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There is a party and there was drinking at the party. Who could run to her once really get to me. I've been after and coming to the party and happened at the party the boy who was driving was very drunk and to the point broke up he got interest car and everybody told her not to drive. They indulged in corset hardware I guess and he took up with that five boys the cart with the boys. It's been about three weeks now the boys are out of the hospital except for one he'll be in there for about six months. This is Ben park with a program in the series coming of age about American teenagers today. This program is one of two which were recorded in big city suburbs where widespread teenage drinking is or has been a problem. This first of the two programs comes from a community where the problem is right now a cause of considerable anxiety. The next program comes from the community where it used to be. I asked two girls from one of the rapidly growing suburbs of New York
City to tell this story. It deals with more than just an auto accident. It's a part of their lives. They're both 17. Student leaders and juniors in their local high school at the end of the program the noted anthropologist and author Dr. Margaret Mead makes a brief but I think trenchant commentary they had a very bad accident the car was completely ruined. They tried to go around 25 degree turn out of a deal run something in the back and hit a pole. A training course the front into a pool looked over power there were live wires. It was really a terrible thing to class. What kind was I think one of the idea was because of the drinking I stopped dating them but they're very nice boys they're pretty upstanding and they felt that students don't get into a lot of trouble around school here. What kind of families do they come from.
One of them comes very well the family the other boy who was in my class comes from a very quiet family he went away to prep school so he came back and he has never been any trouble at all he's never done anything while he just got into common stock. Tell me about this one when I was still in the hospital. His legs were disconnected from his from inward inside and fractured and I think he's broken off the turn and. Happened Saturday night or Sunday morning as well. And. Sunday morning I guess about 11:00 came to operation and he was so weak that they couldn't give him another one.
So we have one. And he's about. And. He was on the critical list. And I. Think he's been through. And he may never walk again. If he does use crutches or braces or something. The rest of his life is really. Back in school. Three boys are back in school and the other. Hundred sixty. Five just sort of
was the topic of conversation. Going to them for too. Much because the. Only thing. A boy's house was and it was an open house and there was an awful lot of gray. My brother had been the driver who was in the hospital and was really pretty. One of the boys was lost and he's in school and he had an operation going
into the back of his head and I didn't think that they could bring it out again but he had an operation. All right. There's no school scars on his face because they operate through his mouth into his head so that there would be no skull and his eyes unpretty blood coming. What's his attitude now to let anyone know if he's innocent. Yes. The first week and now the other girl is talking about that same boy boy that I had gone off once before and I went to his father Dad and I checked I was treated as a percentage of the hospital. And I said do you think this will teach. He says I don't know I don't think it will do him any good. He didn't think it would do a son any good.
Any ideas on how he could help his son. Just as I don't think you know my son very much. Standing just laugh or was it just sort of doing any good news that we're doing many good nothing else well so just just let him keep on the way he was going. Now I was in an accident. Yes. How badly hurt was it. He had the operation on his cheekbone last is what you think about this why do you think that he's not anything. You know what if you say you're a little bit inside. But he's always been Joe Cool and he's really sharp guy. And you were but I don't know that it had been if it had effected you know he's just playing the role of laughing it off laughing Merrick's you know I said didn't you have enough brains not to get into this car was boy he was much stronger than you
were was really bad. And he said I did with him before. I don't think anything of it. A nice very nice boy as far as personality goes. He was a good student and a really friendly opinion and he said York because he just if I didn't teach him anything. He's just really stupid he's ignorant of the whole. Every time he gets in trouble I send him to a psychiatrist. I don't have a real family life never gets in trouble just in a park or to a psychiatrist. Go tell your troubles to a doctor. It's sort of like I said before the accident. Was that the parents were both upstairs and they weren't there when we came to the door I saw her from the living room for half an hour and beginning the party and then he went upstairs and her parents were in bed for most of it
already and the kids were in and someone in the refrigerator and they were still I didn't see that happen but they were throwing hamburger meat around the kitchen. And then. There was a party the night before an open house and someone broke a chandelier or. Floors get ruined because I come in with muddy feet and I danced in the rugs to get ruined. I just don't seem to have any consideration. As of now the only way to have a close party and have the kids get dressed up because when they're dressed up their behavior is quite different whereas the open houses around here the kids come in Bermuda shorts the girls come in Bermuda shorts and kills even if they're on dates and this is no way to dress when you go out. But they do. And the boys come in school clothes and makes everyone feel almost too relaxed for a party.
I think I think it's the parents or their children or they hang around at the party and we all know. And. Really why there's drinking I think I have been since I was a sophomore when there hasn't been some drinking in general. There's a party drinking. It sounds funny. To me. Kids from all over Westchester. From there. I've heard of drinking of course while I was around here considerably. I mean when you get in early That's about one o'clock and after dances kids sell music and before too. The majority of the kids and I. Have restaurants and.
