Sunday, March 16, 2008

Oh God, must I

take on Caitlin Flanagan yet again? Please, I'd rather not, I have better things to do, like meet my deadline. But I think I can take care of this quickly.

1) Data??? It is...where? One hypothetical anecdote and one statistic do not evidence make. Could it be that 16 year olds, the only group cited, no longer have licenses (and a drop of one half to one third is not exactly elimination...) because driving license rules have changed? If you gave me stats for 17, 18, 19 year olds, I might feel better, but to only give stats for 16 year olds makes me suspect you're covering up the rest.

2) My own anecdotes? Teenagers in Town and Next Town drive as soon as they can--I was just having a conversation on Friday about the pressure for teenagers to have their own car. And URBAN teenagers? POOR teenagers? They're not home with mom and dad; they're taking the bus.

3) Oops, that was really a third point: the continuing focus on middle and upper-middle class teenagers, which at least Flanagan acknowledges, severely limits the use-value of this kind of observation, except, of course, to readers of the New York Times.

4) And this one is maybe a critique of the Times, not Flanagan: there is absolutely nothing in this article that hasn't been said a million times over the last ten years (try Judith Warner archives, to start). Yes, we live in the era of helicopter parents. Yes, teen rebellion is no longer a given (though believe you me, it sure does still exist--of this I know). Yes, parents know about their teenagers' lives. AND WE KNOW THIS. Why are you telling us yet again, with a dollop of unverified driving information?

You know, the irony is that I actually agree with her overall assessment here. But her writing, my God, it makes me crazy. (As, of course, does her prominence.)


jackie said...

How about the article in the current NYT magazine about transgender students at elite women's colleges? Especially when there are transgender teens killed on the streets on NYC in the past few months and the Times barely covers those deaths? The elitist focus is so frustrating to me, especially because the writers are usually so good but are covering such minute slices of society.

Libby said...

and, well, you're right, the rules have changed in a lot of states. I did notice that here the kids weren't as desperate to drive right at 16 as I expected, but that is, as you note, a very small subset of very privileged kids. And, my goodness, Jackie is so right about the blindness in that transgender kids piece.