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Youth And Values Essay, Research Paper

BIBLIOYouth and Values

In an attempt to challenge societal values, youth cultures, in the form

of rebellion, act and dress radically and form groups in protest. These

dissident actions against the structure of existing society promotes the

beginning of new small groups which reflect their own rules, structures,

class, gender and ethnic ideologies. So, the youth culture, in challenging

societal values, at the same time is reflecting them.

In comparing Margaret Mead’s young adults in Coming of Age in Samoa to

Russian youth it is evident where the differences arise. The Samoans

strong cultural values leave little need for individual expression.

Expectations of the children change as they get older. They know what

is expected of them and want to follow the rules.

In contrast, the youth in the Soviet Union, live in a culture of

confusion. They feel constricted by the laws of the society, see families

collapsing around them, and believe things should change. They want to be

individuals and they want to live by their own values and ideas. Many come

from broken homes and poor communities with little respect for authority.

They rebel against what they feel is an unjust society and look for a

culture or group that they can identify with.

Often society depicts these groups as dangerous, deviant and

delinquent. These groups, however, just show many of the valued structures

of society, but in a more radical way. They have a standard code of dress,

values, ethics and rebel in order to force their ideas onto the public and

to feel part of a recognizable group.

Margaret Mead noticed little individual differences among the Samoans.

“We have seen that the Samoans have a low level of appreciation of

personality differences” (Mead, 1973, 161). The Samoan’s strong cultural

and family traditional values do not allow for individualism. In

comparison, Soviet youth express their individualism through youth cultures

such as punk, ‘metallist’ hard-rock groups and “golden youth”. Although

they feel they are expressing individuality through these groups, they are

actually fitting into different structures, values and in fact, a totally

different societal group.

Soviet society is concerned about what these youth cultures stand for,

in particular the ‘metallist’ hard-rock groups. “They hate and despise our

whole system, all our values. That’s why they’re dangerous, and why I’m

pessimistic about the future” (Wilson, 1988, 22). In their defence, Alexei

Kozlov, a member of a band, “extolled the virtues of heavy-metal rock.” He

said it was “an emotional outlet for underprivileged and unemployed young

people…to work out their resentment…if we forbid this music, they will

display their aggressiveness in other forms” (Traver, 1989, 1991).

In combining their musical talents with their rebellion against an

unjust society, these groups find an outlet for their anger and combine

with others having the same interests. They work together with a goal

similar to normal society groups.

Over the centuries the importance of the extended family, in Russia,

has decreased considerably. At one time the family included grandparents,

aunts, uncles and cousins and it was more important than the society in

which it lived. The children were protected and controlled from outer

forces by this large family with strong religious, cultural and family


Similarly, the Samoan children share this strong value system. The

longer the child is kept in controlled state, the more of the general

cultural attitude it will absorb and the less of a disturbing element it

will become (Mead, 1973, 163).

In recent years, with Russian urbanization, family has become limited

to parents and their children. They have more material goods but lose out

socially and emotionally (Wilson, 1988, 28). From a young child nursery

schools or kindergarten have taken over previous parental obligations. The

schools help them do morning exercises. It feeds them, takes them out for

walks, puts them to bed, teaches them to keep things tidy, paint, model,

read, write, sing and dance. It also teaches them to be kind, considerate

and honest, organizes parties for them, and takes them for health check-ups

(Vishneva, 1984, 161). While the biological parents work, the state

educational system becomes a new “parent” to the child. The close

relationship between child and parent no longer exists, however, “the state

sees the family as respon-sible for the children’s welfare and for

instilling in them behaviour acceptable to the existing social norms. The

broken family is seen as a factor in juvenile delinquency. Good citizens

are obligated to “monitor the political conscience of family members,

especially that of children” (Shlapentokh, 1988, 34).

Another negative aspect of the decline in family life is the rising

incidence of divorce which is said to be caused by sexual incompatibility,

inadequate housing, infidelity and a high rate of alcoholism (Traver, 1989,

64/65). These all leave the child confused, feeling alone and angry at

society. He then looks for ways to express himself and usually finds it in

a youth group culture with similar concerns.

