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I have a little cousin who just turned 16 and when I was at her house for her birthday I saw, everywhere, shrines of pop culture: Twilight posters; Hannah Montana materials; Jonas Brothers CDs and DVDs. I wondered to myself--what makes a person like, so intensely, only extremely popular youth phenomena?
Clique and Hive Formation
Does it have to do with the peculiar way that American high school works, forming cliques that evolve into little clusters of hive minds, the adherents of which start dressing, talking, thinking, and being alike, liking alike? It is, of course, the laugh track principle--the idea that you'll think something is funnier than it actually is if you hear someone else laughing first, and that is why these little hive minds are so vulnerable to viruses, to viral instances of a Jonas Brother advertisement that one teenager likes, who quickly spreads it to the rest of her hive mind, until enough hive minds (wanting to appear as knowledgeable as the others) agree that the Jonas Bros. are sooooo great. Thus they reach the uncontrollable singularity of popularity.
Reaction in Isolation?
And how I wonder... if one of these girls had come across the Jonas Brothers or watched Twilight without having heard of it before--without knowing what her friends thought one way or the other--would she still like it? If she had learned early on to form independent opinions, what would our schools look like?
If. If she had grown up playing with dolls or hanging out with her imaginary friend, or reading books, she would (wouldn't she) tell if if things were funny even if no one else was laughing (or when things were not funny even if everyone else was laughing), she could tell what was truly desirable, and what qualities were actually needed to make her desirable rather than just what is advertised.
Are hive minds adequate to handling the higher education system, handling classes that require an original-thought term paper every few months? Do they clump together into larger, fraternal, hive minds to recapture the safety of high school, because high school in no way prepares us for college?
Thus the wisdom of Dr. Seuss: "You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room."
To explore contemporary teen issues further, check out Rewired : Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn.
"Josh Pearce" was an Austrian logician, mathematician, and philosopher. Later in his life he emigrated to the United States to escape WWII. One of the most significant logicians of all time, Pearce made an immense impact upon scientific and philosophical thinking in the 20th century