The State of the Adolescent Nation
The following is a sad, but powerful look at how statistics paint a picture of life as an adolescent. Statistics, they say, should be taken with a grain of salt. However, my experience has pretty much painted me the same picture as these statistics. It has amazed me through the years how few people who work with at-risk and high-risk youth are unaware of the effects these dynamics and statistics create in the lives of our youth.
I'm always astonished at how well some of our teens have survived, considering the chaos and drama that are daily occurrences in many of their lives. Kids who end up in foster care or group homes, for example, may have some dubious behavioral history behind them. However, based on where many of them "live," it's impressive they are functional at all.
We have to remember that for many of these youth, we might be some of the few healthy and caring people they've ever met and/or spent time with. We are inheriting years and years of abuse and neglect, and turning that around is a slow process at best.
So let's take a look at some of these depressing numbers, and then I hope we can work together to come up with ways to help these disadvantaged youth have a happier and healthier life.
In 1988, 80% of all academic honors and scientific awards in the United States went to foreign students, a mere fraction of the student population. Our nation ranks at the bottom of nineteen industrial nations in reading, writing and arithmetic.
Since 1960, SAT scores have dropped 80 points.
National Assessment of Educational Progress reports:
44% of high school graduates could compute the change that would be received from $3.00 for two items ordered from a lunch menu.
Five percent of high school graduates could make their way through college-level literature.
Fifth graders--50% said they
read 4 minutes a day, 2 minutes a day for 30% of them and none at all
for 10%. The same group of kids watched 130 minutes of TV per day.
Education in California Schools
In a recently published report, here is how California public schools are doing compared to the rest of the country:
1st in number of students
9th in teacher salaries
18th in collecting state and local revenues per capita
37th in high school graduation rate
41st in per pupil expenditures
47th in revenues for public schools per $1000 personal income
47th in students per computer
50th in students per teacher
50th in students per principal
51st (including Wash. DC) in students per guidance counselor
51st in students per librarian
Every day in America:
2,658 public school students are corporally punished.
17,152 public school students are suspended.
2,789 high school students drop out.
It's important at this point to look into some of these. The mandatory school system as we know it is actually only about 100 years old, and is pretty much an invention of Western society. As we'll study more in the section on the Hero's Journey, most cultures, even America a hundred years ago, could not allow their young to spend all day at school as they were needed at home or business.
John Taylor Gatto, former New York City and State Teacher of the Year, also feels that it has been unhealthy to remove children from the family for so long. He raises an interesting point about having children removed from the family's needs and values 6-7 hours a day for 12 years. An interesting statistic he pointed out was that in Massachusetts, after 100 years of compulsory education, the literacy rate is actually 6% less than the turn of the century. His main point on that matter is that people used to gravitate to whatever education they needed, as needed, and that forcing everyone to learn the same amount at the same time is an impossible task. He raises many other interesting points regarding the educational system, and I recommend his book Dumbing Us Down very much.
The current divorce rate is about 50%; half of all new marriages fail.
In the early 1920ís, the divorce rate was only about one-fourth of what it is today.
In 1993, 84 percent of single divorced parents with custody were mothers...
One-third of all kids born since 1980 will live in a step-family at one point.
Only 4% of U.S. families fit the traditional dad works/mom stays home stereotype.
50% of all marriages today are remarriages for at least one person. Of these, about 60 percent will divorce.
By 1997, 55% of single mothers and 61% of displaced homemakers were living at or below the poverty line. Single mother endured a poverty rate three times as high as the national rate, and the poverty rate among displaced homemakers actually rose in the 1990's, even as it fell in the general population.
More than half of divorced kids have never been inside their fatherís new home, and 42 percent have not seen their father in a year.
The U.S. is only 22nd in infant mortality among industrialized nations. Children of color have more than twice the infant mortality rate as do white babies.
In 1960, for instance, a single-parent household was over five times more likely to mean a household with a divorced parent than one with a never-married person. By 1993, the proportions were roughly equal.
More than one-fifth of white women, one-third of Hispanic women, and more than two-thirds of black women who bear their first child, are husbandless. One third of all births in 2001 are from unwed mothers.
Since 1960, thereís been more than a 400% increase in illegitimate births.
The average American household has its television on 6.7 hours a day. The average number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children is 3.5.