Bars and have a drink and I was just. Having two or three beers. But I think it's necessary to drink because they drink excessively. And I happened to be in that one. I don't really know the popular kids in school. About three months ago we had a school dance which was sponsored by. Given that the school started 30 and 30 50 kids and. About 10:30 every once or two they had
to play jazz the whole night and you can't dance to so. The kids are sitting around and they were considerably. And kids would run in their house and their parents may be upstairs or watching television or something and they'd say hey can we have a party in here and their parents should go on the boys and then they have a party because the dance was such a that the school dances are all going to be fluff so why even try to go out in. A flash because they can drag the boys things out. Yes. Honestly don't know. Why they go after. Him by stories they get they get someone who is of age to buy for herself have draft cards what someone else is draft.
So. CARTER I don't know exactly how they work. Are some of the merchants around here quite willing to sell to them anyway or they always have to trick card or something. And if they have a draft card correction to show that they are very much like not these guys are talking about us. Do the parents have any objection to the rain. There are a lot of quantity. Probably it is the boys like they all have their beer out in the car. They don't have a car they'll leave it outside or something. Just bring in one or two cans or time so the parent doesn't see you. I go in the kitchen and see a lot of beer all around just waiting to be opened when it is it. All the boys who drink beer or just a few of them a good percentage of them are there for you. Sometimes there are two boys two boys and the brother of the boy who was driving are constantly drinking.
They just don't get it at home. They just take their for their supply in other words when they do that or else they buy it they get their big brother brother died or some city. You said one of the boys in this accident will be in the hospital for another six months. Yeah I was completely smashed his pelvis and his legs his legs were were both broken and here a couple of broken ribs some internal injuries. Main thing is his latest news palace was just about was driving us. The other boy who was sitting in front seat the other boy had graduated like a scout team has this corner when I was going to his here and he's out on his terrace current terrible and if you have voices sustained bad injuries like that one of the boys and his whole head was broken fingers in his bones and you know I lost a
stone he has his thumb there already lost use of his son and another boy had a broken cheekbone and my last used to last years of his life. Think about. This perhaps. Coinciding with the accident had been planned months in advance to introduce it in the assembly that Wednesday the accident was the weekend before and they just went on with their plans and they sort of. Put the whole plan seemed to go together. But. I think that this has been pushed by by the parents naturally have a tendency to shy away from the pretty many against it
after this. But before they had gotten together for the teenagers they put such long hours and chaperones in transportation. What you should tell the parents when you're going. And they have something very small thinking about drinking but they couldn't put much in it because it's against the law anyway. Without a committee of students you know. Now the student senate committee how they feel about this. There were two students Mary and myself and we first heard about it. Our first reaction was negative we thought we don't want anyone who's going to tell us to do anything. We run our lives where we think we should you know we think we're pretty upstanding students and looked into it and
saw exactly what it entailed and what it was for and it wasn't going to be enforced it was suggestions for people who were really sure. And we think that it was really needed in a lot of places to prevent things from happening like the stem. What about the reaction of the kids in school generally to it. They're completely against it. We had an assembly on it. A group of students was up there along with some PTA members who described the whole thing to them. Told them what it was Ford told him it was only suggestions told him it was going to be enforced. Then two minutes after the bell went to go from assembly. You know who could be harassed because he was going to be saying that the cops were going to be enforcing and that would be really terrible they'd have to be in by 11 and against it. They didn't want to give it a second look. And still you still tell us do you feel
this is going to be effective. I think it's more but if the parents or students run their children the way they do and they're going to take a look at this and to let their children do anything anyway we're going to say you have to abide by this. When you're 16 or 17 or 18 you know we're going to change your whole life because the parents have a lot of these students who really. Don't care and wouldn't change the way I wouldn't change them or what we set down on paper no matter what we suggested. But we really don't know how to get to them or how to get to everybody's a hole and do something they don't like something that would be effective that the majority would like to think that up to now the kids resent the fact that the parents are out. You know they resent the fact that parents are going to be pretty hard to get a good performer say 10 students who would be really willing enough to do this and really work at it.
Why. Why would it be hard to get them in because they just object to the idea of having said things. Because up to now the kids just do whatever they want and with a little supervision here and there. But there is no you think that the kids feel it always kind of talk is preschool. You know they were you tease Mary and I back they say you're turning real goody goody and you're about the whole thing you're trying to get everything wrong and you just don't want any you know I want everybody to have the fun anymore. You try to explain to me there can be fun and supervised fun just as your boyfriend has never said me very much about it. But there is one boy he's the president of our class and he's very outstanding student. Scott good morning. Guys on football right everybody
has a very good set of social himself and he does everything right. He was very much against this. We were some pretty big discussions with him and it was just so much against this. And it's you can see his point because his family was around. He's been brought up right. And. So he's really against this and you just can't see how it's going to change. He says that the students the students who need the guidance type of guidance were being forced by their parents because there are a lot of parents around here just so here's your money go out enjoy yourself. We don't care what you do. You're very very many parents are like that. I guess they just don't really care about their kids. And so he's getting good marks.
