There is mounting evidence that American children are more and more in peril, in part because they are less and less assured of the sustained care, support, and safety that comes only with order in their immediate environments. Children are bearing the brunt of a profound cultural shift whose negative features we are now in a position to observe and whose continuing costs will last much longer than our own lifetimes.
Youth themselves, that always suspect category, appear to confirm such dire assessments. Under the headline “Profiles of Today’s Youths: Many Just Don’t Seem to Care,” the New York Times recently sketched a portrait of an “indifferent generation.” The most apathetic and alienated are eighteen to twenty-nine years old. The decline of the family is cited as one reason for the appearance of the civically uninterested and cynically self-interested as a paradigm for young adulthood—that, and the paucity of “civic education.” Even People for the American Way hopped on the bandwagon, arguing in a report that “young people seem to have a half-formed understanding of citizenship, stressing rights but ignoring responsibilities.” This assessment is reinforced by the Times survey, which indicated that the only issues that get the attention of the young are those that stress personal freedom narrowly construed....
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