America's Teenagers--Myths and Realities: Media Images, Schooling, and the Social Costs of Careless Indifference

By Sharon L. Nichols; Thomas L. Good | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
Enhancing the Future of Youth

For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents.

—National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983 1

Study of 50 states and the District of Columbia finds dearth of well-qualified teachers for the students who need them most.

—Education Week, 2003 2

For Americans, the probability of living a long life has never been so high. Today's youth will live longer and healthier lives than those of past generations. 3 Over decades, infant mortality rates and the proportion of high-risk, low birth weight births have declined steadily, while the percentage of American children who receive potentially lifesaving immunizations in early childhood has increased. For teenagers, life has improved steadily. The number of teenage pregnancies and abortions has declined steadily. 4 Data show that youth achievement is steadily increasing, despite the youth population that is tested being increasingly diverse. 5

In spite of such promising conditions overall, teen suicide rates are alarmingly high, 6 yet the topic of teen suicide gets less media attention than teenage violence, which is prevalent in the media. This lack of attention to the real problems teens face (poverty, hopelessness, unending expectations, despair) 7 is typical of a society in which teens are increasingly asked to do more but are given less guidance and support. Childhood and adolescent obesity rates are alarmingly high—and more youth are having surgery to "correct"

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