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What Is On The Minds Of America's Youth Today?

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"What is on the minds of America's youth today?" was the prompt for an essay contest. The top of the page hosted two images; one of the youth of 1968 protesting racism, and one of teenagers on Spring Break in 2004. The magazine claimed that 30 years ago, young people were so focused on sit-ins, protests, and what was happening in the world around them and today, teens are content solely with "watching their MTV, and following the love lives of Brad, Jen, Jessica, and Paris." I was intrigued by the article. I let the prompt linger in my mind.

I felt what Vanity Fair was offering me seemed biased; they did not acknowledge the fact that life in the 60's and 70's wasn't just about voicing your opinions. For example, Vanity Fair didn't show pictures of teens in the 60's and 70's jiving to groovy records, or experimenting with drugs. After all, that period is known for their hippie fests and psychedelic acid trips that would "liberate you". Why does a girl scantily clad in a bikini, chugging beer from a beer bong sum up the 21st century? I admit, kids today have more on their minds than how to be more politically involved but where are the pictures of kids today volunteering and getting out in the community; trying to make a difference? Adults are judgmental of youth today, and as I mentioned before, their views can be biased and one-sided.

So what is on the minds of America's youth today? Contrary to what Vanity Fair said, America's youth are not content text messaging their friends, playing with their X-boxes, and listening to iPods. Kids today have an incredible amount of pressure placed on them. Friends, family, adults, and the media: all these sources are telling us how we must maintain a high GPA if we have any hope of getting into college, and also that we must engage in as many extracurricular activities as possible, all while being thin and perfectly groomed. I have everything from college and extracurricular activities to what outfit I'm going to wear tomorrow and what I'll do on the weekend running through my mind. The same applies to all of my friends. To say that America's youth are uninterested and uninformed about the world we live in is false. Some days, I'm outraged at what is happening in my community, or the United States, or the world. Some days, I'm irritated with my friend for buying the same shirt as me. Some days, my mind feels so cluttered that I can't even spell my own name. To say the least, I have a lot on my mind and pretending that I direct all my attention to one issue would be a lie. Most of the time, what is on my mind is what is put there by adults.

It seems as though adults' forget all that teenagers have to go through these days. Everything is about college and work and our future. Which classes you take, which extracurricular activities you participate in, and how you go about spending your free time are all directly related to college and work and our future. So to say that all today's youth cares about is celebrity gossip and electronics is in no way true. One generation ago, getting into college was nothing near the task it is today. In the past 5 years, the average public school GPA is 2.97 and the average private school GPA is 3.26. It is unlikely that someone will be accepted to any university with a 2.97 GPA and chances of admittance are only slightly increased with a 3.26. Even a 3.5, which can be viewed as a very high GPA next to these statistics, is below the average high school GPA of students accepted into University of Washington. This is basically saying that if you have any hope of getting into college, you must be one of the elite few who has a way above average GPA. Children and teenagers today are being branded with the message that they need to do everything they can to not just improve, but be better than everyone else. People are not just driven anymore; they are downright competitive!

I was very interested when I heard about the magazine's essay contest. I would have, without hesitation, entered the contest, that is, if I were allowed to. The thing is, I can't even enter the contest because it's only open to readers over 18. An essay about what's on the minds of youth being written by adults. That is unheard of! It is incidents like these that turn us, today's youth, off. The Vanity Fair essay contest is just one example of how we are not taken seriously.

Nowadays, I honestly feel that no one listens to what I have to say. I am encouraged to go out and make a difference, but it doesn't feel like I can actually get my point across. And I'm not saying teens have given up. I, for one, try to be knowledgeable of happenings in the world. I watch the news, read the newspaper, and quite simply refrain from ignorance just by doing so. Still, its not like many adults take me seriously when I engage in a heated political discussion. Countless times, my arguments have been shot down because I'm 16, so what would I know about politics. One afternoon, my father proceeded to lecture my best friend and me on the benefits of racial profiling. Of course, I wanted to scream at him and tell

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