What are the characteristics of millennials according to Pew Research Center?

  

Discussion #9
Reflect upon your childhood experience and the time/culture
in which you grew up. Specifically, address the following questions: what were
the leisure activities that you remember; who were your heroes; what were your
favorite foods; and what were your fears? What were the elements of your
childhood experience that reflect your time and culture? How do think that your
childhood experience might differ from that of children today? (Remember to use
information from the readings in your comments about children’s lives today.
That would be either the Arnett or the Burnham article).
At least 300 words.
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Social & Demographic Trends
F EBRU ARY 24, 2010
Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open
to Change
Executive Summary
Generations, like people, have personalities, and Millennials
the American teens and twenty-somethings who are
making the passage into adulthood at the start of a new
(http://www.pewresearch.org/millennials/)
millennium have begun to forge theirs: confident, selfexpressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.
They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older
adults. Theyre less religious, less likely to have served in the
military, and are on track to become the most educated
generation in American history.
Their entry into careers and first jobs has been badly set
This is part of a Pew Research
Center series of reports exploring
the behaviors, values and opinions
of the teens and twenty-somethings
that make up the Millennial
Generation
(http://www.pewresearch.org/millennials/)
back by the Great Recession, but they are more upbeat than
their elders about their own economic futures as well as
about the overall state of the nation.(See chapter 4 in the
full report (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf) )
They embrace multiple modes of self-expression. Three-quarters have created a profile on a social
networking site. One-in-five have posted a video of themselves online. Nearly four-in-ten have a tattoo (and
for most who do, one is not enough: about half of those with tattoos have two to five and 18% have six or
more). Nearly one-in-four have a piercing in some place other than an earlobe about six times the share
of older adults whove done this. But their look-at-me tendencies are not without limits. Most Millennials
have placed privacy boundaries on their social media profiles. And 70% say their tattoos are hidden
beneath clothing. (See chapters 4 and 7 in the full report
(http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf) )
Despite struggling (and often failing) to find jobs in the teeth of a recession, about nine-in-ten either say
that they currently have enough money or that they will eventually meet their long-term financial goals. But
at the moment, fully 37% of 18- to 29-year-olds are unemployed or out of the workforce, the highest share
among this age group in more than three decades. Research shows that young people who graduate from
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college in a bad economy
typically suffer long-term
consequences with
effects on their careers and
earnings that linger as long
as 15 years.1 (See chapter 5
in the full report
(http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennialsconfident-connected-open-to-change.pdf) )
Whether as a by-product of protective parents, the age of
terrorism or a media culture that focuses on dangers,
they cast a wary eye on human nature. Two-thirds say
you cant be too careful when dealing with people. Yet
they are less skeptical than their elders of government.
More so than other generations, they believe government
should do more to solve problems. (See chapter 8 in the
full report
(http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennialsconfident-connected-open-to-change.pdf) ).
They are the least overtly religious American generation
in modern times. One-in-four are unaffiliated with any religion, far more than the share of older adults
when they were ages 18 to 29. Yet not belonging does not necessarily mean not believing. Millennials pray
about as often as their elders did in their own youth. (See chapter 9 in the full report
(http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf) )
Only about six-in-ten were raised by both parents a smaller share than was the case with older
generations. In weighing their own life priorities, Millennials (like older adults) place parenthood and
marriage far above career and financial success. But they arent rushing to the altar. Just one-in-five
Millennials (21%) are married now, half the share of their parents generation at the same stage of life.
About a third (34%) are parents, according to the Pew Research survey. We estimate that, in 2006, more
than a third of 18 to 29 year old women who gave birth were unmarried. This is a far higher share than was
the case in earlier generations.2 (See chapters 2 and 3 in the full report
(http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf) )
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Millennials are on course to become the
most educated generation in American
history, a trend driven largely by the
demands of a modern knowledge-based
economy, but most likely accelerated in
recent years by the millions of 20somethings enrolling in graduate
schools, colleges or community colleges
in part because they cant find a job.
Among 18 to 24 year olds a record share
39.6% was enrolled in college as of
2008, according to census data. (See
chapter 5 in the full report
(http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf) )
They get along well with their parents. Looking back at their teenage years, Millennials report having had
fewer spats with mom or dad than older adults say they had with their own parents when they were
growing up. And now, hard times have kept a significant share of adult Millennials and their parents under
the same roof. About one-in-eight older Millennials (ages 22 and older) say theyve boomeranged back to
a parents home because of the recession. (See chapters 3 and 5 in the full report
(http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf) )
They respect their elders. A majority say that the older generation is superior to the younger generation
when it comes to moral values and work ethic. Also, more than six-in-ten say that families have a
responsibility to have an elderly parent come live with them if that parent wants to. By contrast, fewer than
four-in-ten adults ages 60 and older agree that this is a family responsibility.
Despite coming of age at a time when the United States has been waging two wars, relatively few
Millennials-just 2% of males-are military veterans. At a comparable stage of their life cycle, 6% of Gen Xer
men, 13% of Baby Boomer men and 24% of Silent men were veterans. (See chapter 2 in the full report
(http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf) )
Politically, Millennials were among Barack Obamas strongest supporters in 2008, backing him for
president by more than a two-to-one ratio (66% to 32%) while older adults were giving just 50% of their
votes to the Democratic nominee. This was the largest disparity between younger and older voters recorded
in four decades of modern election day exit polling. Moreover, after decades of low voter participation by
the young, the turnout gap in 2008 between voters under and over the age of 30 was the smallest it had
been since 18- to 20-year-olds were given the right to vote in 1972. (See chapter 8 in the full report
(http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf) )
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But the political enthusiasms of Millennials
have since cooled -for Obama and his
message of change, for the Democratic
Party and, quite possibly, for politics itself.
