teenagers today are less hopeful than they were just five years ago about
America's ability to address its most critical problems, from the economy and
global warming to international terrorism.
But a new survey of American high school students shows that the nation's young people remain optimistic about their own
survey was designed to provide a comprehensive look at the "opinions,
apprehensions and aspirations" of U.S. high school students, according to
the group that commissioned it. The
Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans is a private group that
promotes the value of higher education in helping young people achieve success
phone survey contacted more than 1000 U.S. residents between 13 and 19 years
old. Survey company president Peter
Hart says the data show that the confidence of many young people in their
country's future has been shaken by problems with the American economy, energy
and climate issues, the cost of health care, and the continuing wars in Iraq
we find is today 53 percent say, 'I'm optimistic and confident,' and 39 percent
are worried and pessimistic," he says. "If you look over the period
of time going back to 2003, it has dropped by some 20 percent."
this growing pessimism, the survey also found today's American teens confident
and optimistic about their own ability to succeed in life. Hart notes that
fully 70 percent of the young respondents say they plan to attend a 4-year
college and 62 percent say they "are very confident" that they will
reach their own goals.
of the fascinating things that we have seen is the idea that young people want
to participate and they want to be able to make a difference," Hart
says. "We have not seen that in
percent of the surveyed teens say the outcome of the U.S. presidential election
this November will make a substantial difference in the direction of the
country. What are their biggest
concerns? Thirty-four percent say it's
the economy and jobs, and 31 percent say it's the war in Iraq.
Miller, a California high school student who took part in the survey, says he
worries about America's standing in the world.
"I definitely do not feel confident in where we have been going,
and I feel like the United States has lost a lot of the respect it had,"
he says. "We are still a very
powerful country, and we are still very important, and I think we have this
responsibility, and we should use it responsibly."
survey shows a rise in American teens' interest in voting and playing a role in
issues of national importance including the environment. The survey found
that 72 percent of American teens believe global warming is an urgent or
Jewell, a student from Texas, believes her generation is becoming more engaged
and proactive. "We definitely do
what we can and do a lot of activities that go with that, like recycling,"
she says. "You see people do fundraisers for everything. I think we are
really working to make a difference."
teens also seem to recognize the need to prepare for an increasingly
competitive global economy. One of every three in the survey says the most
important school subjects are science and technology, and 38 percent wish their
schools had more up-to-date laboratory and computer equipment.
survey suggests that high school students are using the Internet more for
entertainment and social networking than for researching their homework. But
Devron Lovick, a high school student from Pennsylvania, says her peers
understand the value of the Internet as a learning tool. "With the Internet the way it is, with
availability of information, the youth become empowered, because with knowledge
comes power, she says. "But then with power comes responsibility. So consequently more responsibility has been
rested on our shoulders, and we know the issues, and we get dissatisfied if we
do not do anything about them."
students acknowledge that there has been a negative side to the Internet. Sixteen percent of the survey sample say
they have been a victim of cyber bullying – a type of abusive or destructive
behavior that is increasingly evident on many online social networks. That would amount to nearly two and a half
million of the 14.9 million high school students in the United States who've
been victimized online. Almost
one-third of the surveyed teens now view online bullying as a greater threat
then the physical bullying already taking place in many U.S. high schools.
teens are divided on another important national issue – the impact immigration
is having on the United States. Their
attitudes are significantly at odds with their parents on this issue. While only 39 percent of adults in a recent
poll describe immigration as a positive force in the life of the nation, close
to half of the teens surveyed in the Hart poll believe immigration has been
good for the country. Forty percent of the teens say immigration has had a
negative impact on American society.