Sunday, November 22, 2009
The Sorry State of Today's Youth
It's getting colder...
Thank you, ras, for sending us a guest post! Always good to hear your thoughts.
This post was going to go in an entirely different direction. I was going to do an in-depth report on the current state of food production, the (sorry) harvest, and projections for the coming year. I may still do that later. However, I got distracted by my recent experiences and decided to do this instead.
I have been working as a substitute teacher. It’s an interesting job, but amounts to little more than glorified babysitting, as I’m not allowed to actually teach anything. I have now subbed in the poor kids schools, where hall lights don’t work and paint is literally flaking off the ceiling, and in the rich kids schools, where a million dollars was spent on the stage alone. I worked at one assignment that was supposed to be high school English. The regular teacher lied so she would have an easier time getting a sub. It turned out she was an in-school detention teacher for the worst high school in the city. The classroom was me, an aide, and a 6’6” 250 lb black dude whose only job was to keep the kids from hurting each other or me. These were 9th graders -15 years old –and they were, for the most part, extremely dangerous. I’ve never had a worse work day in my life.
But it is not just those kids. Everywhere I have gone I have been struck by the sad condition of our youth. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good kids everywhere, but most of our kids suffer from one or both of two conditions: either their parents aren’t around at all and so they pretty much raise themselves, or their parents are around (some) but not enough and so they overindulge the children to make up for not being around enough. The end result is that the vast majority of our children have no manners, no discipline, and no real future.
Let’s step into the life of an average American child for one day and see what it’s like. We’re going to assume that the child is school-age (though the only difference in a lot of cases is that the child goes to daycare all day instead of school). We are also going to assume that the child has two parents, both of whom work full time at 9-5 jobs, make decent money, and really love and care for their kids. In other words, this kid has advantages many kids in this country don’t.
Our child gets up by 6:30 in the morning, because he has to catch the bus at 7. If he’s lucky, he gets a bowl of sweetened cereal at home. If not, he gets to wait until he gets to school and then gets a ‘breakfast stick’ or something similar. He is trapped in school all day, in a prison-in-waiting with 20 to 40 other kids and one teacher. Recess? What’s that? We’ve no time for recess! We have tests to teach to! Lunch is pizza, corn dogs, or hamburgers, generally speaking. All surplus from the USDA.
School lets out at 3, but mom and dad work until at least 5, so our child goes to ‘extended day care’ which is a fancy way of saying daycare. His parents get off at 5 and have to have him picked up by 6, which is when most daycares close. They have to drive there in rush-hour traffic, so it’s a quarter til or later when they pull in. The busy places in town are daycares at 5 minutes before 6 pm every night.
Now what? Well, now its time for dinner. First you have to drive home through rush-hour traffic. Mom and dad are tired; they’ve worked all day. If they’ve really got it together, one might have went home ahead to start dinner or they might have it in the crockpot. But not likely. They’ve got to feed the kids and feed them fast because by now its 6:30, so often it will be a drive-through or something from a box.
Now it’s homework time. The average child has between one and three hours worth of homework every night. This is not an exaggeration; I’ve helped first grader’s do this much homework. Some of it will have been done at daycare, but not all, so mom and dad spend an hour or more helping him with it.
Finally, everything’s done and its time for quality time with the kids, right? No, because its now 8:00 and our imaginary child has to get a bath and get in bed to be up at 6:30 again. This will repeat 5 days a week. Some nights he might have scouts or baseball after daycare. Weekends will be taken up with sports practice, more homework, and staying out of mom and dad’s way so they can take care of all the things they couldn’t do while they were working all week.
Do you see the problems with this? This child has no free time, no time to play or draw or explore. He doesn’t get to really hang out with his parents. His diet is crap. And yet –this is the condition of millions of children in this country. This child has so many advantages: his parents are home at night, they love him, they help him with his homework instead of vegging out in front of the tv, and on and on. And yet look at the state he’s in.
Consider this: 16% of kids are obese and another 15% are at risk of being obese. That number has tripled in the past few decades. Cases of asthma, diabetes, allergies, and autism have skyrocketed. The rate of childhood depression is increasing by 23% a year, and is it any wonder? So many of our kids are now on medication for these kinds of conditions it’s impossible to do an adequate survey.
It doesn’t get any better for the young adults. Over half of young people aged 16-24 are unemployed. The army recently said a third of them are not ‘fit to serve’. In a lot ways that’s a good thing –if you can’t serve, you can’t get blown up in Afghanistan –but in others its not. The army has historically recruited people who are in generally good health and not the brightest. What does it say about us as a society when a third of our young people are too fat to do a sit up and to stupid to know you need to throw a grenade after you pull the pin?
What kind of future do these kids have? Most of them don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of surviving what is to come. If you’ve never turned off the game console, how are you supposed to figure out how to grow your own food?
I don’t know what to do about this. I don’t have any answers. But I fear for the future of our country.