About half of Millennials say the president
has failed to change the way Washington
works, which had been the central promise
of his candidacy. Of those who say this,
three-in-ten blame Obama himself, while
more than half blame his political
opponents and special interests.
To be sure, Millennials remain the most
likely of any generation to self-identify as
liberals; they are less supportive than their
elders of an assertive national security
policy and more supportive of a progressive
domestic social agenda. They are still more
likely than any other age group to identify
as Democrats. Yet by early 2010, their
support for Obama and the Democrats had
reced
ed, as evidenced both by survey data and by
their low level of participation in recent offyear and special elections. (See chapter 8 in the full report
(http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf) )
Our Research Methods
This Pew Research Center report profiles the roughly 50 million Millennials who currently span the ages of
18 to 29. Its likely that when future analysts are in a position to take a fuller measure of this new
generation, they will conclude that millions of additional younger teens (and perhaps even pre-teens)
should be grouped together with their older brothers and sisters. But for the purposes of this report, unless
we indicate otherwise, we focus on Millennials who are at least 18 years old.
We examine their demographics; their political and social values; their lifestyles and life priorities; their
digital technology and social media habits; and their economic and educational aspirations. We also
compare and contrast Millennials with the nations three other living generations-Gen Xers (ages 30 to 45),
Baby Boomers (ages 46 to 64) and Silents (ages 65 and older). Whenever the trend data permit, we
compare the four generations as they all are now-and also as older generations were at the ages that adult
Millennials are now.3
Most of the findings in this report are based on a new survey of a national cross-section of 2,020 adults
(including an oversample of Millennials), conducted by landline and cellular telephone from Jan. 14 to 27,
2010; this survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.0 percentage points for the full sample and larger
percentages for various subgroups (for more details, see page 110 in the full report
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(http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf) ). The report
also draws on more than two decades of Pew Research Center surveys, supplemented by our analysis of
Census Bureau data and other relevant studies.
Whats in a Name?
Generational names are the handiwork of popular culture. Some are drawn from a historic event; others
from rapid social or demographic change; others from a big turn in the calendar.
The Millennial generation falls into the third category. The label refers those born after 1980 the first
generation to come of age in the new millennium.
Generation X covers people born from 1965 through 1980. The label long ago overtook the first name
affixed to this generation: the Baby Bust. Xers are often depicted as savvy, entrepreneurial loners.
The Baby Boomer label is drawn from the great spike in fertility that began in 1946, right after the end of
World War II, and ended almost as abruptly in 1964, around the time the birth control pill went on the
market. Its a classic example of a demography-driven name.
The Silent generation describes adults born from 1928 through 1945. Children of the Great Depression
and World War II, their Silent label refers to their conformist and civic instincts. It also makes for a nice
contrast with the noisy ways of the anti-establishment Boomers.
The Greatest Generation (those born before 1928) saved the world when it was young, in the
memorable phrase of Ronald Reagan. Its the generation that fought and won World War II.
Generational names are works in progress. The zeitgeist changes, and labels that once seemed spot- on fall
out of fashion. Its not clear if the Millennial tag will endure, although a calendar change that comes along
only once in a thousand years seems like a pretty secure anchor.
Some Caveats
A few notes of caution are in order. Generational analysis has a long and distinguished place in social
science, and we cast our lot with those scholars who believe it is not only possible, but often highly
illuminating, to search for the unique and distinctive characteristics of any given age group of Americans.
But we also know this is not an exact science.
We acknowledge, for example, that there is an element of false precision in setting hard chronological
boundaries between the generations. Can we say with certainty that a typical 30-year-old adult is a Gen Xer
while a typical 29-year-old adult is a Millennial? Of course not.
Nevertheless, we must draw lines in order to carry out the statistical analyses that form the core of our
research methodology. And our boundaries-while admittedly too crisp-are not arbitrary. They are based on
our own research findings and those of other scholars.
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We are mindful that there are as many differences in attitudes, values, behaviors and lifestyles within a
generation as there are between generations. But we believe this reality does not diminish the value of
generational analysis; it merely adds to its richness and complexity. Throughout this report, we will not
only explore how Millennials differ from other generations, we will also look at how they differ among
themselves.
The Millennial Identity
Most Millennials (61%) in our January, 2010 survey say their generation has a unique and distinctive
identity. That doesnt make them unusual, however. Roughly two-thirds of Silents, nearly six-in-ten
Boomers and about half of Xers feel the same way about their generation.
