This report briefly presents the problems of American youth. It consists of six parts. The first one deals with the general understanding of the teenagers in general. The second part conveys some facts about historic events and socio – historical context. The third one describes youths and their families and briefly shows the problems. The fourth part describes students and their schools. It conveys some details of educational system. The fifth part shows in what kind of activities can youths participate. The sixth part explain what problems do the youths face at. Finally the conclusions sum up all the parts and tries to show some looks to the future.
2. The Teenagers
At 18 years of age, young people in the United States of America can take on most of the rights and responsibilities of adulthood. However, before that the young man is understood as a teenager. A young person between the ages of 13 and 19 has to deal with the problems of adolescence. Most people experience conflict during this period of their lives. At this time the young people are changing rapidly, both physically and emotionally. Moreover, they are searching for self-identity, which cause some difficulties. As the young people are growing, they are developing their own values of life that often differ from the ones of their parents. It must be said that teenagers are influenced by the values expressed by their friends, newspapers, television, magazines and teachers. It is good if these expreesed values are suitable for young people and affect them in the right way. During this period of life, young people begin to participate in social activities. They begin to do more things in the company of members of the opposite sex and fewer things in the company of their families.
All youths face a certain problems. Some young people have difficulties in their relationship with their parents. Some of them have problems at school, which may lead to use of alcohol or drugs or even grow to refusal to go school or running away from home. Some teenagers even can turn to crime.
However, some teenagers, who face such problems, are making positive and important contributions to their communities, schools and society. Many teenagers are studying for college entrance exams or working at part-time jobs after school. Others are volunteering at hospitals and helping the handicapped.
3. Socio – Historical Context: looking back at youths in America
For more than 350 years, young people were leaving their families, home and friends and were coming to the strange new country, called New World, to live and to work. For many emigrants the New World offered hope of a better life. However, for all new arrivals such change was traumatic.
In the 1600’s, many children of poor European immigrants were contracted to work without wages. They had to work as servants for wealthier people until they were between 18 and 21 years of age.
At the beginning of 1619, blacks were brought to North America as salves to work for the new European settlers. Young people as well as adults served as slaves until 1865 when the slavery was abolished.
Later the United States expierenced major periods of immigration. The first occurred from 1840 to 1880. During that time, most of the immigrants were from northern and western Europe. Most of them were emigrating because of poverty or political or religious persecution. The second major period of immigration began in 1880’s. the majority of immigrants now came from southern and eastern Europe.
At the time of these major periods of immigration, children of all ethnic groups often worked long hours in factories, coal mines, mills or on farms. There were no laws regulating child labor until 1900’s.
However, many new Americans saw that education was their best chance for prosperity. In the 1900’s, boys and girls began to attend schools I increasing numbers. Many stayed at school until they were 15 years old. Work became less of an influence on young people. Now churches, families and their schools influenced them mostly.
At the beginning of the 1900’s, new factories had been built, the western frontier was being conquered and the economy was glowing rapidly. The youths believed that improvement and progress toward a better was unstoppable. The staggering shock and losses brought by World War I (1914-1918), however, caused disillusion. During 1920’s youths in America determined to live life to its fullest. Some young people tended to reject their parents’ values and turned to the new jazz music, to dancing and having a good time. But the Great Depression, which started in 1929, put the end to this era. At this period, about 12 million people lost their jobs. Many people had a hard time providing enough food for themselves. As a result, many children had to quit school in order to find work. Under President Franklin Roosevelt’s direction, programs under the National Youth Service created jobs for many young people. 3 million young men took part in the Civilian Conservation Corps, working to maintain forests and parks throughout the United States.
World War II (1939-1945) restored a feeling of national purpose and hope. After the war the United States experienced the biggest baby boom in history. That means that the birth rate was increased.
During the 1960’s many youths met President John F Kennedy’s challenge: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” The youths volunteered to help the handicapped, the poor at home. The 1960’s was also the time of growing political awareness, turbulence and rebellion. Young people protested the county’s involvement in the Vietnam War. They demonstrated and worked against racial segregation and poverty. Some young people developed their own subculture, which included styles of dressing, music and ideas. Some women began calling for equality with men and developed the beginnings of women’s liberation movement.
Television programs and films introduced an unaccustomed openness about sexuality in the United States during this period. Many young people became involved in activities that once only some adults participated in, such as the use of drugs and alcohol.
By the 1970’s, the times were different and the focus of youth’s attention had been drawn elsewhere. The violent protests were gone and the involvement in the war was over as well. In the 1980’s, young people generally became more conservative and interested in their careers. It was “the new age of realism” and “the me generation”.
4. Youths and Their Families
Family is defined as two or more people who are related by blood, adoption or marriage, living together. Most American families include members from two generations: parents and their children, though many extended families do include more than two generations. There are about 65.8 million families in the United States. The purpose of a family must be considered. Experts agree that the family structure should provide emotional, physical and educational support. The role of the family has changed in the young person’s life in the past 100 years.
