"We live in
a decaying age. Young people no longer
their parents. They are rude and impatient.
inhabit taverns and have no self control."
6000 year-old Egyptian tomb1
"New" menace to society
In 1898, newspapers in England warned
of the menace of "hooligans"
and of a "dramatic increase
in disorderly behaviour".
The Times reported "organised
terrorism in the streets".2
In every decade of the 20th century there
were similar media panics.
Meanwhile, at the start of the 21st century,
politicians have (once again) revived
and stoked public fears of juvenile misbehaviour.
A new Anti-Social Behaviour Act
has given British authorities extraordinary
Mainstream journalists often parrot government
press releases. Then, for "balance",
they question whether or not governments
should interfere in how parents raise
children (a side issue at best). They
tend not to question the belief that there
is some kind of new, unique,
escalating menace which requires urgent
They don't question the idea that this
is part of a distinctly modern
malaise so unlike the good old
days, when young people had more respect...
A time of lawlessness & disrespect
"When I was
young, we were taught to be discreet and
respectful of elders, but the present
youth are exceedingly disrespectful and
impatient of restraint".
happening to our young people? They disrespect
their elders, they disobey their parents.
They ignore the law. They riot in the
streets inflamed with wild notions. Their
morals are decaying. What is to become
people of today think of nothing but themselves.
They have no reverence for parents or
old age. They are impatient of all restraint...
As for the girls, they are forward, immodest
and unladylike in speech, behavior and
to Peter the Hermit, AD 12743
In April 1738, the press covered a report
from a British Government committee which
had been set up to "examine
the causes of the present notorious immorality
In the 1800s, hordes of teens and pre-teens
ran wild in American city streets, dodging
away at the foundations of society",
as a commentator put it. In 1850, New
York City recorded more than 200 gang
wars fought largely by adolescent boys.5
The Golden Age
delinquency has increased at an alarming
rate and is eating at the heart of America"
juvenile court judge, 19466
In 1992 the Wall Street Journal
published two lists, ostensibly of the
biggest problems in schools in 1940 and
1990 ("as identified by teachers").
The 1940 problems were listed as: talking,
chewing gum, making noise, running in
the halls, improper clothing and
littering. The 1990
problems were: pregnancy, suicide,
drugs, alcohol, rape, robbery and
By the time the Journal printed
the lists, they'd appeared in hundreds
of media publications, books and political
speeches. In 1994, a Yale professor demonstrated
that the "1990" list was from
a 1975 survey in which principals (not
teachers) were asked about crimes
(not general problems). The sociologist,
Barry Glassner, points out that when teachers
have been asked about problems
in schools, they respond with items such
as parent apathy, lack of financial support,
absenteeism, fighting and too few textbooks
not rape and robbery.7
But the lists "confirmed" common
beliefs that morals are breaking
down, that everything is going to hell,
printable version >
Harmless fashion, or
sick indicator of
"In the late 1990s the number
of drug users had decreased by half
compared to a decade earlier; almost
two-thirds of high school seniors
had never used any illegal drugs,
even marijuana. So why did a majority
of adults rank drug abuse as the
greatest danger to America's youth?"
The Culture of Fear)