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  • Writer's pictureHenry Edwards

The Kids Today!

Do the kids today seem lazy, slovenly, and always stuck to their iPhones? Do they seem listless, disrespectful, and rude?

My favorite Herblock cartoon speaks to this timeless trope about the kids today:

The eldest gentleman in Herblock’s cartoon would likely be a World War I veteran and a survivor of the Great Depression. And his son would have served in World War II, a member of the “The Greatest Generation.” Yet in Herblock’s time, the men of The Greatest Generation were considered dubious…just like every young generation is.

This gripe about the kids today is at least as old as writing and probably older. In Rhetoric, Aristotle wrote that the young “Think they know everything, and are always quite sure about it.” Sound familiar?

How are the kids today? Since bias against youngsters is as old as Aristotle, let’s look at some statistics. Are kids doing more drugs, dropping out of school more, and having more sex?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Substances at historic low levels of use in 2018 include alcohol, cigarettes, heroin, prescription opioids, MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly), methamphetamine, amphetamines, sedatives, and ketamine.” The news isn’t all good—vaping is on the rise—but today’s whippersnappers are doing drugs at much lower rates than my generation. 

How about graduation rates? Are more kids dropping out? Nope. In fact, the most recent information released by the US Department of Education reports that the “national 2016–17 (graduation rate) for all students was 84.6 percent, an increase of 0.5 percentage points from 2015–16.” That’s the highest graduation rate ever.

How about sex? With all that porn on the internet, are the kids more sexually active? Nope. According to the respected Guttmacher Institute, “The proportion of young people having sexual intercourse before age 15 has declined in recent years. In 2011–2013, about 13% of never-married females aged 15–19 and 18% of never-married males in that age-group had had sex before age 15, compared with 19% and 21%, respectively, in 1995.” So they’re even having less sex.

The picture of youth today is not perfect. Rates of anxiety and depression are too high. But the kids today are doing many things right: more school, fewer drugs, less sex. And they’re smarter than we are, thanks to the Flynn Effect. IQ scores have been increasing in the past 100 years. We don’t know why, but we do know that the effect is robust.

So can we ditch all the complaints about kids today? They’re the greatest generation.

And in other good news...

Scientists may have found a weapon to fight ALS: gut bacteria!

In Nature: In a small trial, drugs seemed to rejuvenate the body’s ‘epigenetic clock’, which tracks a person’s biological age.

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