Criss Cross – Cultural Studies

Being a high-school student in America

Teenagers enter high school at the age of 14 or 15 (9th grade). They have some credit requirements which they have to take during one school year to get a grade. But there are also some elective classes, which the students can choose based on their interests. With the 11th grade the junior year begins and students are expected to choose a college, a major or trade. The 12th grade, the senior year is less stressful than the year before, because college applications have been submitted and now all they have to do is wait. Therefore, it is often seen as the year to have a lot of fun.

Important leisure activities are, of course, sports like American football or cheerleading. It is very common that the games are huge social events, where everyone from the school shows up and supports the school team. Therefore the members of the squads are very popular in their school. The main characters of the book “Criss Cross”, Hector and Debbie, aren’t that interested in sports. Hector learns to play the guitar in his free time, Debbie likes to meet her friends and to think about love and friendship. But Debbie is also interested in Dan, a handsome guy of her school, who plays in the football team.

Another important step for American teenagers is to get their driving license. In contrast to Germany, American teenagers are allowed to drive at the age of 16, in some states even at the age of 15. It is a milestone moment that foreshadows impending adulthood and represents a new freedom, because they are able to transport themselves (and their friends), without the support of their parents. Many have their own car, so they can get where they want to at any time. Public transport is more common in the big cities (“What is the life of teenagers like these days in the United States?”). In America the car is a very important part of life and culture. It is the acme of convenience “always there, always ready, on no schedule but its owner’s”, this is what kept drivers hooked (“The Absurd Primacy of the Automobile in American Life”). In the book “Criss Cross” Debbie and her friends listen to the radio show “Criss Cross” in Lenny’s car. Through the spring and summer they spent almost every Saturday night listening to the radio in the truck. Therefore the car is also a meeting point for the clique. Later on Lenny shows Debbie how to drive, which is of use for her, when she has to drive the old lady to hospital.

In summer, there are several possibilities for teenagers: they can spend their time in a summer camp or they could earn money. Possible summer-jobs are camp counselor, golf caddy, salesperson, food service, internships, life guard, nanny, housekeeper landscaper or tutor. A (summer) job is a signal for teenagers that they are on their way to adulthood, because they earn their own money to pay for their activities, interests or to stash away for post-secondary schooling (“10 Great Summer Jobs for Teens”).

Another possibility is to go to a summer camp. It usually takes place in the summer months, since the American summer vacation lasts over two months. The “campers” can stay there for a week or several weeks and there are numerous activities for the teenagers to do there, for example: sports, drama, circus skills, cooking or outdoor activities and adventures. The camps are often located in wooded, remote areas because there is a lot of space to play. It is also very common that they have lakes or swimming pools at the camp (“About Summer Camp”). You can find some examples for summer camps here.

Look here for further information:

Series: “Degrassi: Next Class” (2016) – life in High school (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGhToYZ8Js)

Movie: “Mean Girls” (2004) – life in High school (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAOmTMCtGkI)

Movie: “Bring it on” (2000) – cheerleading, American football (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pg0UYb8U2Dg)

Movie: “The Parent trap” (1998) – summer camp (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32WeiH4TrIY)

Sources:

Chapman, Melissa. “The Best Summer Camps in the U.S. for Kids With Unique Interests” She knows. Web. 18 july 2017. <http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/815115/top-20-summer-camps-in-the-us-1>

Humes, Edward. “The Absurd Primacy of the Automobile in American Life” The Atlantic. Web. 16 november 2017. <https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/04/absurd-primacy-of-the-car-in-american-life/476346/>

“About Summer Camp” USA Summer Camp. Web. 20 august 2017. <https://www.usasummercamp.co.uk/learn-about-camp/what-is-summer-camp/about-summer-camp>

“What is the life of teenagers like these days in the United States?” Quora. Web. 04 july 2017. <https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-life-of-teenagers-like-these-days-in-the-United-States>

“10 Great Summer Jobs for Teens” Forbes. Web. 18 july 2017. <https://www.forbes.com/sites/investopedia/2013/06/04/10-great-summer-jobs-for-teens/#27a379716e06>

Suburban America

“The suburb is an area where people live that is outside the center of the city” (Oxford Dictionary, p. 1544). In the 1950s the American Dream came true for many white Americans, when they left decaying cities to live in their own house in suburbia. In the preceding decades, there had been a mass exodus of African Americans from southern states to large urban centers in the North. Their hope was to find economic opportunities and greater social freedom there (“the great migration”). One result of this massive demographic shift was the flight of white urban inhabitants to the suburbs (“white flight”).

