By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
In the average American big city among 17 assessed, only about 34% of the high school students graduate. About 60% of those same young people have a sexually transmitted disease (STD).What does this say about America’s future? And why aren’t we hearing solutions to these glaring social ills from our candidates for President of the United States?
“The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1837.
Wouldn’t he be proud of today’s teenagers, their parents and teachers?
In the most recent study of high school graduation trends, seventeen of the nation’s 50 largest cities had high school graduation rates lower than 50 percent, with the lowest graduation rates reported in Detroit, Indianapolis and Cleveland, according to a report released April 1, 2008.
The study was conducted by America’s Promise Alliance, an organization founded by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Colin Powell. His wife Alma chaired the assessment group.
Colin Powell while serving as Secretary of State. We at Peace
and Freedom have the utmost respect for Colin and Alma Powell for their work.
“When more than 1 million students a year drop out of high school, it’s more than a problem, it’s a catastrophe,” said Powell. “This has to stop. We, as a nation, must correct this problem.”
“We must invest in the whole child, and that means finding solutions that involve the family, the school and the community,” said Alma Powell.
While more than one million boys and girls drop out of high school, more than 3 million girls nationwide have a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
“This is pretty shocking,” said Dr. Elizabeth Alderman, an adolescent medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital in New York.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sponsored the STD study.
“Those numbers are certainly alarming,” said sex education expert Nora Gelperin, who works with a teen-written Web site called sexetc.org. She said they reflect “the sad state of sex education in our country.”
“Sexuality is still a very taboo subject in our society,” she said. “Teens tell us that they can’t make decisions in the dark and that adults aren’t properly preparing them to make responsible decisions.”
The Associated Press reported that the teens were tested for four infections: human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer and affected 18 percent of girls studied; chlamydia, which affected 4 percent; trichomoniasis, 2.5 percent; and genital herpes, 2 percent.
Dr. John Douglas, director of the CDC’s division of STD prevention, said the results are the first to examine the combined national prevalence of common sexually transmitted diseases among adolescent girls.
He said the data, now a few years old, likely reflect current prevalence rates.
Disease rates were significantly higher among black girls — nearly half had at least one STD, versus 20 percent among both whites and Mexican-Americans.
Besides high school graduation rates and rates of sexually transmitted diseases, how else might we seek information on American teenagers?
One area already assessed is the rate that our nation reads and “self-educates.”
We’ve written about and commented about reading trends several times in multiple publications.
But a Washington Times editorial published November 21, 2007 said it best: when it comes to reading many Americans have decidd not to.
Bombarded with media, computers and video games, their reading habits are declining measurably. Nor is it simply the young.
In an unprecedented research synthesis released this week, the National Endowment for the Arts shows how reading habits have declined in recent years with a grim picture of what could only be called the nation’s nonreading public.
Here are some of the troubling highlights of “To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence.”
From 1982 to 2002, the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds who read literature dropped from 60 percent to 43 percent. Fifty-two percent of the same age demographic said they read a book voluntarily in 2002, which is down from 59 percent a decade earlier.
The percentage of 17-year-olds who read for pleasure almost every day dropped from 31 percent to 22 percent over the period 1984-2004. It also seems that a college education is ever less a guarantee of good reading skills. The sole bright spot occurs among 9-year-olds, whose reading comprehension has improved over the last decade.
Barring this exception, the results are remarkably and troublingly consistent in study after study. Money spent on books in the United States dropped 14 percent during the period 1985-2005 when accounting for inflation. Seventy-two percent of employers report finding high-school graduates “deficient” in reading comprehension.
And the number of adults with bachelor’s degrees who score “proficient in reading prose” fell from 40 percent in 1992 to 31 percent in 2003.
With the rise of the Internet and online news consumption, some might argue that queries about “reading” fail to capture the entire picture if they do not account for online activities. But all modes of reading are not equal.
We might take this argument more seriously when teenagers are found reading Shakespeare or Herman Melville online. Far likelier they are surfing MySpace or Facebook.
Our increasing failure to read constitutes a kind of creeping national illiteracy which should concern everyone, not simply librarians and booksellers.
Literacy is an integral aspect of civil society. Substance, culture and literature should not be the ironic casualties of the “Information Age.”
All we’ve discussed here still leaves out the disabling impact of drugs, alcohol and teen pregnancy on our younger generation.
The only conclusion one can possibly draw from reading the reports on high school graduation rates, sexually transmitted disease rates and reading trends among American youth is this: unless action is taken we are a nation with a future at risk.
There are about 300 million Americans just now. There are about 1.3 billion Chinese.
And China has a world recognized machine for turning out the educated young people it needs.
One has to draw his or her own conclusions.
Compiled from the official reports cited in the text, AFP, AP, UPI, Fox News, ABC News The Washington Times and CNN.