[Originally published in February 2009]
We’ve all seen the list. It usually comes as an email, but it has been promoted by a lot of people. Even Billy Graham and Dear Abbey have used the list. Like many urban legends, the list of the top school problems of the 1940s compared to the 1980s keeps springing up. Sometimes, like many urban legends, it springs up again. Sometimes the dates are shifted a decade to make the list more relevant.
The supposed top issues in school in the 1940s? The top issues in the 1940s were: Talking out of turn, chewing gum, making noise, running in the halls, cutting in line, wearing improper clothing and not putting paper into the wastebasket. It turns out, though, that this was just someone’s opinion. It never was intended to represent any sort of scientific survey.
The person who investigated it, Dr Barry O’Neill, apparently “doesn’t think schools are any more dangerous than in the past”.1 That was written in 1994. Even then, many schools had metal detectors at the doors. After that, of course, we had the Columbine shootings and the resulting copycats. Are schools really not any more dangerous than the past?
I would like to consider instead another email that we have seen occasionally and paraphrase what it says. It is an obvious editorial, but it really gets to the heart of the matter of ignoring God in today’s society. In public schools, prayer has been banned, the use of the word “God” restricted, Bible studies have been pushed into intramural activities (if allowed at all), and our children have been told they are just animals.
Why are we surprised when they act like animals, then? Nature abhors a vacuum. To take the places of these things, we find guns, violence, sexual promiscuity and teenagers who are so numb they resort to cutting themselves. We are paying the price for telling God to mind His own business.
On 3 March 1988, The New York Times ran an article that stated teenagers today are just as likely as those in the 1940s and 1950s to get sick and die before reaching their 20s. What has changed, though, are the causes of those deaths.2
Despite revolutionary progress in preventing and treating life-threatening infections through immunization and antibiotics, teen-agers today are as likely to get sick and die before reaching their 20’s as they were in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Only the causes of death and disability have changed dramatically, shifting from traditional medical problems to health effects stemming more from social causes.
Instead of communicable diseases, the primary causes of adolescent death are now accidents, suicides, homicides, substance abuse, pregnancy, venereal disease and physical and sexual abuse. Indeed, 77 percent of deaths among 15- to 24-year-olds are now attributed to accident, suicide and homicide. From 1950 to 1980, deaths from homicide rose four-fold and suicides five-fold in this age group.
This is pretty shocking to think about. With all of our advanced knowledge and technology, we cannot solve the basic problems of greed, war and selfishness encased in human nature. Our young have gone astray, and many in this society are just burying their heads in the sand instead of honestly looking at the causes. We have become too smart for our own good. We actually think we know more than the God Who created us and put us on this planet. He gave us a book – a book that purports to have the answers. Yet, few read it, and even fewer understand what it says.
People don’t like to be told what to do. They don’t like to be told they are wrong. We are ignoring God’s relevance today, and we humans are the ones who are paying the price. The human condition will wax worse and worse, though (2Ti 3:1).
The 20th century saw more wars than any previous century. Between 4 – 5% of deaths were probably caused by other people during the century.3 110 million people died in wars in the 20th century.4 So far, the 21st century isn’t looking any brighter. All of this is occurring during a time of unprecedented accomplishments by human beings.
It is estimated that there is enough food to feed every human being on the planet, at least for now. According to the BBC, “The world does produce enough to feed everyone. But the food is often in the wrong place, or unaffordable, or can’t be stored long enough. So making sure everyone has enough to eat is more about politics than science.”5 Why is food often in the wrong place or unaffordable? It has a lot to do with government greed and corruption. Often, the food is given to governments for distribution, but the government uses those gifts to reward its cronies and punish those who oppose it. It is human nature at its worst.
There is a cause for every effect. Mankind decided long ago to go it alone. Adam and Eve decided they could do things their own way instead of God’s way. They thought they had the answers. Just like today, when we think all of our knowledge and technology is going to solve all of mankind’s problems. But, it won’t. The human problem is the heart. The human heart has to change.
29 O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!
~ Dt 5:29
Unfortunately, human beings, just like Adam and Eve, just like ancient Israel, don’t want to listen. It will take teetering upon the brink of nuclear destruction and Jesus Christ forcing the dispersion of the world’s military forces to show mankind cannot rule itself. It would not be necessary if we put God back in charge of our lives, our schools and our governments. He is even more relevant today, in this day and age when human beings can exterminate themselves off of the face of the planet. It is unfortunate that humanity will continue to pay the price of not heeding that relevance.
- Snopes.com, “Old School Days“
- Jane E. Brody, “Health; Trip Across Adolescence Is Just as Risky as Ever“, The New York Times, 3 March 1988
- Atlas – Wars and Democide of the Twentieth Century, “Wars, Massacres and Atrocities of the Twentieth Century“
- UN Press Release GA/DIS/3143, “Twentieth Century Wars Dashed Hopes of Many for Growth, Prosperity, Observer of Holy See Tells First Committee“, 14 October 1999
- Alex Kirby, “Can the planet feed us?“, 24 Nov 2004