A man called William Levitt promoted suburban growth as no one else: he developed a plan for the mass production of houses. This is how it was possible to build about 36 houses per day, which made them very affordable. Most of these houses had two bedrooms, a bathroom and no basement. The kitchen was situated near the back of the house so mothers could keep an eye on their children in the backyard. Therefore there was only little variety in the communities, but, nevertheless many white Americans loved the chance to avoid the rent and dirtiness of the cities and to live in their own home. As the suburban area grew, fast food restaurants and shopping centers added to the convenience of suburban life (“Suburban Growth”). There was no longer any need to enter the city, because the suburban communities became social bubbles for white, middle class families and were considered to be the pinnacle of social success in the 1950s and 1960s in America.

The suburbs today tend to have more differences and are mostly larger than they were in the 50s. Also the stereotypical suburban family has changed; today we have multi-generational families and also different ethnicities. Furthermore, the role of the woman has changed a lot, too. Today women go to work as well and it is possible that the father stays at home during the day. “Though gender roles still persist, modern-day men are more comfortable than they used to be with embracing traditionally feminine jobs, such as cooking and cleaning” (“Stereotypes in Suburbia: 1950s and today”).

Today people live in the suburbs because of the lower population density and to avoid the dirtiness of the cities. Furthermore, the suburbs offer a kind of independence; inhabitants can live how they want to in their own houses and make their own rules. A reason to move to suburbs is that many companies move their business from the inside of the cities, to the outside (= the suburbs).

A specialty of the American suburbs, in contrast to other countries, is that in many other countries, especially in developing parts of the world, the suburbs are characterized with poverty and a higher population density than in the cities. In the developing parts of the world there is also often a lack of infrastructure in the suburbs, whereas the American suburbs have a well-developed infrastructure. Furthermore, they have a good connection to the city due to express highways (Stief, 2017). The single family houses are often interspersed with shopping malls or strip malls and office buildings (Clifford). But American suburbs have their problems, too: poverty and riots are no longer exceptions. Many of the old suburbs aren’t that attractive anymore and therefore, people move away to newer suburbs, which fulfil their needs. This makes some suburbs poorer than once they were (“A Planet of Suburbs”). But still the suburbs grow, about 90 percent of population growth occurred within the suburbs from 2001 to 2006. An important reason for that growth is that job growth occurred six times as quickly in the suburbs as in urban centers. So many people don’t have to commute from the suburban area to another or to the city centers because, there are many jobs in the suburbs as well. Also commuting is becoming less significant, with telecommuting jobs becoming more prominent. In view of this development, suburbs will probably continue to be a popular option for American habitation (Clifford).

Look here for further information:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gd4vrl1TYc the Suburbs in California in the 1950s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxXgS9wYGcQ the Suburbs today

Movie: “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M94yyfWy-KI

Movie: “American Beauty” (1999), Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ycmmJ6rxA8

Sources:

“A planet of Suburbs” The Economist. Web. 20 aug. 2017. <http://www.economist.com/suburbs>”

Clifford, Erin. “What is an Suburban Area?” People of our everyday life. Web. 10 jul. 2017. <http://peopleof.oureverydaylife.com/suburban-area-9489.html>

Stevenson, Angus. Oxford Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print

Stief, Colin. “An Overview of Suburbs”. ThoughtCo. 2017. Web. 10 jul. 2017. <https://www.thoughtco.com/overview-of-suburbs-1435799>

„Suburban Growth.” Ushistory.org. web. 28 jun.2017. <http://www.ushistory.org/us/53b.asp>

Zryan. “Stereotypes in Suburbia: 1950s and today”. Rollins. 2016. Web. 28 jun.2017. <http://social.rollins.edu/wpsites/thirdsight/2016/11/20/stereotypes-in-suburbia-1950s-and-today/>