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Review of "Not Much Just Chillin'"

By Linda Perlstein
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2003
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Oct 13th 2003
Not Much Just Chillin'

Not Much Just Chillin' tells the stories of a number of children at a suburban Middle School in Columbia, Maryland.  Washington Post education reporter Linda Perlstein spent a year observing the lives both at home and at school of these eleven- to thirteen-year-olds, and manages to convey their rapidly changing thoughts and feelings.  Some of them come from two-parent families where they receive a great deal of encouragement along with pressure to succeed.  Other children come from homes with divorced parents and less consistent nurturing.  They live in a materialistic culture and they experience to a wide variety of temptations and images, often making them want to behave like high school students.  It is common these days to hear of middle school students engaging in sexual activity, drinking, taking drugs, and even getting pregnant, and most adults find such reports disturbing.  So Perlstein's attempt to shed light on what leads these children to act so differently from middle school students of previous generations deserves attention. 

Nevertheless, there are no surprising revelations in Not Much Just Chillin' about what children do nor about the influences on their actions.  Obviously, parents still play a crucial role, as do friends and teachers, and TV shows, computer games, and the Internet also have an effect.  Perlstein briefly discusses some of the psychological and neurological facts about development during puberty, and she addresses race and gender insofar as it relates to the children in her book.  What she provides best, however, is description rather than explanation.  It will probably make most readers glad that they do not have to go through those years again, and it may induce panic in parents alarmed about what their own children face.  Not Much Just Chillin' gives a clear picture of a slice of the life of some middle school children, but it will leave many readers wanting more sociological and historical comparisons to understand the transformations in the lives of these pre-adolescents.  While Perlstein does not attempt to tell parents or teachers how to solve all the problems that these children will face, she does make some recommendations that may seem like common sense but could be useful as reminders on how to give children the care and guidance they need. 


© 2003 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.

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