But Millennials have a distinctive reason for feeling distinctive. In response to an open-ended follow-up
question, 24% say its because of their use of technology. Gen Xers also cite technology as their generations
biggest source of distinctiveness, but far fewer-just 12%-say this. Boomers feelings of distinctiveness
coalesce mainly around work ethic, which 17% cite as their most prominent identity badge. For Silents, its
the shared experience of the Depression and World War II, which 14% cite as the biggest reason their
generation stands apart. (See chapter 3 in the full report
(http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf) )
Millennials technological exceptionalism is
chronicled throughout the survey. Its not just their
gadgets its the way theyve fused their social lives
into them. For example, three-quarters of
Millennials have created a profile on a social
networking site, compared with half of Xers, 30% of
Boomers and 6% of Silents. There are big
generation gaps, as well, in using wireless
technology, playing video games and posting selfcreated videos online. Millennials are also more
likely than older adults to say technology makes life
easier and brings family and friends closer together
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(though the generation gaps on these questions are relatively narrow). (See chapter 4 in the full report
(http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf) )
Work Ethic, Moral Values, Race Relations
Of the four generations, Millennials are the only one that doesnt cite work ethic as one of their principal
claims to distinctiveness. A nationwide Pew Research Center survey taken in 2009 may help explain why.
This one focused on differences between young and old rather than between specific age groups.
Nonetheless, its findings are instructive.
Nearly six-in-ten respondents cited work ethic as one of the big sources of differences between young and
old. Asked who has the better work ethic, about three-fourths of respondents said that older people do. By
similar margins, survey respondents also found older adults have the upper hand when it comes to moral
values and their respect for others.
It might be tempting to dismiss these findings as a typical older adult gripe about kids today. But when it
comes to each of these traits work ethic, moral values, respect for others young adults agree that older
adults have the better of it. In short, Millennials may be a self-confident generation, but they display little
appetite for claims of moral superiority.
That 2009 survey also found that the public young and old alike thinks the younger generation is more
racially tolerant than their elders. More than two decades of Pew Research surveys confirm that
assessment. In their views about interracial dating, for example, Millennials are the most open to change of
any generation, followed closely by Gen Xers, then Boomers, then Silents.
Likewise, Millennials are more receptive to immigrants than are their elders. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) say
immigrants strengthen the country, according to a 2009 Pew Research survey; just 43% of adults ages 30
and older agree.
The same pattern holds on a range of attitudes about nontraditional family arrangements, from mothers of
young children working outside the home, to adults living together without being married, to more people
of different races marrying each other. Millennials are more accepting than older generations of these more
modern family arrangements, followed closely by Gen Xers. To be sure, acceptance does not in all cases
translate into outright approval. But it does mean Millennials disapprove less. (See chapter 6 in the full
report (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change.pdf) )
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A Gentler Generation Gap
A 1969 Gallup survey, taken near the height of the social and
political upheavals of that turbulent decade, found that 74% of the public believed there was a generation
gap in American society. Surprisingly, when that same question was asked in a Pew Research Center
survey last year in an era marked by hard economic times but little if any overt age-based social tension
the share of the public saying there was a generation gap had risen slightly to 79%.
But as the 2009 results also
make clear, this modern
generation gap is a much more
benign affair than the one that
cast a shadow over the 1960s.
The public says this one is
mostly about the different ways
that old and young use
technology and relatively
few people see that gap as a
source of conflict. Indeed, only
about a quarter of the
respondents in the 2009
survey said they see big
conflicts between young and
old in America. Many more see
conflicts between immigrants
and the native born, between
rich and poor, and between
black and whites.
There is one generation gap that has widened notably in recent years. It has to do with satisfaction over the
state of the nation. In recent decades the young have always tended to be a bit more upbeat than their
elders on this key measure, but the gap is wider now than it has been in at least twenty years. Some 41% of
Millennials say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country, compared with just 26% of
those ages 30 and older. Whatever toll a recession, a housing crisis, a financial meltdown and a pair of wars
may have taken on the national psyche in the past few years, it appears to have hit the old harder than the
young. (See chapter 3 in the full report (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confidentconnected-open-to-change.pdf) )
But this speaks to a difference in outlook and attitude; its not a source of conflict or tension. As they make
their way into adulthood, Millennials have already distinguished themselves as a generation that gets along
well with others, especially their elders. For a nation whose population is rapidly going gray, that could
prove to be a most welcome character trait.
Read the full report (http://pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/millennials-confident-connected-open-tochange.pdf) for more details.
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1. LisaB.Kahn.TheLong-TermLaborMarketConsequencesofGraduatingfromCollegeinaBadEconomy,YaleSchoolofManagement,Aug.
13,2009(forthcominginLabourEconomics).
2. ThisPewResearchestimateisdrawnfromouranalysisofgovernmentdataforwomenages18to29whogavebirthin2006,themostrecent
yearforwhichsuchdataisavailable.Martin,JoyceA.,BradyE.Hamilton,PaulD.Sutton,StephanieJ.Ventura,FayMenacker,Sharon
Kirmeyer,andTJMathews.Births:FinalDatafor2006.NationalVitalStatisticsReports;vol57no7.Hyattsville,Maryland:NationalCenterfor
HealthStatistics.2009.
3. Wedonothaveenoughrespondentsages83andolderinour2010surveytopermitananalysisoftheGreatestGeneration,whichisusually
definedasencompassingadultsbornbefore1928.Throughoutmuchofthisreport,wehavegroupedtheseolderrespondentsinwiththe
Silentgeneration.However,Chapter8onpoliticsandChapter9onreligioneachdrawonlong-termtrenddatafromothersources,permitting
usinsomeinstancesinthosechapterstopresentfindingsabouttheGreatestGeneration.
