There once were two men who lived near an urban park, Tom and Henry.
The two were friends who had met while walking their dogs in the park. As they walked they would talk about the joys of the park, which was filled with hidden glades, brooks and special areas away from the crowds. They were pleased with how the park was maintained. The grass was cut nicely in some areas and new flowers were regularly planted. In other areas, nature was allowed to flourish untouched by human hands. In short, the park was a marvel for them and they loved it.
Both Tom and Henry joined a “Friends of the Park” group in which they would volunteer once a month to help clean up the park, plant flowers, dispose of fallen trees limbs, etc. They would work for several hours on Saturdays with dozens of other friends. They both felt they were doing good and part of something useful. Parks administrators would of course help with such efforts, but the success or failure of the volunteer efforts depending mostly on the work of the volunteers.
One day Henry was walking through the park and he noticed that a rather large tree limb had fallen due to a recent storm. It was blocking one of the paths. He called the park administrators, but the director was on vacation and the message got lost. So the tree limb was left there for several weeks. Every time Henry walked by he got angrier and angrier. “Why aren’t these people doing their jobs?” he would fume.
He would mention the problem to Tom, and Tom would say “I’m sure they will get to it. Isn’t it a beautiful day?”
Henry was beginning to get a bit annoyed with Tom. What a Pollyanna he is, Henry thought. But Henry did not say anything.
The next day Henry noticed that a lot of people in the park were not cleaning up after their dogs. He mentioned this to Tom and he said that he actually thought more people were cleaning up after their dogs, not less. “Boy that guy is annoying,” Henry said to himself. “Doesn’t he see that this park is beginning to fall apart?”
I wanted to highlight a fascinating story in the Economist that shows that young people these days are…healthier and less sexually active than past generations.
This trend appears to be consuming the United States and much of Western Europe. As the Economist says:
In America, the proportion of high-school students reporting “binge-drinking”—more than five drinks in a single session—has fallen by a third since the late 1990s. Cigarette smoking among the young has become so uncommon that more teenagers—some 23% of 17- to 18-year-olds—smoke cannabis than tobacco. Over the past ten years pot-smoking has increased, a bit, among these older teens; but even though now legal in some states (see page 35) its prevalence is still far lower than in the 1970s, when Barack Obama was a member of his high-school “choom gang”. Use of other recreational drugs has fallen sharply. Dr Wilson Compton, the deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, says that perhaps the most worrying trend in young Americans’ drug habits is the increasing abuse of attention-focusing pills such as Ritalin by students keen to improve their performance.
Teenage kicks of other sorts also appear to be on the decline. “Teens are waiting longer to have sex than they did,” according to a report on young Americans from the Guttmacher Institute, a think-tank. America’s teenage pregnancy rate is half what it was two decades ago (see chart 3). Britain has experienced a lesser decline. Most mainland European countries never saw the high rates of teenage pregnancy that America and Britain saw in the 1980s and 1990s, but they too have fewer expectant youngsters than they did.
Teenagers appear not just to be waiting longer for sex, but also by-and-large to be being careful about what they get up to once they get started. According to data from the European Centre for Disease Monitoring and Control, across the European Union (EU) they are the only age group to be diagnosed with fewer sexually transmitted diseases in recent years.
What is causing this newer generation of healthier habits?
Robert Kirby is a Mormon columnist for the SL Tribune. I have read 20 or so columns of his over the years, and some of them are really good and funny and others suffer from what I call the “straw man Mormon” argument.
The “straw man Mormon” argument is extremely common on the Bloggernacle, and it is this: invent an intolerant, holier-than-thou Mormon in your mind and then proceed to show how wrong this Mormon is. If this Mormon is wrong (which he is), then most Mormons (except for you) are wrong because in your mind this invented Mormons represents how most Mormons think. Therefore, we can assume that most Mormons are intolerant, holier-than-thou types because nobody wants to be like this (invented) Mormon.
This tactic is especially cruel because writers like Kirby will take one little characteristic that they have noticed in a few Mormons and then apply these negative characteristics to the entire Mormon population and inflate them into the dominant personality trait of all Mormons.
This Kirby column is a great example of the “straw man Mormon” argument at work. Here is Kirby’s point: if a good Mormon kid grows up and announces he is an atheist, then his very wrong Mormon parents will think the kid is lost and “going to hell” and “doomed,” etc, etc.
Kirby is of course correct that a loving God gives people lots of chances, on Earth and in the Spirit world, to change. He is also right that thinking the kid is doomed is short-sighted. He is also right that some parents probably overreact to their kids losing their testimonies.
Everybody reading this post probably knows some parents who have overreacted in this way. We could fill hundreds of pages on this blog with stories about these “wrong” parents.
But the truth is that everybody, including these parents, are human beings with nuances.
According to Gallup, 18 percent of Mormons approve of President Obama’s job performance. This is down from 43 percent right after he was elected.
Muslims and Jews both love the president.
Here are some fun charts. First, current approval ratings by religion:
Next, approval ratings by Catholics, Protestants and Mormons over time:
Last, approval ratings by Muslims and Jews over time:
Here is one story reporting that Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, has been excommunicated.
Her disciplinary hearing was held yesterday in Virginia.
More details as they become available (please feel free to use the comments to update this story with details).