My students, every semester, want to write about how teen pregnancy rates are surging, how the violent crime rate is going through the roof, how Our Streets Aren't Safe!, how the abortion rate is up and the rate at which unwed girls are having sex is getting higher and higher and all that crap and of course none of this is, in fact, the truth, which when I send them to do actual research they are deeply offended to discover.
Because they just know all those things are true.
Why? Well, Jerry Springer has told them so. Or their preacher has. Same thing.
From Amanda's story:
"Truly, the real news story of the last 10 years has been the astonishing decline in crime," says Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, a New York City child psychologist. "But we are assaulted by a media that is more interested in scaring people, so it is almost impossible for parents to assess the real level of risk.
In fact, the first thing that passed my mind is that while parents are encouraged to fret about the possibility that their teenaged daughters are going to be kidnapped and raped by strangers, the sad truth is that the real danger is that their teenage daughters are going to be raped by boys or men that they know and trust.
(Snip)The truth is that the real danger for the kids of the middle class is that a couple of decades of conservative social policy is shrinking that middle class and many of these kids are in real danger of growing up and not finding a way to build a middle class life for themselves.
But no one wants to talk about that--so it's just easier for people to blather on about non-existent kidnapping dangers.
And -- for my students -- it's also that they're pointing outward. "Teens" are getting pregant. "Those people" are doing meth. "Mexicans" are stealing. "The media" is making "kids" (certainly not my kids -- someone else's kids) violent. Someone else is causing all the problems in the world. None of it is us. So -- wow, isn't this lucky -- we don't need to change.
That there last sentence is the important one, for Americans.
We don't need to change.
God, do American like that sentence.