The Results are in: Adult Leaders are Letting Teens Down in More Ways than One
UCAN's National Teen Report Card Gives Adults the Worst Grade for Running the Government; Protection Against Violence in Schools a Concern
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June 13, 2007, Washington, DC -- Adults received a disappointing report card from the nation's youth today, as results from the ninth annual UCAN Teen Report Card gave the worst grade distributed in the survey, a 'C-', to adults and their ability to run the government. The grades indicate concern from teens across the country about government actions, the political process, and adult voting patterns. In addition, teens continue to show concern when it comes to keeping schools safe from violence and crime and protecting kids from gun violence overall.
The Teen Report Card on Adults released today by the Child Welfare League of America and by UCAN of Chicago annually surveys more than 1,000 American teens, ages 12 to 19, asking youth to give "A" through "F" grades to the adults impacting their lives, from parents to teachers to politicians. The study evaluates the day-to-day performance of all adults in important areas like honesty, leadership and safety, and provides an outlet for teens to turn the tables and provide grades to the individuals who are traditionally grading them.
"The report card grades along with the focus group discussions reveal how well teens are attuned to issues in their communities as well as nationally and internationally. They are concerned not only about their future, but the future of the country if things like health care and violence are not dealt with by the nation's leadership," said Linda Spears, CWLA's Acting Senior Vice President for Operations.
The Votes Are In
The Teen Report Card on Adults shows that American youth are paying close attention to actions of government officials and the voting adults in their lives. Many teens, reached through focus groups held in Chicago, Washington, DC and New York City, delved deeper into the survey results and felt that government officials are more concerned about making money through fund-raising campaigns than making good decisions or standing up for what they truly believe in.
Lack of strong leadership from the government and adults concerned many of the youth. They felt adults lacked commitment and passion and did not take action. Teens in the focus groups also blame adults for poor decision making by the government, since most don't take advantage of their voting rights by becoming involved in the government or casting ballots. Teens are worried about the national debt, the country's international image and the people who will lead America in the future.
Teens in the New York City focus group did not trust the federal government, but liked their city's Mayor Bloomberg, and felt he listened and was responsive to them. They also worried about the nation's image, commenting that other countries don't trust the U.S.
Kids Concerned with School Violence
American teens gave adults a 'C' grade in keeping schools safe from violence and crime, and protecting kids from gun violence overall. Despite increased awareness and security in response to recent high-profile school shootings and violence, some teens still feel that "if someone wants to come in with a gun, they can and they will."
Teens in the Washington focus groups explained schools have done some things, but can do a better job. Adults are trying, but kids can be "sneaky" and find their way around security.
"The results tell adults that there's a lot of work to be done in the eyes of today's teens, and that teens are looking for answers to difficult issues," said Maureen Blaha, executive director of the National Runaway Switchboard (NRS), a co-sponsor of the Teen Report Card. "Parents needing help in communicating with their child about concerns they are dealing with, such as violence in school, can call our 1-800-RUNAWAY hotline for assistance and resources in their community."
Making the Grade
Not all hope is lost when it comes to American teens and how they view current issues of the world. In fact, teens gave adults an overall grade of "C+" this year. However there was a marked difference in the grades given by females versus males. For every single item, females consistently gave lower scores than males. Males gave adults a grade of 3.26, whereas females gave a grade of 3.09. The item reflecting the largest difference was given for how well adults "Understand the realities of teenage sex. Females gave a grade of 2.79 and males gave a grade of 3.12.
The lowest grades -a "C-" - were given for running the government, protecting the environment, really listening to and understanding young people, and stopping teens from drinking. The highest grade given was a "B" for providing young people with a safe place to live. Teaching positive values, providing a quality education, and creating job opportunities received a "B-."
Teens believe that change can happen in the future and they have come up with a few ways to help adults overcome everyday difficulties:
"It's disappointing to see that the future of our country lacks confidence in today's leaders," said Tom Vanden Berk, president and executive director for UCAN. "We hope these statistics will encourage American leaders and parents to take action and become better role models."
- Provide new government leadership and a policy of honesty.
- "Stand up and speak up about what you really believe in and use your power to vote. If you don't, nothing will change."
- "Take the time to ensure safety in schools. Spending an extra 30 seconds to check that last student could make the difference in one of our lives."
- Create a stricter screening process for purchasing a gun.
- "Consider that the future you're planning is ours. We're the ones who will have to clean up all the mistakes you make now."
About the Teen Report Card:
Created and sponsored by the Chicago-based UCAN, the UCAN Teen Report Card is an annual measure of adult progress on issues affecting teens, as graded by teens themselves. Conducted in January and February of 2007, the survey is a representative sampling of teens across the country. Teens received the questions via a mail survey, with the results weighted to reflect regional, ethnic and gender distribution across the U.S. The research division of the *Child Welfare League of America, Washington, D.C., provided long-term trend analysis and data summary of the grades received by the adults and facilitated the participation of its member agencies in N.Y and Washington, DC.
The survey was conducted by the nation's premier research organization on teenage attitudes and trends, Teenage Research Unlimited, in Northbrook, Ill. The survey carries a +/- 3 percent margin of sampling error. A full copy of the UCAN Teen Report Card, including all grades and ancillary materials and a teen/adult discussion guide, can be found at: www.ucanchicago.org/advocacy/grades.html or at: www.cwla.org.
*Support for the Child Welfare League of America's work on the Teen Report Card was generously provided by Capital One.
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