Tag: Jordan B Peterson

The Nature of the High School Hierarchy

By James Sweet III | United States

Hierarchies are naturally occurring, but the values that determine an individual’s placement in that hierarchy varies. The most peculiar of social structures is the one formed by the youth, whose brain is still developing. In high schools, students are often associated with groups, and those groups are placed above another group. These social structures vary according to location, like most social structures. Unlike other social hierarchies, this one is not reliant on wealth, race, or gender. Rather, the high school social hierarchy focuses on the acceptance of others.

The Structure

PBS compiled and analyzed research to determine what a high school social hierarchy typically looks like. The following is what they believe the average high school social structure looks like.

  • The “Very Popular Kids”: The athletic “alpha males” and the “queen bees”. They often have social skills and looks that make others more attracted to them. They are usually physically stronger than other students of their respective gender and may be more aggressive.
  • The “Accepted Kids”: The majority of high school students fall into this group. They are considered well known or popular and are smart and outgoing.
  • The “Average or Ambiguous Kids”: While not popular, they are also not unpopular. They are very common in friend groups.
  • The “Neglected Kids”: These students are often well-behaved students and achieve good or average grades, causing teachers to not give them special or extra attention. However, it does take them much longer to make friends, and they often do require or wish for some kind of attention from parents and teachers.
  • The “Controversial Kids”: They often have a mixed, mostly negative, reputation to their name. They may be nice with some weird habits or be bullies to kids while making others laugh with their sense of humor.
  • The “Rejected Kids”: These students are at the highest social risk. “Rejected Kids” are either submissive, meaning they withdraw themselves from social activities so as to not receive any attention, or aggressive, meaning they purposely act up or emotionally blow up if they are teased too much.

The Line of Acceptance

A student that belongs in any of the first three groups finds themselves above the “line of acceptance”. They are mostly accepted by their peers or are at least not considered unaccepted. Any students one of the last three groups are below the line. They are mostly not accepted by the majority of their peers.

The line is drawn between the “Average Kids” and the “Neglected Kids”. If you are on that line, you are, theoretically, perfectly balanced between acceptance and its opposite. The line is the halfway point towards total acceptance and domination of your school as well as complete isolation and “undesirable” status. One question arises from this: What causes one to rise or fall in this social structure?

The Aggressive Social Climb

As previously stated, the students at the top of the high school social hierarchy are likely to be more aggressive than their counterparts. In fact, a student is more likely to be aggressive if they above the line of acceptance and submissive if they are below the line of acceptance.

While you can have bullies that are beneath the line of acceptance, they are often found above the line. Some students below the line of acceptance undeniably are victims of bullying by either students in their same social status or by those above them. Those at the top of the social structure, however, face bullying and/or aggressive actions more commonly than one typically thinks.

In schools, students are taught that bullies are insecure or are mimicking their home life. This isn’t entirely true for all bullies. It may apply for the kids that are in the “Controversial” social status, but it likely isn’t the case for bullies that are on the top. Researchers from the University of California at Davis and Pennsylvania State sought to uncover the motives of bullying and found a possible answer.

Students at the top of the social hierarchy are aggressive and competing to become the king or queen of the school. In a conflict that occurs over the social climb, neither student is willing to back down. Students at the top of the social structure have more to lose than the average student. After all, a group of friends may revolve around one person, and they are very likely to defend that status as the center of their group, meaning that conflicts are usually started by those in the center and that the friends in the circle back up their “leader”.

Assuming you fit the social norms, the risk of victimization increases with your social status. Being at the top makes you a target. If you’re taken down or outdone and do nothing about it, that’s a guarantee that you are going to lose social status and your rival will gain your former place. If you continue to fall down the social ladder, there is less of a reason for those wishing to climb up to bully you.

Once a student is threatened, they are likely to undergo radical personal changes, either to prepare for the fall to the bottom or to prepare their retaliation. This conflict at the top does spill out to the social groups below them. If an aggressive alpha male drastically drops in social status, they may take their anger out on some submissive, lower status student who wishes no harm. There is little to gain from this, but it serves as an emotional vent for the fallen.

The Lesson

High school has a very tense environment. Students compete for grades and social status. So how does one ensure that they are not trampled during the stampede for the top?

One thing should be clear: do not change who you are as a person. You are a unique individual, and trying to conform yourself to the masses is a way to erode your identity.

It comes down to being able and willing to fight back. Do not initiate conflict, but do not avoid it if it comes your way. If you are willing to defend your own status, not only are you ensuring that you will stay at your current place in the hierarchy, you are also making it possible to shut an aggressive bully down and climb the ladder yourself. As Dr. Jordan B. Peterson said: “Stand up straight with your shoulders back.”

