En español | Young people today are often criticized for falling short of the admirable standard set by young people of yesteryear. Somehow, today's young adults have acquired a reputation as exceptionally selfish generation. Again and again, they've been ridiculed as coddled, overindulged and over-praised from birth, so that by the time they reach their teens they expect the world to be laid at their feet with no special effort on their part.
See also: How to talk to children after a tragedy.
Sounds grim, but is it true? Actually, the evidence is quite contrary to this negative portrayal of today's young adults. Consider:
- Rates of volunteerism in high school and college are at all-time highs. According to the annual national survey of college freshman by the Higher Education Research Institute, over 80 percent of college freshmen have done volunteer work in the past year. In their twenties, emerging adults are applying in record numbers to serve in organizations such as the Peace Corps, Americorps and Teach for America.
- Today's college students are more likely than in the past to participate in organized political demonstrations, even compared to the generation that came of age in the political upheaval of the 1960s, according to the Higher Education Research Institute. Their voting rates are low, which has been true for decades, but many of them are active in organizations that focus on issues such as environmental protection, poverty or international refugees.
- Today's young adults are more inclusive and more tolerant than any previous generation. Their acceptance of diversity extends across boundaries of gender, sexual orientation, ethnic group and religion. According to the General Social Survey conducted annually by the University of Chicago, they are nearly unanimous in believing that women should have equal opportunities with men, and they reject gender stereotypes such as "men are better politicians than women are." The Higher Education Research Institute's survey of college freshmen reports that two-thirds of them believe that same-sex marriage should be legal, a far higher proportion than in surveys of older age groups. Interethnic friendships and romantic relationships are no longer novel; the same survey reports that 70 percent have socialized with someone of a different ethnic group in the past year. With regard to religion, even highly religious emerging adults share an accepting attitude toward people who believe differently, according to the National Survey on Youth and Religion.