This I Believe

Bob - Kimball, Minnesota
Entered on June 20, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: children, hope
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This I believe

I believe in “kids these days.” A lot of trouble, and troubling notions, are attributed to kids these days, but there is another story.

It’s the story of a new generation, the next generation of young people, who aren’t anything like the picture that has been painted of them by the mainstream media. Today’s young people are in fact optimistic, confident, hard-working, smart and likely to reshape our nation and change its direction.

This isn’t just commencement-speech claptrap. The facts, often overlooked, point to young people who are scoring at historically high levels in SATs, ACTs and other standardized tests—especially in math and science. At the same time, kids these days register at historically low levels on the All Harmful Behaviors Index including: teen pregnancy, premarital sex, unsafe sex, smoking, drinking, illegal drugs…hell, even bad language is frowned upon by young people.

The nation has a bad habit it must break if it wants to welcome the next generation. We must wean ourselves from our addiction to negative stories about young people. We need to hold mainstream media responsible for their reporting, so when they run a story about binge drinking at the local university or promiscuous sex at the local high school, the report is also placed in the context of the factual, statistical reality of the trend.

It’s telling that a recent report from the CDC about young people and the decreasing levels of risky behavior among American youth got a lot more attention in the U.K. than it did here. I believe when we look at kids these days, we are looking in the wrong direction.

Look at your own children. And their friends. They are indicative of the larger trend, and it’s not what we get from the media. Watch them.

I do. I watch my stepdaughter and her interactions with her classmates. She is a special needs student, developmentally disabled, and mainstreamed in the schools. That means she has been going to school with the same group of young people, young people her age, for 11 years. They take care of Hope. They watch out for her, talk to her, include her when they can. That’s what “no child left behind” really means. And “kids these days” know that right down in their bones.

The country needs to change its mind about young people. The Generation X and Baby Boomer reporters and media leaders need to throw away their own generational prejudices and see the next generation—the Millennial Generation–in the clear light of its very promising future. Colonel Slade from the final speech from the movie Scent of a Woman could have been talking about the entire generation of young people when he said:

“You hold this boy’s future in your hands, Committee.

It’s a valuable future, believe me. Don’t destroy it. Protect it. Embrace it.

It’s gonna make you proud one day, I promise you.”