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Humanist Spirituality

Craig Axford | United States

In an Op-ed published in the New York Times last month, the philosopher Stephen T. Asma offered a defense of religion. I responded with an article of my own published here on Medium a day or two later.

Asma’s article had a somewhat provocative title: What Religion Gives Us (That Science Can’t). My primary beef with Asma’s argument wasn’t that he was wrong about religion’s emotional benefits so much as he seemed to be arguing there are no other means — or at least no better means — of providing them.

Asma is correct that however we get them, as a social species we require the things religion provides: community, meaning, and ritual among them. As I’ve reflected now and then upon the argument he laid out in his June 3rd Op-ed, it’s clear to me that whether we are religious or not, we will seek out means of meeting these needs to the best of our ability.

Unfortunately, when it comes to theological debates there’s something inherently problematic about how we frame the argument. There’s an either/or quality to it. Having been raised in a religious family, this quality of religious belief has been something I’ve had to wrestle with throughout my own life.

Atheism isn’t a belief system. It’s the absence of a belief in a very specific idea: the existence of a supernatural being or beings. By itself, this absence does not determine any particular personal moral code. The failure to believe that Zeus still lives somewhere on Mt. Olympus or Yahweh really did speak to Moses from a burning bush does not require one to take a relativistic or nihilist view either of human relations or the universe as a whole, let alone mandate a lack of concern for the well-being of others.

Atheism represents one end of a spectrum. It’s a spectrum that is when we get right down to it, rather uninteresting in its dualism. On the other end is a belief in a god or gods and in between there is a short space occupied by doubters that lean one way or the other along with a fair number who don’t really have an opinion on the subject and don’t care to develop one. No matter how much any of the partisans in this fight may think otherwise, nowhere along this short line is the really important questions about human well-being, ethics, political philosophy, or science successfully resolved by any of the answers people give to the question of whether or not there’s a god.

 If we’re being honest, the question of God’s existence is a rather annoying distraction. It is, after all, an unanswerable question. If it were answerable it wouldn’t be a matter of faith but one of science. If certain practices or customs work to enhance human well-being, then we should strive to understand the reasons they work and to duplicate and perfect them to the greatest degree possible. If certain actions reduce suffering and improve our individual/collective quality of life, then we should laud them and seek to incorporate them into both our lives and our societies. This is a rule of thumb that shouldn’t be controversial to either believers or non-believers.

In a recent episode of the NPR program The Hidden Brain entitled Creating God, host Shankar Vedantam explored some of the current research surrounding religion’s origins and benefits. The broadcast featured University of British Columbia psychologist Azim Shariff. Though Stephen Asma’s name never comes up, Shariff generally agrees with his assessment of many of the benefits religion provides. But Shariff views religion from the longer perspective of biological and cultural evolution. As a result, the program ends with him pointing out that many of the functions religion once served have recently been taken over by other institutions.

We’ll sacralize ideas like freedom. We’ll sacralize our nation. We’ll sacralize the flag. And in terms of the governmental institutions that can spread trust, one of the interesting things you see is that if you look across countries, those countries that report having the least importance of religion to their daily lives are the countries that have the highest faith in the rule of law. So those are the places where you trust institutions like the bank, or contract enforcement, or the police, or the justice system.

Once you can set up those types of trusted secular institutions, well that obviates the need for a lot of what religion has done. Now, it’s only been in recent years that we’ve been able to have those types of centralized effective institutions, and still in most parts of the world we’re not able to. But, in those places where we are, we see ourselves moving towards a post-religious world where a lot of the functions of religion are accomplished by other means and potentially better means. ~ Psychologist Azim Shariff on NPR’s Hidden Brain, July 16, 2018 (Emphasis added)

Given the human tendency to sacralize objects, symbols, rituals, and beliefs is hardly restricted only to religion, we shouldn’t be surprised other institutions can take its place. Political ideologies, nationalism, pieces of art, stirring music, and even scientific theories are all examples of things that humans have, for better or for worse, sanctified and ritualized. That most biologists have the same visceral response to attacks on evolution as orthodox believers have when faced with challenges to their literal interpretation of scripture is not an indication that both are equally valid descriptions of reality. But it does demonstrate that whatever humans attach meaning to will become emotionally salient to at least some extent.

