the kids could be better but they’re not bad, city postacrds wallpaper, thinking and staying in the box

I’ve lost the link about a recent opinion column in the WSJ and echoed by a conservative sociologist in an interdisciplinary journal. Both claimed, in so many words kids, especially teens are going to hell in hand basket. I’ve been reading articles with a similar thesis since I was in my teens. One of the remaining frustration of internet research is news archives. There are lots of them. Most will flash a headline or brief synopsis, but you have to pay to read the whole article. Time magazine has an archive search that goes back to 1923. You can get a headline and the first paragraph. Just a couple highlights my search on teenagers, Monday, Mar. 16, 1970, Nation: Kids and Heroin: The Adolescent Epidemic, Fads: The New Kick, Friday, Feb. 16, 1962:

Each year thousands of misguided teenagers explore the fuzzy-edged world of the cheap kick. Over the years, they have tried the hopped-up delights of aspirin-and-Coke, cough syrup, Benzedrine inhalers and lighter-fluid fumes.

The newest kick is glue sniffing.

From the Monday, Aug. 13, 1945 edition, Teen-Age Gallup

In Chicago, some retailers think they now know that high-school students prefer colored toothpaste, eat three times as many candy bars as their parents

Monday, Feb. 05, 1945, CRIME: It Happened in the U. S. A.

During his stay in the bare, barred “juvenile tank” of Seattle’s King County Jail, 16-year-old John Emberg often wished he were dead. He was a dull, shy, slack-chinned boy. When a tough red head named Chuck Thomas forced other boys to fight him, he backed away, posturing timidly. When he was beaten with shoes and belts, he wept.

Sometimes he screamed with pain. One night he was tied, head down, against the bars, and left with lighted cigarets between his toes. Jailers never bothered to investigate, and he was too terrified to complain. But last week, after he had been found…

One more Monday, Jul. 31, 1944, NEW YORK: Light Him Up!

Generations of teen-age Harlem Negroes have belonged to block gangs. Their rough-&-tumble rivalry, their extortion of five-cent tributes from nonmembers, has been a part of Manhattan life since saloons were gaslit. But war brought a disquieting transformation—packs of adolescent Negroes began to arm themselves with clubs, “switchblade” knives and crude, home made pistols. In the past few months they have gradually begun to terrorize the law-abiding folk of Harlem, who no longer sit so peacefully on their bedding-draped fire escapes, and fear to walk home from a dish of “rice &…

Teens, thus our culture in general has been on the verge of societal apocalypse for so many years, according to the popular media, it has taken on the same nonsensical aura of the fundamentalists who keep predicting the end of the world. Every generation seems to have a slightly different style to their growing pains. The only core things that change are the technology and related to the technology, new ways to get high. Though the latter seems to have reached a plateau. I’m not sure the kids are more than alright, they’re having the same growing pains with the added burdens of an economy that promised them everything if they did what they were supposed to do, and may not be able to deliver for another generation. The economic conditions are the Occam’s razor for their living so many years at home. I’ll continue to think that rather than some convoluted speculation about taking longer to become mature, until I get some better data than what I’ve seen so far. The Kids Are More Than All Right

Every few years, parents find new reasons to worry about their teenagers. And while there is no question that some kids continue to experiment with sex and substance abuse, the latest data point to something perhaps more surprising: the current generation is, well, a bit boring when it comes to bad behavior.

By several noteworthy measures, today’s teenagers are growing increasingly conservative. While marijuana use has recently had an uptick, teenagers are smoking far less pot than their parents did at the same age. In 1980, about 60 percent of high-school seniors had tried marijuana and 9 percent smoked it daily. Among seniors today, according to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey, which has tracked teenage risk behaviors since 1975, 45.5 percent have tried the drug and 6.6 percent are smoking it frequently.

Adolescent use of alcohol, tobacco and most illegal drugs is also far lower than it was 30 years ago. In 1980, about a third of 12th graders had smoked in the past month; today that number has dropped to fewer than 1 in 5. Teenage alcohol use has reached historic lows. In 1980, 72 percent of high-school seniors said they had recently consumed alcohol, compared with just 40 percent in 2011. In 1981, about 43 percent of 12th graders had tried an illegal drug other than pot; in 2011 that number fell to 25 percent.