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274 Huck’s Raft
chapter fourteen
the families of sons who have died in combat. Ulysses, his intensely curious younger brother, who personifies wide-eyed childhood curiosity and
innocence, undergoes a personal odyssey of his own that culminates in his
discovery of death. Highly discursive in style, The Human Comedy
touches on many of the disruptive elements of home-front life, including
the father’s absence, family separation, the widespread employment
of
.
teenagers, ethnic and racial conflict, and the weakening of parental supervision and controls over youthful sexuality. Saroyan’s great insight was
that the war forced young people to mature rapidly and confront the
world’s sadnesses even as they sought to obey the novel’s injunction: “Be
happy. Be happy.”
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn sold 300,000 copies in the first six weeks after it was published in 1943. Set in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg slums between 1902 and 1919, it tells the story of an earnest fourteen-year-old,
Francie Nolan; her streetwise preteen brother, Neeley; her resourceful
mother, Katie; and her loving father, Johnny, who is drinking himself to
death and whose inability to hold a steady job has condemned the family
to a life of poverty. Like The Human Comedy, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
is a highly sentimental coming-of-age story, and, like Saroyan’s novel, it
describes children growing up quickly as they confront the world’s cruelties. Family need forces Francie to leave school to get a job, to nurture her
family, to confront a would-be rapist, and to continue to grow tall and
straight like the tree in her backyard. Francie’s resilience wins out and prevents her from being permanently scarred by her environment.
The war left an indelible impression o n the lives and beliefs of the children who lived through it. Far from fading over time, the war’s impact
persisted into adulthood. The experience led many young Americans to
see themselves as members of a common generation, different from those
who preceded or succeeded them. They remembered the war as an elevating time-demanding and stressful, but also inspiring-a period of privation and sacrifice, but also of high ideals and purpose, when the United
States and all Americans stood proud. For many young people, panicipation in the war effort instilled a sense of self-worth, autonomy, and initiative that they carried with them in the years ahead. But perhaps the war’s
most important legacy was the one that Saroyan described in The Human
Comedy. Young people had grown aware of life’s sorrows. For many
young Americans, the war exacted a high toll. At least 183,000 children
lost fathers, and many more lost siblings, relatives, or neighbors. Wartime
separations and losses led many Americans to place a heavy emphasis on
family life in the postwar years.”
U/
In Pursuit of the Perfect Childhood
F
O R A M E R I C A N S of a certain age, the answer t o the question
“What time is it?” will always be the same: “It’s Howdy Doody time.”
Baby boomers share many references from their. childhood, from
afterschool T V shows like Howdy Doody and The Mickey Mouse Club to
toys like Mr. Potato Head and Slinkeys. Half a century later, memories of
postwar childhood still make many baby boomers sigh. But nostalgia for
the 1950s is highly seductive; it inevitably sanitizes the past and projects
us into a world that never existed.’
It is easy to understand why many middleslass baby boomers look
back fondly on their postwar childhood. The postwar era was a period of
rapidly rising real incomes, when the after-inflation weekly earnings of
factory workers increased 50 percent, and millions of Americans moved
from urban apartments to suburban ranch-style houses. But the era’s
greatest appeal is that it seems a much more innocent and child-friendly
time: a time of open spaces, of brand-new neighborhoods, Good Humor
ice cream trucks, 25-cent movies, and amusement parks, long since replaced by shopping malls and strip shopping centers. Consumer culture
seemed more innocent then, with shiny silver cap guns embossed with the
name of the Lone Ranger, “cigarettes” made of chocolate, and cereal premiums that included bracelets and plastic tanks that fired plastic shells.
Even the child-oriented convenience foods evoke nostalgia-Sugar
Frosted Flakes (introduced in 1951), Sugar Smacks (in 1953), Tater Tots
(in 1958). and J i f b Pop, the stovetop popcorn (also in 1958). For aging
baby boomers, the postwar ~ e r i o dstands out as the golden age of Ameri-
.
r
276 Huck’s Raft
can childhood. It serves as the yardstick against which all subsequent
changes in childhood are measured.
Yet it is a mistake to look at the postwar era through rose-colored
glasses. In f a n nearly a third of postwar children grew up near or below
the poverty line. The years between World War I1 and the turbulence of
the 1960s are often regarded as a sterile period of quiescence and conformity, but beneath the warmth of the era were intense currents of anxiety.
Sociologists like Kingsley Davis and psychologists like Theodore Lidz
blamed the growing isolation of the nuclear family and the smothering intensity of the mother-child bond for a host of ills in children, including
schizophrenia and sex-role confusion?
To understand postwar childhood, it is essential to recognize that the
period’s family patterns-a high birthrate, a stable divorce rate, and a low
number of mothers in the workforce-were a historical aberration, out of
line with long-term historical trends. The era’s child-centered character
represented a reaction against Depression hardships, wartime upheavals,
and Cold War insecurities. The postwar era also represented a period of
far-reaching social transformations whose significance would become apparent during the 1960s. It was during the 1950s that teen culture assumed its modem form and that the civil rights movement’s activist assault on school segregation got underway.
On January 19, 1953, forty-four million Americans watched Lucy
Ricardo give birth to Little Ricky, in one of the most widely viewed
broadcasts in television history. That year nearly four million American
children were born, more than in any previous year. Between 1946 and
1964 American women bore more than seventy-five million infants, compared with barely fifty million in the preceding nineteen years. At i k peak,
the birthrate averaged 3.6 babies per woman, nearly double the rate in the
1930s.’