“I have never come across a coherent notion of bad or good, right or wrong, desirable or undesirable that did not depend upon some change in the experience of conscious creatures,” Sam Harris wrote in Waking Up: A guide spirituality without religion. The idea that we could create a moral philosophy that justified itself on anything other than its actual or foreseeable impacts upon us or other creatures similar enough to us for us to imagine how they would feel is, if we stop to think about it, patently absurd. As Harris points out later in the same paragraph, “If you think [particular] actions are wrong primarily because they would anger God or would lead to your punishment after death, you are still worried about perturbations of consciousness…”

That morality is grounded primarily in our experience is a fundamental tenet of what is commonly referred to as Humanism. The humanist label has been attached to a number of periods and philosophies, but the emergence of what we commonly understand as humanism today is best seen in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment periods.

As the political philosopher Larry Siedentop argues in his 2014 book Inventing the Individual, “Any set of basic assumptions opens up some avenues for thought, while closing down others.” Siedentop goes on to state that the Christian emphasis on the importance of each soul rather ironically paved the way for the individualism that became central to what eventually developed into modern secular humanism.

It was precisely this initially Christian and later secular regard for the dignity and worth of the individual upon which modern democratic societies are built. It provides a blueprint for all contemporary societies to follow as they hopefully move toward greater freedom in the future. However, while theism can exist within a humanist framework, humanism cannot exist within a theocratic one. In a pluralistic society humanism already rules the day because pluralism is a humanist ideal.

Every mainstream tradition existing within a modern pluralistic context has necessarily sacralized the individual. Each person, no matter where they are along the belief spectrum, relies upon their personal right to determine for themselves where they will stand and to express their reasons for standing there if they choose to do so. This sanctifying of the individual can readily be found within our churches as well as in conversations among secular humanists.

From a purely humanist perspective, the challenge isn’t how best to articulate the dignity and rights of the individual but how to incorporate religion’s commitment to the community into its ethos without sacrificing its core principle. Enshrining freedom of religion into law didn’t just enable heretics to break away and speak their mind without risking punishment. It also enabled worshipers to willingly commit themselves to a religious community, with all the personal sacrifices that often entails, while still maintaining that doing so was an expression of their own individual freedom.

Humanism as a philosophy places a number of intellectual demands upon those that embrace it: an appreciation for the scientific method, healthy skepticism, and a degree of openness to uncertainty. However, in practice, it has struggled to replicate the structured setting and ethic of mutual support religion has historically been good at.

As is pointed out in the Hidden Brain episode Creating God mentioned above, the threat of punishments such as eternal damnation does play an important role in sustaining membership in religious organizations and motivating followers to adhere to the moral codes their religion promotes. Humanists, on the other hand, believe that people should do the right thing not because they desire a future reward or fear a future punishment, but because there are reasons that we can identify for doing the right thing. Those reasons follow from the consequences of the actions in question and can be evaluated both objectively as actual physical or emotional impacts on ourselves and others, and subjectively in terms of how we would feel if we were on the receiving end of the action.

Humanists and other secularly minded people are organizing themselves into communities in greater numbers, though membership lags far behind anything seen in most religious denominations. American humanists first began seriously organizing themselves in the 1920s. The humanists responsible for starting what became the American Humanist Association emerged from the Unitarian tradition at that time. For its part, Unitarianism represented the first religion to formally embrace the Enlightenment values many of us take for granted today, but remains relatively small as religions go.

Unitarian ministers and humanists organizing regular meetings of like-minded individuals could be forgiven for sometimes wishing eternal damnation was available to them to hold over a membership that too often chooses to sleep in on Sunday mornings. But humanism’s success shouldn’t be measured in membership numbers or attendance statistics. Humanism’s greatest accomplishment is the variety of museums, concerts, non-profit organizations, political beliefs, and religious choices now available for billions of people around the world to choose from.

Humanism does not require people to give up a belief in a supreme being or other “supernatural” powers. However, it does set aside such beliefs as meaningless to our attempts to address life’s most fundamental challenges and enhance our understanding of reality. As Azim Shariff pointed out, as societies provide greater economic security and a longer menu of activities and ideas for people to choose from, the emotional needs that religion once met can increasingly be satisfied via other means. As more and more communities develop around causes and pursuits in the secular realm that fulfill our desire to find meaning and form communities, the types of demands religions place upon individuals as a condition for membership will make it harder and harder for them to compete.

The sense of wonder we often describe as spirituality can also be readily evoked listening to a symphony, viewing an awe-inspiring work of art, at the local natural history museum, in solitude or with others watching a beautiful sunset, or even lost in conversation with friends at the local coffee shop. Imposing a religious doctrine or highly ritualized behavior upon these pastimes simply isn’t necessary to receive many of the benefits Asma and others argue religion provides.