They just I guess he just didn't really care that much. When we thought this could be effective if this brought up through the junior high and so was the kids came into high school and it was. And so six years starting with a class next year everybody would grow accustomed to it and this is the way that we thought could be. I do think this is going to happen will it go into the still stage being discussed and nothing has happened yet but you know we couldn't really get a story like us talking about something done in Highland Park where the students got up a career that was supported by the students. Next week the story of what has happened in Highland Park Illinois a suburb which has
done something about the problems of its teenagers. Dr. Margaret Mead is widely known for her authoritative studies of many of the world's cultures including our own Dr. Mead listen to and then commented on what you just heard. It's an excellent broadcaster I think because these girls were so articulate and really put their finger right on the crucial point. Of course the crucial point in this whole thing is not the ex nor the PTA code. The crucial point is that the parents don't care. This is what happened right after World War One the parents in this country resigned and they stayed resigned most of the time ever since resigned in both senses they resigned from responsibility and they're resigned to trouble and they're not only resigned to trouble they expect trouble and they expect that a good number of their children will get into difficulties.
You said that this pattern of allowing children to do anything has developed since World War 1. Why when I would be ok me when your own would be OK many American parents gave up. They give them large houses in which they have these wild parties. They gave them automobiles to go anywhere on the road and they still say. You're on your own and don't get pregnant. And this is an impossible way for adults to behave to create all the circumstances for trouble and be unwilling to take the onus of protecting their children for fear they may be a little bit unpopular for fear their children may be a little unpopular. Now it's gotten much worse since World War 2. Part of it is of course that young people are getting more and more cars which they didn't have before. This goes with prosperity. It goes with the new suburbs. It goes with a group of parents who didn't have
much money themselves maybe lived under very poor circumstances. They probably had a nickel to go and buy some candy and they're in a position to give their children cars in mink coats so they haven't any powder to fall back on except a memory of different deprivation themselves and a desire to indulge their children and also a desire to be accepted in the community and in. I imagine that this community is one which their own families. Who are exceedingly clannish and wealthy new families that aren't being accepted very well when they want their children to be accepted. They think they can buy exceptions for their children if they can't buy for themselves. I was particularly interested in that in the boy who was the good student on the football team who had a fine code for himself but didn't want it enforced on other people. But it was also very typical of what's developed in this
country among everyone. All kinds of people. They don't want to take the moral responsibility of objecting to anything. They're tolerant to the verge of being tolerant of all kinds of things and all sorts of behavior. And we found this pretty steadily in interviews that people who have quite exacting codes for themselves are utterly unwilling to take responsibility. They help keep other people straight. Dating has gotten much younger so it involves younger children children that will be inevitably breaking the law and a good proportion of the things that they do are laws or many of them are cake. It's our cake to let a boy of seventeen of the armed services refuse to let him buy beer. See this is nonsense and everybody knows it's nonsense. The result is that everybody can to break it. And as that girl said she they couldn't put anything about drinking in the code because it's against the law. Same thing is true in
this country about giving high school boys and high school boys in large cities where they need it very badly. Any information about venereal disease in the army. They would get it in school their little student still. And of course no one can consider the idea that they might have any sex life. So they're given no protection this is one of our pockets of venereal disease in the country. So that these young people are faced with tremendous contradictions in the laws around them. Under what conditions they can work drink join the army when they're responsible and when they aren't responsible it's a terrific model and it's not surprising that they respond to this model with a lot of behavior that scattered and provocative. One of the things they're trying to find out of course is what kind of a world they can live in and what kind of limits there are to it. And when the adults would really back them up they don't want to go to these lengths. Most of them they go to these lengths because the
parents and the school created an environment which dares them provokes them neglects them. And the result is that a certain number of them are caught in this and they suffer and of course the others suffer also. Whether or not given the limits of behavior in other words they're not told or their parents haven't the moral courage to give any limits. That's the truth. Other communities the parents have got together and it's not got together not to control the kids but to control each other. Because if you can see to it that there's not one parent that will leave the house and chaperoned it if you say to them if you do none of our children ever come to your house again and your children aren't coming to our children's parties period. In this in a week and it's been done in many parts of the countries the parents need rules here not the kids. The parents need
rules that will give them the moral courage to take responsibility for their children's lives. Next week our program focuses on Highland Park Illinois where teenage drinking led to tragedy. We'll hear what Highland Park has done about it. This was a program in the series coming of age produced for the National Educational Television and Radio Center by the Center for mass communication of Columbia University. The series is distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is Ben park. This is the end E.B. Radio Network.
Coming of age
Suburbia in dismay
Producing Organization
Columbia University
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Teenage drinking and fast driving continue despite parental interference. Includes an interview with Margaret Mead.
Series Description
Explores the thoughts and feelings of American youth in the 20th century. Writer-director Ben Park talks with teenagers and parents, teachers and friends.
Broadcast Date
Social Issues
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Director: Park, Ben
Interviewee: Mead, Margaret, 1901-1978
Producing Organization: Columbia University
Writer: Park, Ben
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-21-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:06
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Chicago: “Coming of age; Suburbia in dismay,” 1961-03-08, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 9, 2023,
MLA: “Coming of age; Suburbia in dismay.” 1961-03-08. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 9, 2023. <>.
APA: Coming of age; Suburbia in dismay. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from