The kids today! They’re spoiled, ill-mannered, immature dunderheads!
If you relate to this (exaggerated) sentiment about today’s youth, you’re not alone. Ever since the first adult witnessed pubescent immaturity, great thinkers have dismissed the younger generation: “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” Or so wrote Aristophanes in one of his plays.
Well, it turns out that the greatest generation didn’t defeat Hitler or invent the transistor. Today’s youth are the greatest generation. In a recent Washington Post article, David Finkelhor uses data to lay bare how great our children are. They’re less likely to commit crimes, bully others, commit suicide, engage in premarital sex, drink, and engage in risky behavior. And because of the Flynn Effect, which shows no signs of going away, each generation is smarter than the previous (at least as measured on IQ tests).
And if the world keeps doing what it’s doing, this generation’s children will be the next greatest generation.
Significant decreases in extreme poverty, hunger, child labor, child mortality, death in childbirth, teen births (US), smoking, war, homicide, violent crime, nuclear weapons, and share of income spent on food.
Significant increases in life expectancy, leisure time, literacy, IQ scores, democracy and internet access.
People are getting taller and staying in school longer. Guinea worm is almost eradicated–and Guinea Worm is a really bad parasite–Homelessness in the US is down.
Check out 26 Charts and Maps to Be Grateful for on Vox.com
The kids today! When I was a lad…
Every generation of old people gripes about the youngin’s, how they are lazier today and don’t know how good they got it.
Of course that’s rubbish, and it’s been rubbish for most of the history of elder complaints of the younger generation. Does Socrates sound familiar when he says this?–
“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”
Well, when I was a wee whippersnapper, children were not as smart, had worse health, lived shorter lives, were less literate and numerate, lived in a country that had just legalized racial equality but was still hostile to gays. Oh, how I pine for the golden days of yore!
In yet another demonstration of progress, researchers find that kids today smoke and drink less. The also don’t do drugs as much (though marijuana use is increasing; more on that below).
“Every year, the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey measures drug, alcohol, and tobacco use and related attitudes among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders.” The MTF is done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Many of the results of the 2013 MTF were quite heartening.
However, the 2013 MTF did note that marijuana use is increasing. This isn’t surprising as marijuana is now legal in some states and will likely be more and more accepted, both by the law and society. Therefore I am not optimistic about future trends in teen marijuana use. Also, the abuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines is quite troubling. Ironically, it’s the adults that fuel these trends, not our miscreant children. As prescription drug use increases by parents, abuse increases with children stealing these medications for “recreational use.” And the grown-ups in state houses relaxing marijuana laws are a primary cause of teens thinking marijuana is neither harmful–the governor signed the bill into law, right?–or illegal.
Nonetheless, historically low levels of tobacco and alcohol use among teens is quite heartening.