Cover image for The ambitious generation : America's teenagers, motivated but directionless
The ambitious generation : America's teenagers, motivated but directionless
Schneider, Barbara L.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xiii, 321 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Format :


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HQ799.U65 S27 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Reveals that the modern teenagers are not only misdirected, but often very alienated. Shows how parents and teachers can take adolescents' admirable raw ambition and provide them with direction and social support.

Author Notes

Barbara Schneider is professor of sociology at the University of Chicago and senior social scientist at the National Opinion Research Center. She currently is the co-director of the Alfred P. Sloan Center on Parents, Children, and Work
David Stevenson served as a senior adviser to the deputy secretary of education, as the assistant director for social and behavioral sciences in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and as the deputy director of the National Council on Education Standards and Testing. He also held research and teaching positions at the University of Chicago, Stanford University, and Oberlin College

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Opposite ends of the child-rearing spectrum are presented in these two books: one about helping troubled teens cope with their problems; the other about preparing ambitious teens for a successful career. Ferguson looks at troubled teenagers whose parents are desperate enough to send them into the desert wilderness of southern Utah for 60 days of therapy. Trooping along with the instructors and participants in the Aspen Achievement Academy, Ferguson observes troubled teenagers bare their souls about an array of problems: drug addiction, promiscuity, eating disorders, suicidal feelings. What they all have in common is a failure to respond to more conventional therapy. Their parents stay behind and undergo therapy, while the teens (many against their will) are removed from the stresses that may be behind their problems. The therapy focuses on self-awareness (keeping journals and sharing entries with the group) and self-reliance. Ferguson details the lives and troubles of the teens and the backgrounds of the instructors, in a setting of tranquil beauty. Notwithstanding the lackluster image of today's youth, Schneider and Stevenson call the current generation "America's most ambitious teenage generation ever." They cite studies showing more teens expecting to graduate from high school and go on to college than in previous generations. But the authors find many with "misaligned ambitions" or no clear idea of how to achieve the ambitions they have. The authors draw interesting parallels between the social and economic conditions facing today's youth and those of the 1950s, when young people married earlier and could earn a comfortable living working in a more industrialized economy. The authors advise educators and parents on how to help youth align their ambitions with their educational training. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

Presenting a surprising portrait of American youth that contrasts with the conventional image of Generation-X slackers, this significant study finds that U.S. adolescents today are much more ambitious than teens of previous eras. More adolescents than ever expect to graduate from college, earn graduate degrees and become well-paid doctors, lawyers, judges, engineers, professors, architects, athletes or business executives. Yet their collective expectations are not reasonable, the authors assert, because they outstrip the projected number of such jobs in the year 2005. Schneider, a University of Chicago sociology professor, and Stevenson, senior adviser in the U.S. Department of Education, base their conclusions on the Alfred P. Sloan Study, a five-year national research project that tracked more than 8000 adolescents in the 1990s; the authors also analyzed major studies of youth from the 1950s through the 1980s. Compared with the 1950s generation, today's teens have fewer long-lasting friendships and spend more time alone; many remain in college more than four years, instead of leaping into marriage, parenthood and (for males) the working world directly after high school, as '50s teenagers did. Straightforward and accessible, the book provides a useful roadmap for parents and teachers who want to help students match their abilities and resources to educational opportunities and the job market. This worthwhile report should spark national debate and discussion. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Although todays is the most ambitious generation of adolescents yet, the authors of this book suggest that schools and parents are failing to channel these ambitions toward successful ends. Surprised by the 1988 U.S. Department of Educations longitudinal study A Profile of the American Eighth Grader, which showed that large numbers of teenagers in this country expect to go to college and work as professionals, Schneider, a professor of sociology at the University Chicago and senior social scientist at the National Opinion Research Center, and Stevenson, a senior advisor to the deputy secretary of education, followed the ways in which these ambitions wereor were notrealized. Using case studies and well-documented discussions, the authors cite the failure of families, high schools, and colleges to engender aligned ambitions in students, helping them to see which educational pathways are most consistent with their dreams. An interesting coincidence is the recent publication of The Harvard Entrepreneurs Club Guide to Starting Your Own Business (Wiley, 1999), a how-to manual for hopeful young entrepreneurs.Ellen Gilbert, Rutgers Univ. Lib., New Brunswick, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
1 Ambitious Adolescentsp. 1
Part I Voices from the 1950s and the 1990s
2 Imagining the Futurep. 15
3 Trying to Make It with a High School Diplomap. 56
4 The Importance of Aligned Ambitionsp. 79
Part II The Formation of Aligned Ambitions
5 Channeling Ambitions in High Schoolp. 113
6 Families and the Shaping of Aligned Ambitionsp. 141
7 Teenage Work and Internshipsp. 170
8 Being Alone and Being with Friendsp. 189
Part III Defining a Pathway
9 The Ambition Paradoxp. 215
10 Supporting the Development of Aligned Ambitionsp. 245
Appendix A The Alfred P. Sloan Study of Youth and Social Developmentp. 265
Appendix B Logistic Regression Modelsp. 269
Notesp. 277
Indexp. 309