We all accept that America’s schoolchildren are chronic underachievers. Compared to their counterparts around the world American children are, academically speaking, seriously lagging.
Many Americans are strangely nonplussed by this. They must be calculating that whatever their progeny lack in math skills they make up in high self-esteem. Some studies have shown that however badly these students perform on tests, they believe that they are world beaters.
One wonders what will happen when they learn the truth.
Anyway, we as a society have decided that mental health is more important than academic achievement. We believe that being well-rounded and having a lot of fun is better than grinding it out over calculus.
So, how are American children doing on the mental health scale?
Apparently, not too well.
The Guardian reports the discouraging news:
An annual survey of college freshmen has found the lowest levels of self-reported emotional wellbeing in the 30 years, generating concern.
The survey, The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2014, was conducted among more than 153,000 first-year, full-time college students at 227 four-year colleges and universities. The results are meant to reflect attitudes among roughly 1.6 million students at more than 1,500 universities across the US on a wide variety of public policy, health and political issues.
Just more than half of students entering college in the fall of 2014, 50.7%, reported emotional wellbeing in the “highest 10% of people” or “above average”. That is the lowest rating since 1985, when researchers began asking about emotional health.
To be fair, students with disabilities, whether they are on the autism spectrum or suffer from a physical disability are likely to be more depressed than their counterparts. And they are likely to be less well integrated socially.
Student counseling centers are overwhelmed:
“With counseling centers on campus reporting a record number of visits and increased wait times, it is clear that campuses have more work to do to assist students experiencing emotional health issues,” the report said, noting that such behaviors were not widespread.
But, haven’t we been told that modern medicine has discovered a cure for depression? How does it happen that these students are still flocking to counseling centers? Could it be that Prozac is not enough?
Two more statistics stand out here. First, the great majority of today’s college freshmen did not imbibe alcoholic beverages before entering college. The statistical decline is very significant:
The survey reported low rates of students who had used alcohol before entering school, about 33.5% in 2014 compared to 74.2% in 1981.
One hesitates to say it, but children who have no experiencing dealing with alcohol while living at home are going to have more difficulty dealing with it while away at school.
On the other side of the equation fewer and fewer students have any affiliation with a religion:
In 1971, students selected “none” as a religion at a rate of 15.4%. In 2014, 27.5% of students made that selection.
Score one for militant atheism. Having persuaded children to reject their membership in religious congregations, this movement has deprived them of their ability to belong to a functioning group.