After fifteen yean of economic privation and war, the surge in birthrates came as no surprise. Between 1940 and 1950 the sharpest increases
in fertility occurred among women over thirty-five, who had postponed
marriage and childbearing during the Depression and war years. But unlike in Britain, France, and Germany, where the boom quickly subsided,
the American rate continued t o climb. Not until 1965 did the annual rate
drop below four million, a mark not reached again until 1989. Contributing to the ongoing boom were an increase in the proportion of women
marrying, a decline in the number of childless and one-child marriages,
and a sharp drop in the age of first marriage. For parents whose own
childhoods were scarred by war and insecurity, the impulse to marry, bear
children, and provide them with a protected childhood was intense.
In Pursuit o f the Perfect Childhood 277
Childlessness became a sign of maladjustment and parenthood a symbol
of maturity and success. “Children,” said one single woman in 1955,
‘give life a new meaning, a new focal point, a new frame of reference, a
new perspective.” Childless couples became objects of pity.’
Parents who had had to mature quickly during the Depression and war
didn’t want their children to be similarly deprived of childhood pleasures.
Middle-class mothers served as full-time camp counselors, leisure coordinators, and chauffeurs. The sociologist William H. Whyte described postwar America as a filiarchy, a society dominated by the young. “It is the
children who set the basic design,” he wrote in 1956; ‘their friendships
are translated into the mother’s friendships, and these, in turn, to the
family’s.”‘
The sheer size of the baby boom forced the economy t o regcar itself t o
feed, clothe, educate, and house the rising generation. Nearly every major
U.S. metropolitan area saw its outlying areas spawn versions of
Levittown, the planned community with 17,000 homes built in a Long Island, New York, potato field beginning in 1947. Of thirteen million
homes constructed in the decade after World War 11, eleven million were
erected in new suburban developments. Two-thirds of Levittown men said
they had moved to the suburbs to spend more time with their children,
and 70 percent of these men said they had fulfilled this objective. Nationwide, 80 percent of adults said they had moved to the suburbs “for the
kids.”6
The growth of the suburbs greatly contributed to the image of the
1950s as a child-centered decade. Within the booming suburbs, there
were two sharply defined age groups: adults of childbearing age and
youngsters under the age of fifteen. Suburbia was a world of families and
young children, with few old people and surprisingly few adolescents.
Usually living some distance from relatives, suburban families were more
isolated, intense, and inward-turning than their urban counterpart^.^
In an increasingly commercialized, child-centered environment, parents
and grandparents spent more money on children than ever before. Toy
sales soared from $84 million in 1940 to $1.25 billion two decades later.
For very young children, there were new games like Candyland (introduced in 1949) and Yahtzee (1956). For somewhat older children, there
were Mr. Potato Head (1952), a package of noses, ears, and mustaches
that kids could stick onto real vegetables; and Silly Putty (1950), a combination of boric acid and silicone oil, a gooey compound that bounced on
the floor and copied images from comic books and newspapers onto
sheets of paper. Many postwar toys sought to socialize boys and girls into
proper gender roles. During the Cold War years, toy soldiers and mock
In Pursuit of the Perfect Childhood 287
attendance meant that most teens, for the first time, shared a common experience and could create an autonomous culture, free from adult oversight.”‘
High school life was strongly shaped by the fact that most young people
could expect to achieve the markers of adulthood-marriage, entry into
an adult job, and establishment of an independent home-by their early
twenties. Early entry into adulthood gave high school experiences an intensity that has since disappeared. Since most teens could expect to be
married by their early twenties, dating took on special significance and became a major source of public anxiety. In 1955 Picture Week magazine
ran the headline: “Petting: No. 1Problem.” People Weekly asked: ‘When
Is Going Steady Immoral?””
At a time when abortion was illegal and unsafe and few teens had access to reliable forms of birth control-and when girls who got pregnant
were often forced out of school and had their children’s birth records
stamped ‘Illegitimate”-sexuality was a particular source of anxiety.
Teen sexuality was governed by a double standard. Boys were expected to
initiate and girls t o decide what was appropriate. Girls had to negotiate
how to remain popular while preserving their reputation. “The boy is expected to ask for as much as possible,” reported anthropologist Margaret
Mead; ‘the girl to yield as little as possible.” The dating system made sex
adversarial. As one boy put it, ‘When a boy takes a girl out and spends
$1.20 on her (like I did the other night) he expects a little petting in return
(which I didn’t get).” Meanwhile, girls were told that if they lost their virginity, they also lost their value to boys. ‘Few boys want to get stuck with
a tramp,” one dating book announced.”
Girls received a great deal of advice about how to handle sex. In a column titled ‘What to Tell Your Teen-Age Daughter about Sex,” Cosmopolitan offered mothers detailed guidance. When your daughter says, ‘All
the boys say there is nothing to do after a party but pet,” reply: ‘Trivial
sex experience may dull your capacity for truly great love . .The more
you pet, the more your body clamors for closer union.” Question: ‘Boys
say they don’t want their wives to be virgins anymore.” Answer: ‘The sex
act is often painful at first and not pleasurable at all . .Therefore if you
have intercoutse at an early age you may be frightened and disgusted by
i t – a n d never marry.” The h d i e s ‘ Home Joutnal described ‘The Perfect
Good-Night Kiss”: ‘Ten seconds-not too hard, not too long.””
At a time when the average age of marriage for women was twenty, going steady mimicked and served as preparation for marriage. A boy would
give his steady a class ring, a letter sweater, or an LD. bracelet as a symbol
of commitment. Adults described going steady as ‘stupid, silly, juvenile,
.
