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Community Education Journal

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The current folklore has it that teenagers are selfish, lazy, and undisciplined. The image of an apathetic, self-indulgent generation simply does not square with reality. It doe-s, however, mask the real youth problem in this nation. Former U.S. Commissioner of Education Harold Howe II (1981) captured it powerfully when he called American youth

an island in our society. The messsage it receives from the adult world is, "'We have no use in our economic system for you young people between the ages of 12 and 18, and precious little use in our community affairs. So we suggest you sit quietly, behave yourselves, and study hard in the schools we provide as a holding pen until we are ready to accept you into the adult world."

During our study of the nation's high schools (Boyer 1983), I became convinced that the problems of our schools are inextricably tied to this larger problem-the feeling on the part of many of our youth that they are isolated, unconnected to the larger world outside their classrooms. Again and again during our study. we met young people who saw little, if any, connection between what they were doing and learning in school and the communities in which they lived.