Today’s teenagers are also far less likely to have sex or get pregnant compared with their parent’s generation. In 1988, half of boys 15 to 17 had experienced sex; by 2010 that number fell to just 28 percent. The percentage of teenage girls having sex dropped to 27 percent from 37.2 percent, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials say drug use and teenage pregnancy rates are higher here than most other developed nations, but most trends are improving.

Levels of substance abuse is not necessarily the end all of doing well, though less self-destruction is good news. Having witnessed and read about the dangers of alcohol and liquor, teens are probably better off experimenting with pot – while yes, not experimenting at all would be the ideal. While there is a chance of some kind of physiological episode with pot, every weekend brings news of some kid with alcohol poisoning.

That said teens and early twenty-somethings seem to be handling things well enough. As well as any generation say after WW I, when we started leapfrogging forward in industrial mechanization and electronic technology. They have plenty of reasons to be depressed. U.S. business is back up to profit and productivity levels of pre-Wall Street financial collapse. They are doing so largely without hiring people – though there are glimmers of hope. If they cannot get jobs or can only get jobs that do not pay a living wage, one cannot reasonably give them a hard time for living at home longer, hesitate to get married or have deep concerns about starting a family. It is the tendency of conservative commentators to associate this putting off so-called adulthood because of some moral decline. People in general, including some teens, have strangely flexible and scary moral compasses. Read some Chaucer or Shakespeare or the Bible – some people and some teens always have. Our culture is not in any particular decline, economic justice, concepts of fairness, ethics in business, loyalty to employees, acting as guardians of resources for the next generation – those are on the decline. If that is reflected in some people’s behavior, there are solutions. Only the people who propose those solutions are often demonized as Marxists socialists commies paving the road to serfdom.

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While not a fan of Freeman Dyson this isn’t bad, How to Dispel Your Illusions, a review of Thinking, Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 499 pp., $30.00

Kahneman had a bachelor’s degree in psychology and had read a book, Clinical vs. Statistical Prediction: A Theoretical Analysis and a Review of the Evidence by Paul Meehl, published only a year earlier. Meehl was an American psychologist who studied the successes and failures of predictions in many different settings. He found overwhelming evidence for a disturbing conclusion. Predictions based on simple statistical scoring were generally more accurate than predictions based on expert judgment.

A famous example confirming Meehl’s conclusion is the “Apgar score,” invented by the anesthesiologist Virginia Apgar in 1953 to guide the treatment of newborn babies. The Apgar score is a simple formula based on five vital signs that can be measured quickly: heart rate, breathing, reflexes, muscle tone, and color. It does better than the average doctor in deciding whether the baby needs immediate help. It is now used everywhere and saves the lives of thousands of babies. Another famous example of statistical prediction is the Dawes formula for the durability of marriage. The formula is “frequency of love-making minus frequency of quarrels.” Robyn Dawes was a psychologist who worked with Kahneman later. His formula does better than the average marriage counselor in predicting whether a marriage will last.

Dyson recounts his experience with doing statistical analysis of the operations of the British Bomber Command in World War II. The fatality rate was staggering. There were few survivors after a few months of flying missions. A-ha, the survivors have experience, the experience must be the reason they survived. No one wanted to experiment with lessening payloads that would make the bombers faster. It was not lighter planes that would decrease casualties, it was experience. Never mind that statistically the sum of survivors were merely lucky. Trying out new paint schemes or ripping out some gunners might not have worked, but no one ever tried so they continued a 75% casualty rate until the end of the war. Anyone who has ever had a job where you did not work alone knows how difficult it can be to get others to change the way “we’ve always” done things – even when you present some time or cost saving calculations.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, “Morris Lessmore” is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story.

…“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” is one of five animated short films that will be considered for outstanding film achievements of 2011 in the 84th Academy Awards