The Samoan villages have a very strong system of discipline, respect

and authority. Villages contain thirty to forty households each presided

over by a head man with chiefly titles. They are the official orators,

spokesmen and ambassadors and are responsible for all the members of their

household. Everyone else in the household has authority according to their

age, even the adolescent (Mead, 1973, 42/43). From the age of four or five

years old, Samoan children perform definite tasks according to their

strength and intelligence and which have a meaning in the structure of the

whole society (Mead, 1973, 164). This gives a feeling of self-worth and

shows that everyone is a valued member of the community.

In contrast, Russian youth have no control over others and little

control over their own lives. Soviet society stresses more importance on

society and the current political regime. They see social interests as

much more important than individual ones. Personal interests must always

be sacrificed if in conflict with societal interests (Shlapentokh, 1988,

19). Youth coming from broken homes and living in a society which gives

them little freedom, look for ways to show their discontent with authority.

“Mocking the police has become the Moscow rockers’ favourite game. Another

kick was to taunt the Militia…have drunken parties, group sex” and hire

young prostitutes (Wilson, 1988, 138).

Many informal groups were organized in Russia in the late 1980’s,

especially in the working class districts. Young people who were not always

welcome in official clubs found it necessary to form their own clubs to

combat loneliness and reveal their reactions against a world of

over-organization. They want to make contact with one another as human

beings and do something “real” (Wilson, 1988, 139).

The influence that Western culture has had on the youth of the Soviet

Union has been a source of worry for the political leaders. Western

culture is seen as “shallow and harmful to Soviet youth” It lures the

“young away from rich communist ideals”. Seen as “untidy” and “vulgar”,

“Soviet rockers were given an ultimatum: clean up or break up”. Some

groups went underground, others conformed to official approval and found

themselves confined and suffocated, “their lyrics purified and their

costumes polite”. Official rock music was then easier to control and

supervise. One of the sanctioned groups played in a youth club of a

working-class suburb of Moscow. Some of the fans wore clothes with foreign

labels and were known as “golden youth”. They were children of the elite

who had travelled and brought home Western goods. Some punks wore black

leather jackets and had splotches of pink and orange hair. They and many

others in the audience knew the “taboo” words, to the Beatles’ songs, which

the band were not allowed to sing as total artistic freedom was not allowed

(Traver, 1989, 190/91).

The Soviet educational system’s most important goal is the teaching of

collectivism (kollektiv). Students learn that improving society is more

important than self well-being which is selfish and not for the good of the

whole. “Children are not praised for being different from their

classmates; rather, they are told that it is impolite to show off what they

know…Games also emphasize the group rather than the individual…the

concept of uniformity dominates almost all of their lessons.” They begin

kindergarten at three or younger and are subjected to strict military-type

discipline and collective behaviour. At nap time, which is for one and one

half hours, they are forbidden to get up, even to go to the washroom

(Travers, l989, 8).

The Samoan education system allows a child to learn at its own pace.

While the slow, laggard and inept are coddled, brighter students are

allowed to display their individuality through dance which allows a

“blatant precocious display”. This allows the bright child to drain off

some of the discontent they feel. They live in a peaceful, complacent

society in which the hot climate dictates a slower pace (Mead, 1973, 162).

Although religions such as Russian Orthodox, Moslem, Judaic and

Lutheran are recognized by the Russian government, they are under strict

control. They see attendance at church and religious rituals as

politically disloyal acts (Shlapentokh, 1988, 124/25). Schools advocate

parental attendance in after-school lectures encouraging atheism. Schools

publish atheist magazines which mock religion and say that “religion is

poison”. History classes teach that Christianity started wars, killed

millions and oppressed the masses. The young are taught that religion is

only for the old. This causes confusion for many young children who grow

up with religious instruction from grandparents and then come home to a

family divided on religion and attend schools that ridicule it. Many

families have Christian mothers and atheist fathers which caused arguments

and alienation in the home (Traver, 1989, 172-74). Coming from such an

unstable background, they find security and stability in a youth group with

their own ideas.

Another form of confusion for young soviets is the lack of discussion

in the home about sex. Parents and teachers feel that talking about sex or

contraceptives would likely encourage early sexual relations. Often this

psychology backfires and many teenagers start sex without their parents

knowledge. Their inexperience often leads to pregnancies which are

terminated by abortions. In fact, the Soviet Union has one of the highest

abortion rates. Although abortions have been legal since 1955, the State

clinics are intimidating. No one talks to the patient, she is one of a

faceless stream and often she gets no anaesthetic. There is a lack of

confidentiality as it is impossible to have an abortion without one’s

employer knowing. “It is possible that the cruelty of the System is

intended to teach women a lesson”. Hundreds of thousands of women have

pregnancies terminated elsewhere (Wilson, 1988, 201). This system leaves

the young adult humiliated and angry at society. A youth culture may offer

the freedom and confidence that society does not.

