Friday, September 20, 2013

Peer Pressure: The Misdirected Focus

This is a question from a CosmoGirl quiz about whether you stick to your own values and beliefs vs. following the crowd (paraphrased, since I don't have the book with me right now):

Some friends ask you and another friend if you want to ditch the rest of the school day and go to the mall with them. You:
a. Tell them no, you don't want to ditch school.
b. Tell them you can't because you have a test next period, even though you don't.
c. Do whatever your other friend decides to do.

Anyone see the problem here?

This quiz was supposed to be about whether or not you follow your own beliefs, but this question assumes that you wouldn't want to skip school, that you would only ever do that because you got peer-pressured into it. But what if skipping school to go to the mall is something that you would do on your own, whether your friends came with you or not? Then by saying that no, you would actually be going against what matters to you and following other people's expectations!

I never cared about school or learning, and as long as I didn't have theatre class or play rehearsal that day, I would have loved to ditch school and do something fun. But I never would have, because I was following my parents' expectations by treating school like a priority even though I said countless times that school was NOT my priority. I would be facing much more disapproval from my parents and teachers if I skipped school than I would from my peers if I didn't skip school, especially if I gave them an excuse like I had a test that day. When stuff like this came up, I would sit in my boring class and be fuming, wishing I were the kind of person who could stand up against parental/societal pressures and do what I really wanted to do with my time.

Everyone told me that I would be happy that I made the decisions I made once I was older. Well, I'm much older now, and older doesn't make me stupider. Older doesn't make me feel okay about making the choices that were wrong for me. Nothing that I have achieved so far and CARED about has come from me doing all those things that were forced on me. And when you frame a question in the context of peer pressure being bad without acknowledging the other implicit pressures, you are actually encouraging people to make choices that are not in line with their own priorities.


  1. It does seem silly to have an option to just agree with your friend and not what you would do your self. I would think they should at lest include something like - yes I want to be with my friends. However it does not fit with the message the authors/publishers want to send out that school is good, and skipping is a bad. I see that they use the persons friend as a cop out as a reason to ditch school. Making sure the Quize taker feels less guilt.

    1. YES! When I publish my own quiz book, I definitely will not push the "school is good" message on my readers.