.
.
nonsensical, time-wasting . . [and] dangerous,” but it provided security
to teenagers and served as a testing ground for their future intimate relationships.”
While teens socialized at school, they also learned. The baby boom
laced intense pressure on schools. In 1952, 50,000 new classrooms were
built, and average daily attendance rose by two million. To meet the demand, school systems started double sessions and set up 78,000 makeshift
classrooms in churches and vacant stores. Teachers had as many as fortyfive students in a class. Parents, who joined parent-teacher groups in record numbers (PTA membership doubled to eight million), demanded new
school construction. But it took a 184-pound Soviet satellite to -precipitate
a radical reconsideration of the nature and extent of American education.
N o more than a primitive radio beacon transmitting meaningless beeps,
Sputnik prompted “a sense of foreboding” in the nation’s capital. Rear
Admiral Rawson Bennett called Sputnik a ‘hunk of iron almost anybody
could launchm-but most observers disagreed. Life magazine compared
the Soviet success to the first shots at Lexington and C o n c ~ r d . ‘ ~
Sputnik inspired such words as beatnik, coined in 1958, as well as the
later peacenik and refusenik. But the starlike symbol of national shame
more importantly inspired science fairs and language labs and provoked
nationwide soul-searching about the state of public education. The director of the American Institute of Physics, Elmer Hutchisson, proclaimed
that the American way of life was ‘doomed to rapid extinction” if the nation’s youth weren’t properly taught the importance of science. President
Dwight Eisenhower and Congress responded by allocating the first $1 billion in direct federal aid to public education to recruit and train teachers
and raise the standards of science, mathematics, and foreign-language
instr~ction.’~
The post-Sputnik effort to raise academic standards represented a reaction against educational innovations of the preceding decade. To meet the
needs of students who did not plan to go to college, high schools in the
1940s offered an increasing number of practical courses to provide preparation for future vocations. ‘Life-adjustment” courses, including instruction in health, marriage, and family life, were supposed to promote students’ social and emotional development. This emphasis on practical
preparation for the workplace and adult responsibilities had received a
ringing endorsement in a 1944 publication by the National Educational
Association. Rejecting the idea of a uniform curriculum emphasizing core
academic subjects, the report insisted that ‘there is no aristocracy of ‘subjects.'” ‘Mathematics and mechanics, art and agriculture, history and
homemaking are all peers,” the report insisted. A guiding premise of the
In Pursuit of the Perfect Childhood 289
result that students had to be taught in college what they should have
learned in high school. Sociologist James S. Coleman maintained that an
anti-intellectual student culture flourished in the nation’s high schools,
disparaging serious learning, while the philosopher Hannah Arendt
warned in 1958 that academic standards ‘of the average American school
lag . . far behind the average standards in . . Europe.” Popular culture
echoed such criticisms. A former New York City teacher, Evan Hunter,
fictionalized his experiences in a 1953 book, Blackboard Jungle, which
was made into a landmark film starring Glenn Ford and Sidney Poitier.
The first film to feature a rock-and-roll song, Blackboard Jungle also introduced the term daddy-o and popularized the image of urban toughs
wearing black leather jackets and T-shirts with rolled-up sleeves, and
‘painted an unsettling portrait of urban vocational schools, filled with
alienated students and apathetic teachers?’
Sputnik intensified the finger-pointing as the country came to the
shocked realization that it was no longer the world’s leader in science and
mathematics. In a multipart series on the “Crisis in Education,” Life magazine compared an American eleventh-grader from a leading public
school with a tenth-grader in the Soviet Union. While Chicago’s Stephen
Lapekas was reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, Moscow’s
Alexei Kutzkov had studied English as a foreign language and completed
works by Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw. For the American, Life
noted that “getting educated seldom seems too serious,” but for the Russian, high grades were “literally more important than anything else in his
life.” Life concluded that ‘U.S. high school students are . . . ignorant of
things [elementary] school students would have known a generation ago.”
Admiral Hyman Rickover echoed this sentiment when he wrote in 1959:
“In the American comprehensive school the pupil finds a display of
courses resembling the variegated dishes in a cafeteria. . No wonder he
often gorges himself on sweets instead of taking solid meat that must be
chewednx9
The panicked response to Sputnik resulted in a number of ill-thoughtthrough attempts at miracle cures. The entire Hagerstown, Maryland,
school system was wired for closed-circuit television. A four-engine aircraft circled over a six-state area, beaming prepackaged lessons to hundreds of midwestern schools. But the crisis also had positive effects. T o
arouse student learning, educators increasingly embraced active participatory learning, including collaborative and individual projects and field
trips, and introduced subject-area specialists in science and mathematics
into many schools. The National Defense Education Act of 1958 provided
grants for summer institutes to train teachers in math, science, and foreign
.
A student at n high school in Jacksonville,Florida, demonstrates his
x i m e fair project in 1959, two y e w after the Soviet Union launchcd
Spumik, the hat artificial satellite. Guncry of the Florida Photographic Collection, Florida State Archiva, Tallahassee.
so-called life-adjustment movement, spelled out in the 1945 Prosser Resolution (named for Charles A. Prosser, a leading proponent of vocational
education), was that only about 20 percent of American high school stufor
dents were college material. Another 20 percent should be
the skilled trades, while the remaining 60 percent should receive a more
general education to prepare them for everyday life and work.)’
