When our children attend school parents are in immediate competition with the ‘cool’ kids for influence. It can be a tough battle. At other times, it is hard to watch your children facing the rejection that comes with not being part of the school’s ‘in’ group.
A new study is showing that being ‘cool’ in school does not translate into success when you are older.
The study conducted by Psychology professors Joseph Allen and Hugh Kelly from the University of Virginia found that kids perceived to be ‘cool‘ in their early teens lost much of their sheen by the time they reached their early 20s.
In their study, published in the Journal of Child Development, the researchers followed 184 13-year-old teens (grades 7 and 8) for ten years until they were age 23.
They found in the early teen years ‘cool’ kids gained their popularity by hanging around with the good-looking kids at the schools.
The ‘cool’ kids also acted older than they really were, which their peers found strangely appealing. This included earlier participation in romantic relationships, smoking and alcohol. The ‘cool’ group also engaged in other delinquent activities to gain popularity such as skipping classes.
As this group aged and their peers began to join them in some of these activities, to keep up their status, the behavior of the ‘popular’ kids had to become more extreme to maintain their ‘cool’ reputation.
The researchers stated:
“It appears that while so-called cool teens’ behavior might have been linked to early popularity, over time, these teens needed more and more extreme behaviors to try to appear cool, at least to a subgroup of other teens.”
Once in this downward spiral, by the time they were in their early 20s, the researchers found that many of this once ‘cool’ group were now involved in serious criminal activity as well as significant drug and alcohol usage.
At this point, many of their friends were now looking down upon their former ‘cool’ classmates.
The researchers said:
“The previously cool teens appeared less competent — socially and otherwise — than their less cool teens by the time they reached young adulthood.”
Was Jesus part of the ‘cool’ crowd?
We don’t have a lot of Bible verses that show Jesus’ early life, but we do have hints here and there. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet seems to discuss what it was like for Christ as He was growing up. We see those early years referenced in the first line where it speaks of Jesus growing up like a ‘tender shoot’:
V 2 “For He grew up before him like a tender shoot
And like a root out of parched ground He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon him Nor appearance that we should be attracted to him (Isaiah 53:2 NASV)
Two things show up: First the phrase “root out of parched ground,” suggests a life of poverty. Being from the other side of the tracks, Jesus wasn’t wearing Nike shoes or the latest designer clothes to school.
The second thing Isaiah points out about Jesus’ childhood is that “He hath no stately form” or appearance “that we should be attracted to Him.” He did not have the James Dean type of good looks and quite frankly Jesus didn’t gather a crowd when He showed up. The kids were not attracted to him like the ‘cool’ kids.
Like every school, Nazareth had its ‘in’ crowd and Jesus was not part of this group.
Hebrews 5:8 sums up these early years, when it says, “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered.”
So Jesus wasn’t ‘cool’ during His teen years, but He did go on to change the world. And as for the ‘cool’ kids in Nazareth, we never hear of them.