The media loves negativity. Scaring people into thinking society is in decline is big business. Book, TV shows, newspapers, and web sites thrive on the negative. Twitter is abuzz about the latest celebrity death. Daytime TV shows mouthy, pregnant teens who don’t know who the father is. Tragedies like Columbine are publicized and discussed out of proportion to how often they happen.
The truth is, kids today are much more like Kristen Sturms and Emily Lanzilotta – two teens who organized a book drive for the Marion Correctional Institution library. A sergeant from the institution awarded them a certificate marking their achievement. You probably missed this as the lead story on TV news, or on the front page of the paper. Twitter trends never included their names.
Here are the facts: There are a record number of teens volunteering today – twice what it was 20 years ago. According to the NEA, 41% of teens read 15 or more books per year. Rates of drug use, violent assault, pregnancy, and drop-out rates have been declining for at least 10 years. In 1999, teen homicides were down 62% from 1990.
In the same period, rape is down 27%, STDs down 50%, and drunk driving is down 35%. The two biggest targets for punishment by adults are the only areas that are up: Smoking (Up 13%) and drug fatalities (11%).
Every generation thinks the following generation is out of control. Going back to Elvis, to long-haired hippies, to flappers in the 20s, each generation was alleged to be evidence of moral decay. Heck, DaVinci’s dad probably thought the world was in decline. Thankfully, the truth is much better, and the youth much brighter.