Even before Sputnik’s launch, however, critics of “progressive” education had condemned the shift in focus away from academics. In his
influential 1953 book, E d u c a t i o ~ lWasteland, the historian Arthur
Bestor argued that educational frills had supplanted academics, with the
.
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290 Huck’s Raft
languages. The National Science Foundation invested more than $100
million in innovative curricula such as the “New Math.”
One of the most consequential responses to Sputnik was a report written by James B. Conant, Haward’s former president. Titled The American
High School To+, it sold an astonishing 170,000 copies in five months
after its publication in 1959. Conant rejected the European idea of segregating university-bound students in separate institutions for the academically gifted. Instead he called for “comprehensive” high schools that
would include academic, business courses, and vocational training, and
the elimination of small high schools with fewer than 100 graduating seniors. H e argued that these schools would promote interaction across
class lines and increase the quality and range of available courses of study.
As a result of the Conant report, more than 100,000 small high schools
closed, and the size of the average high school increased 300 percent, with
many urban high schools ballooning to over 3,000 students.
To address the anonymity of very large schools and promote a democratic spirit, Conant called for homerooms where vocational and academic students would mix. Democracy was also to be enhanced through
student government and extracurricular activities. Conant viewed the
comprehensive school in the United States as “a great engine of democracy,” and a unifying and integrating force in a highly diverse society. But
Conant was also convinced that only about 15 to 20 percent of students
were capable of mastering a college-prep curriculum and that educators
needed to resist “unreasonable parental pressure” to place unqualified
students in academic classes. He called for a broad array of elective
courses to meet the needs of students who were not going to college, including general education, vocational, and commercial programs. Ability
testing, tracking, and a differentiated curriculum lay at the heart of
Conant’s recommendations.”
Conant, a proponent of college admissions testing, played a critical role
in the creation of the Educational Testing Sewice in 1947, which replaced
college entrance essay examinations with a standardized multiple-choice
test of verbal and mathematical skills. As president of Haward, Conant
wanted to attract students on the basis of merit and ability rather than
wealth and social standing. Henry Chauncey, an assistant dean at Harvard, convinced him that machine-graded testing offered a way to measure applicants’ academic aptitude. A few liberal educators, including
W. Allison Davis and Robert J. Havighurst, argued that the Scholastic Aptitude Test measured social and economic advantage rather than mental
ability, but their complaints went unheard. By 1967, when the University
of California began to require applicants to take the Scholastic Aptitude
In Pursuit of the Perfect Childhood 291
Test (SAT), the college entrance examination had become a rite of passage
for college-bound juniors and seniors.”
Another reform that grew out of Conant’s efforts was the replacement
of junior high schools with middle schools. The junior high school, a
product of the 1920s, sought to separate preadolescents from younger
children and high school students. In practice, Conant argued, junior high
school students mimicked the worst features of high school students, especially their obsessions with sports and socializing, while teachers were
dissatisfied that they were not teaching in a high school. Educators responded by creating the middle school for students in the fifth through the
eighth grades. Unlike the junior high, the middle school was supposed to
be more child focused, with flexible scheduling, collaborative teams of
teachers, and emphasis on intramural athletics. By 1965 there were about
500 middle schools.”
In succeeding years the limitations of the reforms that grew out of
Conant’s recommendations became increasingly clear. Large high schools
proved to be too big and impersonal and fostered alienation and anomie.
Tracking, ability grouping, and aptitude testing, which were supposed to
broaden opportunity, favored students from upper-middle-class backgrounds and hardened ethnic and social divisions within schools. Meanwhile middle schools turned out to differ little from the junior high
schools they replaced. Far from transforming schools into truly democratic institutions, these reforms instilled resentment among students over
the paternalism, regimentation, and inflexibility of the modern public
school.
Nostalgia may paint the 1950s as a more placid time, but it was an era
of anxiety. “Let’s Face It,” read the cover of Newsweek in 1956, “Our
Teenagers Are out of Control.” Many youths, the magazine reported,
‘got their fun” by “torturing helpless old men and horsewhipping girls
they waylaid in public parks.” Newspaper readers learned about twentyfive Washington, D.C., girls, ages thirteen to seventeen, who formed a
shoplifting club; and a seven- and nine-year-old from Arkansas who
robbed a filling station. The chief of child research at the National Institute of Mental Health warned parents that ‘no one can tell if a child will
turn out to be a delinquent five years later. Some children,” he explained,
“prepare for delinquency pleasantly and quietly.” Haunted by the specter
of Hitler youth, many postwar experts feared that the United States was
breeding its own homegrown fascists. Robert Lindner, whose nonfiction
book Rebel without a &use furnished the title of the most famous 1950s
youth film, claimed that “almost every symptom that delineates the psychopath clinically is to be found increasingly in the contemporary adoles-
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292 Huck’r Raft
cent.” Respondents to a Gallup poll asking why ‘teenagers are getting out
of hand” placed the blame squarely on poor parenting: parents were “not
strict enough,” did not ‘provide a proper home life,” had ‘too many outside interests,” were ‘too indulgent,” and gave their children ‘too much
money”; and mothers worked when they were ‘needed at home.” Other
observers blamed overcrowded schools, broken homes, the decline of religion, and a lack of proper adult role models.”
Comic books, which sold 100 million copies a month, were a particular
source of alarm. Two Oklahoma fifth-graders who stole an airplane
claimed that they had learned how to fly from comic books. Four boys accused of forming a theft ring said they had been inspired by comic books.
