit: Why Girls Are Growing More Violent and What We Can Do About It James Garbarino, 2006). You bet… Powerpuff Girls are driving girls to mayhem. The media-worshipped book that gets nothing right.

Sugar and Spice and No Longer Nice: How We Can Stop Girls’ Violence (Deborah Prothrow-Stith, Howard R. Spivak, 2006). The awful title says it all. Harvard School of Public Health should be ashamed for producing this disgusting tirade of distortion and cruel stereotypes.

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls (Mary Pipher, 1995, 2005). If you’re one of a small fraction of culture-troubled suburban girls, this book may help. But Pipher has to pretend her apocalyptic misery describes all girls today, who she misrepresents as a gender-wide mental ward of walking wounded. Author, revive thyself.

Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence (Rosalind Wiseman, 2002). Talk about name calling! Wiseman brands girls confused, insecure, lashing out, totally obnoxious, moody, cruel, sneaky, lying, mean, exclusive, catty… that’s just a few of the epithets from the first dozen pages! And she claims to like girls?

Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body (Courtney E. Martin, 2007). In Martin’s  grim, joyless world, the happiest, healthiest, most successful generation of girls and young women ever is really “a bubbling, acid pit of guilt and shame and jealousy and restlessness and anxiety,” “more addicted and more diseased than any generation of young women that has ever come before,” etc. Martin tells us she endlessly agonizes in “sad and hopelessly misery” morning, noon, and night that her body isn’t perfect. It’s refreshing that most girls today are overcoming life’s hardships instead of succumbing to Martin’s culture-war angst masquerading as “feminism.”


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