What's Right With Kids
by Kerby <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Anderson
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            Nearly every day we hear what's wrong with kids.  Social scientists document rising rates of teen pregnancy and juvenile crime.  Educators decry declining test scores and educational standards.
            The depth and degree of the problem has been debated for years in the popular culture as well as in the academy.  William Bennett's Index of Leading Cultural Indicators provides a statistical and objective standard which documents the decline of America's family and its impact on the nation's youth.
            Unfortunately this relentless discussion of problems facing children in our society
obscures their positive influence and acts of service.  At a time when we hear so much about what's wrong with our kids, isn't it about time we hear about what's right with our kids?
            Talk of declining test scores ignores the outstanding performance each year of the best and brightest students on those same tests.  Academic excellence still reigns supreme on college entrance exams as each year high schools graduate valedictorians and National Merit Scholars who pursue their academic dreams at prestigious universities.  Eager students participate in academic bowls, spelling bees, chess tournaments, and advanced honors programs.
            Leaders are cultivated in school clubs and student councils around the country.  Students develop their musical ability and teamwork in band and orchestra, while others develop their bodies and their spirit in sports programs of all kinds.  After school they continue to develop into young men and women of character through involvement in such programs as 4H and Scouts.
            A Louis Harris study just released found significant benefits to involvement in Scouting. Staying away from drugs, building self‑confidence, helping at home, and a strong sense of self‑worth were all results directly tied to participating in the Boy Scouts of America.  The study also found that 95 percent of parents believe their Cub Scouts learned moral and ethical values from the program, and 89 percent of those same parents believe they learned the value of staying away from drugs.  Parents of Boy Scouts believe that Scouting made their children more self‑confident, taught them skills they would not have learned elsewhere, and encouraged family togetherness.
            According to the Harris study, Boy Scouts themselves suggested that the organization's core values of religious faith, personal integrity, and patriotism were conveyed in the program. And a strong majority (74%) agreed that "Scouting helps me tell the difference between right and wrong."
            Kids also learn what is right and wrong from church.  A USA Today poll a few years ago found that (other than whether a child has two parents) the factor that most influences whether a child grows up well is whether his or her parents have religious faith.  This factor ranked above school quality, whether drugs are available, peer influence, and family income.
            More than 300,000 churches in America influence the moral lives of young people.  Churches provide moral instruction while challenging kids to stand for their faith and serve those around them.  Missions projects and community service projects provide an antidote to selfishness and a catalyst for social involvement.
            Church youth groups also challenge kids to resist the temptations of the world.  Anyone who walked on the Washington Mall a few years ago saw the acres of "True Love Waits" cards signed by over 200,000 teenagers pledging to refrain from sex until marriage.  The latest research on teen sexual behavior shows that the number of high schoolers who have had sexual intercourse at least once has declined significantly in recent years.  And data from a number of different studies shows a definite downward trend in both teen sexual experience and teen birth rates.
            Churches, community groups, and crisis pregnancy centers provide speakers and
counselors who address the issue of abstinence.  Other groups (with names like Aim for Success, Postponing Sexual Involvement, and Children Having Children) are helping young women keep from being another social statistic.  One abstinence‑only program for girls run by Elayne Bennett in Washington, DC has seen only one of four hundred girls become pregnant when twenty to seventy pregnancies are common for this age‑group in the District of Columbia.
            At a time when we hear so much about what's wrong with kids, let's not forget what's right with kids.  Each year we have the privilege at Worldview Weekends and Mind Games conferences to see the best and the brightest. Even if the mainstream media ignores them, we should celebrate what's right with kids.

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