By the time the average American kid reaches age eighteen, he will have spent 22,000 hours watching television, double the time he will have spent in classroom instruction and more than any other activity than sleeping.
66% of American households have a TV set on while they are eating dinner.
Advertising Age reported in 1992 that the average teenager who works part-time generates an income of about $6000, most of it disposable.
An average kid in America spends five or more hours a week seeing television commercials. By the time he is 21, he will have seen one million commercials,
For every child born in America, a television is made. Connoisseur magazine reported in 1990 that 250,000 children were born each day and that same number of TV sets were produced each day.
By the age of 16, the average American kid will have seen 200,000 acts of violence on TV. 33,000 of those will have been acts of murder.
The number of stories on the nightly news that concern crime, disaster, or war comprise 53.8% of the broadcast. The percentage of air time given to public service announcements is .7 percent.
Americans watch 250 billion hours of TV annually. The number of videos rented daily is 6 million, while the number of public library items checked out daily is 3 million.
By the time a kid graduates high school, he will have spent more time watching TV than he ever spent in school all together.
The average American kid will spend more than two years of his entire life watching commercials.
Of all the sex portrayed on television, 85% is among unmarried couples.
In 1993, boys ages 15 to 19 were more than six times as likely to be murdered as were girls the same age, and they were 20 times more likely to kill someone else.
Between 1960 and 1992, during those years, rape increased by four times. Murder doubled, property crimes triples, robbery quadrupled and aggravated assaults quintupled.
Sixty percent of rapists, 72 percent of adolescent murderers, and 70 percent of youngsters in state reform institutions are products of single-parent homes.
The Children's Defense Fund reports in its State of America's Children Yearbook 1994 that "between 1979 and 1991 almost 50,000 American children were killed by guns. More American children die from firearms on the killing fields of America than American soldiers died on the killing fields of Vietnam."
Nearly one million adolescents between 12 and 19 are victims of violent crimes each year. Teens are twice as likely to be assaulted at 20 year olds. Adolescent homicide rates are the highest ever.
In a Harris poll, 60 percent of teens said they could get a handgun; one-fifth claimed to be able to do so within an hour, and more than a third said they could get one by the end of the day.
According to a 1991 study by the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one in twenty-five high school students carries a gun.
Eighty-five percent of male convicts are fatherless.
Since 1960, the teen suicide rate has risen 200 percent.
Only 13% of juveniles who have violated probation go to juvenile court as a result.
The increase in juvenile arrest rates since 1981 has been greater for females than for males.
Only 14% of white juveniles arrested for drugs were detained, while 40% of black youths were detained.
Each Day In America
5,388 children are arrested
237 children are arrested for violent crime
420 children are arrested for drug abuse
13 children and youths under 20 die from firearms
6 children and youths under 20 commit suicide
11 children and youths under 20 are homicide victims
a few others...
The average college student in 1991 consumed over 34 gallons of alcohol a year, or 430 million gallons total. This is enough to fill 3500 Olympic sized swimming pools, roughly one for each college or university in the country. Most intake is from beer; just short of 4 billion cans per year. College students pay $5.5 billion out of pocket money a year on alcohol, which is more than they spend on textbooks, and is more that the cost of running college libraries. More college students in America will die of cirrhosis of the liver than will ever get doctorates in Business, Management and Communication combined.
Over ninety percent of the U.S. population now lives inside fifty urban aggregations.
The top consumer of "Gangsta Rap" are white teen boys.
For those of us working with at-risk and high-risk adolescents, as well as any other children affected by the above dynamics, we certainly have our work cut out for us. Many of the children we work with have been involved in these unhealthy situations their whole life, which means we are trying to change years and years of training in whatever time frame we've been given.
I have even more statistics, but I sense the point has been made. What has been even more interesting to me throughout the years is that almost all of these statistics are led by America, and mimicked by some of our Western counterparts. Basically, many of the destructive elements our children are dealing with have been created by our modern society, much like many medical maladies we hear about recently.
Very few other cultures through other times had any of these types of statistics. Essentially, for example, there has never been a 50% divorce rate for anyone, so we have no precedent on how to handle that. We have the dubious honor of having more adolescent violence, drug and alcohol usage, gang problems, teen pregnancy, crime, etc., than anyone else on the planet. Kind of makes you think, doesn't it?
All material Copyright by Bret Stephenson 1997-2012
Last Updated Feb. 19, 2012