Youth today are facing many challenges that I faced as a kid and a number of new challenges. Since the 1950’s the number of single parent homes have increased exponentially. Today, over 15 million single parent homes are responsible for almost 30 million children.
I believe that a single parent can successfully raise children and I have known a number who have done so. It is certainly more difficult as single parent homes have substantially less money with which to support their children. This lack of family resource may lead to a much more difficult access to all levels of education especially college. In addition, a single parent may need to spend more time working and less time with the family. These efforts to bring more income in to the home may lead to a lack of supervision. Children lacking parental supervision are at a much higher level of risk of a variety of risk taking behaviors. While I grew up in a world where almost all adults smoked, my teachers, relatives, my Doctor and so many others, public awareness has led to fewer young smokers than ever.
The same cannot be said for alcohol and drug abuse among young people. Recent CDC figures reveal that just over 21 percent of High School seniors get high on a regular basis and 41 percent of that same group use alcohol on a regular basis. Recent up-ticks in heroin use in the North County serve to punctuate the seriousness of the issues. Drug use is strongly correlated with a variety of risky behaviors including, poor grades, poor school attendance e, accidents, injuries and drunk driving. Looking back, it seems that my youth was seemingly more innocent in a variety of ways though not in all ways. It seemed as though adults around us sought to preserve our childhood innocence and even television was limited during family hours where violent shows or shows with sexual themes were not allowed.
Now, children and teenagers are the targets of advertisers. A number of so called “reality shows” portray teenagers as adults. Replete with drug addiction, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and sexual relationships that in my day would have been considered wildly promiscuous. These are the role models that many teenagers look to for who they are supposed to be. I don’t know if this is art imitating life or life as it is not, I dearly hope that it is the latter.
A sound education is a critical element in preparing children for making their way in the world and schools are facing unprecedented challenges today. Schools are under great pressure to hold the line on expenses while still providing a quality education to every student. Across America communities are asking schools to do more with less as they swim against a tide of an increasing number of special need students and more and more rigorous educational standards. As schools are under so many different pressures, the issue of bullying has been identified as one of the most important issues within the school community.
Recent figure indicate the problem of bullying is not getting better, perhaps in part because schools may not have adequate resources to dedicate to this issue. In addition to the issue of bullying school violence is also a concern and over the last decade just over 300 children have been killed at school. Above all other public institutions, schools should be a place where all children are treated with justice, fairness, and are safe from discrimination, persecution, and bullying and violence. Our schools must have our financial and community support in order to achieve these important goals. We live in a culture that is ever more materialistic and we have taught our children that accumulating a lot of possessions is the only authentic expression of success. The joys of earning their own money, delaying gratification and in the process hard work have been lost. We have denied our children that supremely satisfying experience by getting them whatever they want or need all year round. Christmas once a dramatic moment in childhood has become, in some sense an anticlimactic event instead.
Obesity among American children is a serious health issue for our nation. Recent figure indicate that just over 30 percent of school age children are obese, not chubby but rather clinically obese. Internet games, game systems, television and possibly overworked parent may all contribute to this issue. Many American children are living the sedentary lifestyle of their grandparents. As a result, there is an epidemic of diabetes, high blood pressure and the mistreatment from their peers that many children suffer because they are overweight. The American economy has changed and Labor Department statistics indicate that most new jobs are within the service sector.
Unless changes are made, another recession may be created by college students deep in college debt who won’t buy a house, a car or anything else as they drown in college loan repayments. The Federal poverty level for a family of four is $29,050 and this includes the 21% of all American children who are living in poverty. Most researchers agree that being raised in poverty is the single most reliable predictor of failure in our culture. While the challenges that face us are daunting, every time in history has had their challenges.
I believe that the true strength of America and Americans is resilience and the ability to make changes; that has been a hallmark of America since its inception. If we are not ready now for remarkable change within our culture, we must be very close to being ready for change.
Reach the writer at wildblue.net