The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on April 29, 2001 · Page 60
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 60

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Sunday, April 29, 2001
Page 60
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Half of the students tell us their parents are always supportive of them Continued from previmis page Recently, we examined more than 400 essays on the "laws of life" that teens ffom two communities had written as part of an educational program initiated by the John Templeton Foundation in Radnor, Pa. In those essays, and in follow-up interviews with a few of the teenagers, we found lots of insight, positive feeling and inspirational thinking. But we also found little interest in civic life beyond the tight circles of their family and immediate fiiends. For example, only one boy said he would like to be president when he grows up. When I was in high school, dozens in my homeroom class alone would have answered differently. In fact, other recent studies have found there has never been a time in American history when so small a propoition of young people have sought or accepted leadership roles in local civic organizations. It is also troubling that voting rates among our youngest eligible voters —18- to 24- year-olds — are way dovwi: Little more than one in four now go to the polls, even in national elections, compared with almost twice that many when 18- yeai'-olds were fii-st given the vote. In our interviews, many students viewed politics with suspicion and distaste. "Most [politicians] are ... kind of crooked," one student declai'ed. Another, discussing national politics, said, "I feel like one person can't do that much, and I get the impression [most people] don't think a group of people can do that much." Asked what they would like to change in the world, the students mentioned only personal concerns such as slowing down the pace of Mfe, gaining good Mends, becoming more spiritual, becoming either more materially successful or less mateiially oriented (depending on the student's values), and being more respectful of the Eai-th, animals and other people. One boy said, "I'd rather be concenti'ating on artistic efforts than saving the world or sometliing." It is fine and healthy for teens to cultivate theii- personal interests, and it is good news when young people enjoy hai-monious relations with theii- family and finends. But there is also a place in a young life for noble pui-poses that include a dedication to the broader society, a love of country and an aspiration to make then- ovm leadership contributions. In the past, the young have eagerly participated in national service and civic affairs, often with lots of energy and idealism. If this is not happening today, we should ask why. Our society needs the full participation of its younger citizens if it is to continue to thrive. We know the promise is there — this is a well- grounded, talented, warm-hearted group of youngsters. We have eveiything to gain by encouraging them to explore the world beyond their immediate experience and to prepai-e themselves for theii- tui-n at shaping that world, ca WILLIAM DAMON is professor of eduction and director of the Center on Adolescence at Stanford University. He is the author of The Moral Child (1990) and Greater Expectations (1995), both published by The Free Press. urvey Results Last fail, more than 84,000 students in grades 6-12 tooic USA WEEKEND 'S 14tli teen survey in the magazine, at our Web site or through survey partner Cable in the Classroom. Here are highlights of the results of the exclusive, non-scientific survey. For complete results of the Teens & Parents survey, and to read more about the teen winners at right, log on to and click on "Survey." 4 in % say their relationship with their parents has improVBli or remained the same over the past two years. 4 in 5 say one of their parents has told them he or she lOVBS tilBlll in recent days. 3 in 4 have told their parents they love them in recent days. 3 in 5 eat dinner with their parents at least five nights a week. 4 in 5 would confide in one or both parents if they had a serious problem. 4 in 5 think their parents are similar to or cooler than their friends' parents. 1 in 2 characterize their parents as alwayS supportive. 3 in 4 think their parents understand the problems and situations they face as teens very or somewhat well. 1 in 2 give their parents a grade of A in raising them. National respondents' sex: 40% male, 60% female Race: 79% white, 8% black, 6% Hispanic, 3% multiracial, 2% Asian, 2% other School type: 37% rural, 44% suburban, 19% urban USA WEEKEND GUEST EDITORS: Matt Covert, 17, a senior at Silverado High School in Las Vegas, and Nicole Morgan,17, a junior at Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward, Calif., spent two days at our Arlington, Va., offices helping us edit this issue. DISNEY CRUISE WINNER: Seventh- grader Tamay Sims, 13, of Minneapolis is all set to take the three-day trip from Florida to the Bahamas this weekend with her dad and two sisters. Di: Drew on flie The shootings at Santana High School have led many people to wonder why no one alerted authorities to the alleged killer's threats. It's difficult for some adults to empathize because we've developed an innate sensibility that tells us when the threat of harm outweighs the fear of betraying a trust, but adolescents don't yet have that ability. They don't trust their instincts because they don't think they're worthwhile enough to stand up and be heard. We need to remember that kids are still fragile and easily shamed. It's natural for kids to want to keep secrets from adults. In children, and certainly in adolescents, there's a natural rebelliousness that comes with establishing a peer group. Growing up, almost by definition, means separating from your parents. Kids'cliques and clubs are largely built on secrets; the more extraordinary the secret, the more special and powerful the keepers feel. Keeping a secret can be arousing for kids. It's probably very gratifying in some way, particularly if the kids keeping it have aggressive impulses themselves. Adding to the problem is that a lot of kids don't feel comfortable confiding in trustworthy adults. (The adults kids see as trustworthy are usually "cool"because they don't tell secrets, either.) It's not that surprising in a day when far too many parents erode their kids'trust either by abandoning them, abusing them or intruding in their emotional lives. How can kids be expected to put their trust in adults when so many have been given such a negative example? We also need to remember that adolescents engage in magical thinking. They feel omnipotent and have a hard time accepting that anything can go wrong or that their behavior can have real, harmful consequences. Hearing someone say "Yeah, I'm going to kill some people" might be more intriguing and titillating than serious. It's just another abstract expression of rebellion, like wearing black fingernail polish. Young people also tend to confuse secrecy with loyalty. Not allowing someone to go down a destructive path is often a more loyal action than keeping quiet, yet young people often see a secret as paramount. Adults need to teach them that if you truly care about someone, real integrity dictates you do what's right, even if it means sacrificing the relationship. Unfortunately, right and wrong have become relative terms of late. It's crucial that adults nurture their kids'moral development and teach the principles of right and wrong. If children truly know right from wrong in a principled way, then even if they don't have a great sense of themselves, it helps guide their behavior and helps them act appropriately in situations like these. "it's naSuraS for kids to want to keep secrets from adults." Contributing Editor DREW PINSKY, M.D., writes USA WEEKEND 'S "Ask Dr. Dreiv" column. USAWEEKEND-April 27-29,2001 9

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