I would like to ask what young people in high school and college consider the most important issues of our times. They may not realize it, but they will soon be running things themselves. What they think is most important is what will actually be most important. I would especially like to hear the opinions of the young men and women themselves, but I'm sure their teachers have formed some pretty good impressions of what their students are thinking about.
I feel the same way as literaturenerd and his/her daughter. The lack of empathy, self-respect, and respect for others is unbelievable. The heart-breaking stories of bullying are never-ending. I don't know where we went wrong as a society, but we are crumbling in regards to character, empathy, respect, and humanism.
I teach for a few schools, but at one school, in the middle of a crime-ridden neighborhood, my students worry about simply staying alive. One of my students reported in class one Monday having been at a club where shots were fired less than five feet from her. Sad to say, this is not an unusual story, and I would guess that all of my students at this particular school have lost friends to violence. We talk sometimes about what they, as individuals, can do about this problem, but really, it is a societal problem they have little or no chance of solving on their own. I guess it's not bad enough that these young people have to worry about hunger and housing but must also worry about just surviving.
It depends on the young person. At the school I taught at last year, immigration issues (specifically the DREAM Act) were by far the biggest issue for a number of kids, because they were directly affected by them. But economic issues are absolutely at the forefront for so many kids these days.
I agree with the poster above that mentioned the economy. I am a teacher, and my students seem really concerned that, even if they go to college, they won't be able to secure the life they hope for due to the economic mess we are in.
Of course, when my husband was a kid, his biggest concern was communism and the threat of the Soviet Union, so I guess there is still hope.
We see a lot of environmental concern from young people today, but the question of what kind of life will be available to them seems most pressing. What kind of job will they be qualified for or will be available at all?
In the US, many students are turning to nursing school as the answer to the employment dilemma, believing that this is the only job they can get which will secure an income. Nursing is not what many of these people want to do but it is what they feel they must do.
The future is not clear. The story of "what they can be when they grow up" is murky, at best, if not downright dark.
Crime (and the continuing rise of gang activity), economic problems, joblessness and the sad state of American politics are just a few of the problems the next generation will have to face. Add to that environmental issues, the continued restriction of personal freedoms, and the threat of terrorism and instability in the Middle East, and young people should have plenty of problems on which to focus in the upcoming years.
The economy and nothing but the economy at this point. That's not completely true, of course, because there are plenty of people who care about things like the environment or about reducing poverty. But by far the biggest worry is about whether there will be good enough jobs available after graduation or after college.
While no longer in high school or college, I do have a child in high school. My daughter has a very hard time with the lack of respect, empathy, and disregard for education (seen in many of her peers). As a high school teacher, I have to agree. I am honestly worried about where we will be in five, ten, even twenty years from now. Not many of my students know what they are going to do with their lives (and I teach seniors). This mentality, while not universal, is widespread enough to instill extreme worry.
Outside of that, those who do wish to make something of themselves (like my children) are worried about paying for college and paying back their debt after college. Sometimes, it seems those worries are enough to stop many from even attending college.
It seems that we are in an age where new products instill laziness (I even saw a new bed which makes itself). Students feel just fine plagiarizing, copying work from others, or simply not turning it in (with no concern for failing). Essentially, we live in a world where many are happy with just passing.
The last part of my answer reminds me of the commencement speech "You are not special." All students get the same diploma, same cap and gown, and same recognition (even if they passed by the skin of their teeth). It takes effort to be special. I fear that too many of the students today are okay with not being special.
(Sorry for the rant. Your question posed refers to something I worry about a lot.)