In contrast, “the Samoan child faces no such dilemma. Sex is a

natural, pleasurable thing (Mead, 1973, 148). “When a Samoan woman wants

to avoid giving birth to a child, exceedingly violent massage and the

chewing of kava is resorted to, but this is only in very exceptional cases

as even illegitimate children are enthusiastically welcomed” (Mead, 1973,

118). This cultural attitude relieves the stress of guilt on the young

adults and they still feel they are a valued member of the tribe.

Self esteem is important for the young adult, but the Soviet youth

often find themselves lacking in it. There are several reasons for this.

The collective ideal has the stronger and smarter students take care of the

weaker. This can lead to cruelty and rejection and children are often

subjected to humiliating interference in their private affairs. One

student was humiliated in front of the whole class for having a “modern”

hair-cut. Another, although pregnant, wanted to continue her studies at

night school. She was treated like a delinquent and reprimanded for “loose

behaviour” (Wilson, 1988, 47/48).

Russian schools often cover up scandals to preserve their good name.

In one instance Sasha Traskin was so badly beaten by bullies that he had to

be hospitalized and the whole school board smothered the affair. In a

collective, the failure of one pupil becomes a failure of the whole

collective and the feeling of guilt is very strong. To avoid this,

teachers often fix marks to cover up what should be seen as an “alarm

signal” to help the child. This results in arguments about who is

responsible for the discipline of the child, the parents or the school.

The child is left in total confusion as to who he should obey (Wilson,

1988, 48). The lack of firm rules and guidance leave the child uncertain

about what is right or wrong and leaves him or her with a strong guilt that

lowers self esteem. This self esteem is often rebuilt through contact with

youth groups having similar interests to the student.

The Samoan youth is taught to obey any elders, no matter who they are.

Proper behaviour is standard throughout the tribe and there are no doubts

about a child’s upbringing. Also the youth has the authority to chastise

anyone younger than themselves which gives them a sense of self-worth

(Mead, 1973, 43).

It is interesting that it seems most human beings not only need to be

in a social group, but, one that accepts him or her as they want to be.

The Samoans and the Russians have some very close similarities. The Samoan

tribe and the Soviet Political party both try to keep decision making to a

minimum. Both have little regard for Christian beliefs and try to control

their people with strict guide-lines. The differences, which seems to make

all the difference in the world, is that everyone in Samoa has the exact

same guide-lines to follow, everyone has some authority over others and

individual decisions about one’s own life are respected by the others.

This seems to show that self-esteem is a very important ingredient in a

person’s life. Without it people rebel, with it there is no need to.

Samoan’s have no problem searching for a place in society where they

feel comfortable and possess self esteem. They are allowed much more

freedom than larger societies. Girls, for instance, are allowed to decide

in whose family they should live. She can live with an uncle or father and

her choice raises no ethical problems. Her decision is taken as a personal

matter. Others will understand that her choice was for perfectly good

reasons, perhaps the food was better, she had found a new lover or had

quarrelled with an older one. The choice was easy because she was never

asked to make a choice involving a rejection of the standards of her social

group (Mead, 1987, 149/50).

In searching for a place to belong, Russian youths look for a culture

they can feel comfortable with. Although rejecting formal society and

parental authority, they end up in a group that still has rules to follow.

Each particular youth culture has its own style of clothing and hair.

Members must conform to these styles as well as to the “political” values

of the group. In essence, these groups become rooted in a social system of

their own. Although often radical, they reflect what they are challenging.


Mead, Margaret. Coming of Age in Samoa. New York: Dell

Publishing Company, Inc., 1973.

Shlapentokh, Vladimir. Public and Private Life of the

Soviet People. Changing Values in Post-Stalin Russia.

Oxford: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1989.

Traver, Nancy. Kife. The Lives and Dreams of Soviet

Youth. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989.

Vishneva-Sarafanova, N. The Privileged Generation:

Children in The Soviet Union. Union of Soviet

Socialist Republics: Progress Publishers, 1984.

Wilson, Andrew and Bachkatov, Nina. Living With

Glasnost. Youth and Society in a Changing Russia.

London: Penguin Books, 1988.

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