What religion has been able to give us that humanism can’t effectively deliver is the illusion of membership in a chosen tribe. In addition, with membership in a particular faith has come the assurance of comfort during periods of suffering and loss. However, whether we’re believers or not the price we are each increasingly required to pay in return for the benefits of living a modern secular society is greater personal responsibility. The role of providing for each other is now not only the proper moral stance of the individual as a person in their own right but the proper civic role of the citizen within a much larger national/global cosmopolitan community. This is true not because we will receive some heavenly reward in exchange but because regardless of our personal religious beliefs or nationality we all benefit right here on earth from such mutual concern and cooperation.

For the first time in human history, we must find within ourselves the motivation to care for each other rather than relying upon promises of heaven or threats of hell to do the heavy ethical lifting that comes with being born human. Likewise, mere assertions that a divine being has dictated a moral code is no longer sufficient in a pluralistic setting where others often don’t share the same religious beliefs. Within societies aspiring to provide greater freedom to their people morality must rest upon reason. That’s a heavier burden than we’re used to carrying, but one lightened by the shared humanist conviction that our individual right to choose what we will believe and how we will pursue fulfillment is only guaranteed by our willingness to recognize everyone else’s right to do the same.

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71R Book Review: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

By Mason Mohon | UNITED STATES

Jordan Peterson is academia’s rockstar, or at least the closest it has ever had to one. I don’t know who said that first, it certainly was not me, but I agree with them wholeheartedly.

Just as I spend months anticipating an album release from my favorite rockstars, I spent months anticipating the release of 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos. As soon as I saw it on Amazon, I pre-ordered it instantly, and for a teenage fella such as I, a few months is a large portion of my lifetime.

I received the book in the mail the day of release and jumped right in, hoping to get as much as I could from it, ready for every last Petersonian rabbit trail. I was not disappointed, but love of Jordan aside, would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. But why? Well, that is what this review is about.

What You Get

12 Rules is a good size book, and I mean that in a physical sense. It is a hardcover with what I would call an aesthetic cover design, very simple, and straight to the point. Its covered in arrows, which seems to symbolize the chaos of life – we are always looking where each arrow points, and we need to sort it out. For a hardcover its size, it seems to be a bargain considering its Amazon price.

The book is nicely formatted, with each chapter having a noticeable barrier in between and each line justified to the edge of the page (yes, I have read books that didn’t have that). Chapters range in size, with the longest in my estimation being the eleventh (Don’t Bother Skateboarding Children), amounting to about fifty pages.

Content-wise, it is perfect for anyone who enjoys Peterson Lectures. If you watch JBP’s content on a regular basis, there are very few foreign concepts within the book. It does not have very much on the political battle he faces against bill C-16, nor does it go very deep into the topics he covers in his Biblical lectures, but I saw it as a wrapping of pretty much all of his more mainstream-known views.

The Content of the Book

When reading the book, I expected it to go ankle deep on each of the topics. For example, I expected most of the chapters to focus mostly on the scientific benefits of each rule, but boy was I wrong. Mr. Peterson enjoys speaking of archetypes so I do not know why I expected nothing less.

The topics flow very well, too. All of the chapters will jump from personal anecdote to ancient literature to psychological fact pretty much seamlessly. At some points, I thought that there was no way whatever archetype being discussed was going to relate back to the rule, but to my surprise it did. Every time. It would quite literally leave me laughing.

Each chapter is applicable to your own life and is very engaging. The first half or so is very lighthearted, but I began to pick up on some much heavier and much more important points later in the book, especially when things like Soviet death camps or the Columbine shooters are brought up.

It is a relentless book, constantly reminding the reader that life is suffering, but not to lose hope, for meaning can be found in this life, and nihilism is never the answer.


I have been asked a few times how it compares to his other book, Maps of Meaning. Admittedly, I have not read Maps of Meaning in its entirety, but I have read a fair amount. 12 Rules is much much less academically geared. MoM seems to be ready for a scholarly psychology audience, while 12 Rules is ready for anyone to pick up and read. It is easier, and it can connect to your own life, to a greater degree than his other book does.

Many concepts are brought up but may need a little bit of prior knowledge, particularly when it comes to psychology. Freud, Jung, general psychoanalysis, and a bit of behaviorism is brought up with little explanation, but it is a psychological text, and any Peterson follower should already be familiar with such concepts. For a non-Peterson follower, this is not a deal breaker. They are simple concepts that can easily be inferred about, and a quick Google search is always available as an option.

Should You Read It?

If you like to watch Jordan Peterson’s lectures, no doubt.

If you are completely unfamiliar with Dr. Peterson, you should still read it. It is not a hard book to read, and it can introduce a lay audience to many in-depth and complicated concepts easily.

The text is affordable, so I see no reason why you would not add this to your library. Peterson’s book is a trove of knowledge and wisdom, so it is perfect for any individual seeking to sort themselves out.