Families 100 years ago were large, because children were needed to work and earn additional money for the family. Now, young children no longer work, moreover it is very expensive to provide the life’s necessities to the children. As a result, American families are much smaller now. In 1989, the average size of a family was 3.16 people.
In 1989 it was known that most families retain the traditional structure, including a father, a mother, children and sometimes a grandparent. However, 22 percent of all families are one-parent families. The cause of it, might be high divorce rates, separation and birth of children to unmarried women. In cases of separation or divorce, the parent not living with the children usually provides child-support payments. Most of such families are headed by women. Moreover such families are poorer than others, headed by men. In 1989 the median family income was 32.191 dollars. For families headed by women, the income was less than half. Some of these difficulties are relieved by government problems providing help to low income families. One such program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children helps poor parents with school – aged children.
Another change in family life is that more wives and mothers work outside the home. In 1988, women made up 45 percent of the national work force.
In general, all American youths have a comfortable and happy relationship with their parents. Their traditional disagreements are over such things as curfew, whether or not to attend religious services, doing work around the house and the friends with whom the young person spends his leisure.
5. Students and their Families
The typical American student spends six hours a day, five days a week, and 180 days a year in school. Children in the United States start preschool or nursery school at age four or under. Most children start kindergarten at five years old. Students attend elementary schools and then middle school or junior high school. Secondary or high schools are usually from 10th to 12th grades.
In 1988, about 45.4 million students were enrolled in schools in the United States. Students may attend either public schools or private schools. About 83 percent of Americans graduate from secondary schools and 60 percent continue their studies and receive some form of post – high school education. Approximately 20.3 percent graduate from four – year colleges and universities. School attendance is required in all 50 states. In 32 states, students must attend school until they are 16 years old.
The quality of education in the United States has often been debated in the course of American history. During 1960’s and 1970’s, many schools offered a wide variety of nonacademic courses, such as driver’s education and marriage and family living.
Educators were worried that students were not learning as much as they should. It was reported that 13 percent of 17 year old were illiterate.
Most states and schools districts have passed new, more demanding standards that students must meet before they can graduate from high school. Most schools now require four years of English, three years each of mathematics, science and social studies.
Tests showed that student achievement in science and mathematics improved during 1980’s, although performance in reading and writing stayed the same.
High school students can take vocational courses that prepare them to perform specific jobs. Advanced courses prepare other students for university or college study. Special education is offered in most of schools. Schools enroll about three million handicapped students.
Many parents are involved in working for better quality education. Parents are joining parent – teacher organizations, tutoring their children, raising money for special programs and helping to keep schools in good repair.
6. Leisure and Activities
Schools provide American students with much more than academic education. Students learn about the world through various school – related activities. More than 80 percent of all students participate in student activities such as sports, student newspapers, drama clubs, debate teams, choral bands.
During their leisure time, students spend much time watching television. They also listen to music on the radio. The average American teenager listens to music for about three hours every day.
It must be said that America’s young people are mostly hardworking. Many have after – school jobs. Child labor laws set restrictions on the types of work that youths can do. Many youths work part – time on weekends or after school at fast – food restaurants, baby-sit for neighbors, hold delivery jobs or work in stores.
Many youths are involved in community service organizations. Some are active in church. Others belong to Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts groups. Thousands of young people volunteer to help take care of the elderly and hospital patients.
7. Youth’s Problems
One may say that teens today may seem spoiled compared to those of earlier times. However the reality is different. Peer pressure, changing family conditions, mobility of families and unemployment are just few reasons why young people try to escape from reality and start using drugs and alcohol. However, most of young people in the United States do not have problems with drinking.
All 50 states of America prohibit the sale of alcohol to anyone under 21 years old. However, youths are buying alcohol using false identification cards.
Aside from drug abuse, another problem is pregnancy among young women. One million teenagers become pregnant each year. The number of sexually active teens increased. Many community programs help cut down on the numbers of teenage pregnancies. Some programs rely on strong counseling against premarital sex and others provide contraceptive counseling.
About one million young people run away from home each year. Most return after a few weeks, but others turn to crime.
New programs are created to help troubled youths. Young people can go after school and talk with counselors, receive academic tutoring or take part in social activities.
Most American youths look forward to their future with hope and optimism. American youth now focus on their education and career. They admit that hard work lies ahead and claim they are willing to make the sacrifices needed to reach their goals. Many young people are headed toward four – year colleges and universities. Many other look forward to getting job after high school. Others plan on getting married. Other young people intend to join the armed forces or volunteer organizations.
American youth are concerned about problems confronting both their own communities and the world around them. They faced such important issues as drug abuse, AIDS and environment problems. The youth are concerned with global issues such as nuclear war and world hunger.