From the Presbyterian News Service comes word of a survey of teenagers guaranteed to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It seems that while 80% of teenagers believe they are “ethically prepared” tp face the future, almost 40% also believe that “breaking the rules” to succeed is acceptable behavior. Junior Achievement and Deloitte also found out the following about the membership of Future Criminals of America:
•80 percent of teens either somewhat or strongly agree that they are prepared to make ethical business decisions when they join the workforce, yet more than a third (38 percent) think that they have to break the rules at school to succeed.
•More than one in four teens (27 percent) think behaving violently is sometimes, often or always acceptable. Twenty percent of respondents said they had personally behaved violently toward another person in the past year, and 41 percent reported a friend had done so.
•Nearly half (49 percent) of those who say they are ethically prepared believe that lying to parents and guardians is acceptable, and 61 percent have done so in the past year.
•Teens feel more accountable to themselves (86 percent) than they do to their parents or guardians (52 percent), their friends (41 percent) or society (33 percent).
•Only about half (54 percent) cite their parents as role models. Most of those who don’t cite their parents as role models are turning to their friends or said they didn’t have a role model.
•Only 25 percent said they would be “very likely” to reveal knowledge of unethical behavior in the workplace.
There’s so much wrong here that it is hard to know where to start, or where the problem lies–with parents, religious institutions, schools, the entertainment industry, government; probably all of the above in one measure or another. I think it’s safe to say that the adult world is failing our children if such a large proportion of them think this way. I also think it’s safe to say that the solution has to begin with parents being willing to instruct their kids, model ethical behavior, and if need be provide a measure of shelter from an intellectual and moral climate that seems to exalt behaviors that are anti-social, inhumane, violent and extraordinarily self-centered.