Sometimes antediluvians such as I mistake form for substance. Youth that sport piercings in their eyebrows, noses or tongues get my attention. I find myself wanting to remove the facial jewelry or I find myself just staring. It is as though they have a live rat on their faces instead of jewelry. I suppose this is a litmus test for how old I am. I suppose one could conclude that youth who would wear jewelry in their noses might think differently than the rest of us; wrong!
In the just released State of the Nation's Youth report, teens listed their top issues. The economy and jobs were their top priority. The War in Iraq was second. Sound familiar? The environment was third, education fourth, health care fifth, terrorism sixth, civil liberties seventh and moral values eighth.
Youth in spite of their facial piercings, blue hair or penchant for wearing pants that show their underwear are a lot more similar in their thinking than most of us imagine. 75 percent say that it matters to them who wins the presidential race. Teens say that family members are their heroes and role models by quite an impressive measure. Entertainers and sports stars are both down from the 2005 survey.
One issue that does separate teens from many adults is the world that they experience on the internet. 85 percent say they are entertained online while 78 percent utilize the internet to complete homework assignments and to find information. Bullying is an issue on the minds of teens and 30 percent say they have been bullied online and 54 percent have been bullied offline.
93 percent say they are confident about their own success in achieving individual goals. Teen's optimism about the future of the country has declined by 22 points to 53 percent since the last survey.
If you look around you, relatively few teens do opt for piercings or other style expressions that set them apart. This is not necessarily a good or bad thing; rather it is a benign expression of style. If you find yourself making sweeping generalities about youth based on atypical youth such as those mentioned, think again. Our collective values have been transported across generations and youth embrace the same basic values that their parents, grandparents and great grandparents embraced.
I remember a fellow I golfed with many years ago; plaid pants pulled up to his neck, white shoes, a white belt and a beret. Given this vision, maybe facial piercing is not so strange after all.
Remember, all kids count.
Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org