When an eight-year-old in Pawnee, Illinois, hanged himself, authorities attributed his deed to ideas he had picked up in comic books. A single issue
of one comic contained ten guillotinings, seven stabbings, six shootings, a
drowning, and one fatal shove from a ladder. Comics had come a long
way from the original Superman, Wonder Woman, and Archie.”
Los Angela responded by passing an ordinance prohibiting the sale of
comic books dealing with murder, burglary, kidnapping, arson, or assault
with deadly weapons. In Decatur, Illinois, and in Spencer, West Virginia,
students and teachers built bonfires of comic books, while the Boy Scouts
launched a project t o confiscate comic books on the grounds that they
spread polio bacteria. A congressional subcommittee headed by Senator
Estes Kefauver (D-Tenn.) investigated links between comic books and juvenile delinquency. By 1954, thirteen states passed legislation regulating
the production and sale of comic books.”
In that same year psychiatrist Frederic Wertham published a book titled
The Seduction of the Innocent, blaming juvenile delinquency on comic
books. A liberal who objected to the racist (mainly anti-Asian) stereotypes
that pervaded comic books, Wertham considered Superman a fascist vigilante and argued-that uageneration is being desensitized by these literal
horror images.” Claiming that comic books were filled with homoerotic
imagery, he accused comic-book publishers of making ‘violence, sadism,
and crime attractive” and exploiting children’s fears of physical inadequacy. He insisted that ‘comic book reading was a distinct factor of every
single delinquent or disturbed child” he ever studied. To avoid government legislation, the comic-book industry formed the Comic Magazines
Association of America and required a stamp of approval on every comic
book, ensuring that the contents were ‘wholesome, entertaining, and educational.” Specific injunctions in the self-censorship code stated: ‘We
must not chop limbs off characters. The same goes for putting people’s
eyes out.”U
In Pursuit of the Perfect Childhood 293
The 1950s was a period of outward optimism but inward anxiety and
fear. Apart from comic books, another source of concern was ‘suicide on
wheels,” drag racing. In 1949 Life magazine’s cover reported a new
youth-rel;tted crisis: “The Hot-Rod Problem.” Illustrated with pictures
“of teen-age death and disaster,” it described “chicken races,” in which
racers drove without holding the steering wheel. It also detailed other teen
games, such as “rotation,” in which passengers and driver exchanged positions without slowing below sixty, and lying down in the street, daring
drivers to run them over. The scariest ploy, “Pedestrian Polo,” involved
slamming a moving car’s door into a pedestrian. “Just brush ’em, don’t hit
’em,” was the slogan.”
We may recall the 1950s as a time of unlocked doors and stable nuclear
families, but the decade of Ozzie and Harriet was also a period of intense
anxiety over juvenile delinquency and gangs. Senator Robert C. Hendrickson sounded the alarm in 1954. ‘Not even the Communist conspiracy,” he declared, “could devise a more effective way to demoralize, disrupt, confuse and destroy our future citizens than apathy on the part of
adult Americans to the scourge known as juvenile delinquency.” Between
1948 and 1954 the number of youths appearing before juvenile courts increased 58 percent, with sex offenses up 37 percent. In just three years1948 to 1951-auto theft jumped 61 percent; breaking and entering,
15 percent; and robbery, 25 percent. Yale psychologist Irving Sarnoff
termed this wave of juvenile crime ‘a running sore on the full belly of the
American way of life.”‘”
Whether juvenile delinquency was actually increasing remains unclear,
but there is no question that heightened attention was paid to juvenile
crime and that teen arrests were climbing, reflecting increased law enforcement and broadened definitions of criminal behavior. The panic over
juvenile delinquency reflected fears about changes in young people’s lives
as well as rapid change in the broader sociery. In speech and appearance,
teens seemed increasingly alien as a growing number of middle-class teens
adopted values, fashions, and speech associated with the lower and w o r t ing classes. Juvenile delinquency became an umbrella term referring to everything from duck-tail haircuts to murder; but it was gangs that aroused
the most heated concern. The term was applied broadly, to street-corner
loungers, neighborhood clubs, and packs of roving teens; but in the popular imagination, the word conjured up images of a world of switchblades,
zip guns, and schoolyard rumbles, where groups of working-class youth,
bearing names like ‘Vampires,” ‘Dragons,” and ‘Egyptian Kings,” dcfended turf and avenged real and imagined slights.”
For more than a century and a half, lower- and working-class teens had

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302 Huck B Raft
died in a plane crash, and Chuck Berry was jailed on charges of transporting a minor across interstate lines for immoral purposes. Meanwhile Alan
Freed was fired in the midst of a payola scandal, Little Richard’s religious
conversion led him to stop performing, and Jerry Lee Lewis was in disgrace following his marriage to a thirteen-year-old cousin. Despite these
shocks, youth music was not completely absorbed into mainstream culture. By the end of the decade a new phase in the history of rock and roll
had begun, with the rise of the Girl Groups, the Motown sound, and
surfer m u ~ i c . ~
More than half a century after its advent, rock and roll remains the distinctive and dominant form of youthful musical expression. Its persistence
is not an accident. Rock and roll emerged as a solution to the psychological and emotional frustrations of the teenager. Prolonged schooling, delayed marriage, and postponed entry into adult careers made rock culture
increasingly appealing as a visceral form of cultural rebellion. It offered
an expressive outlet for all the pent-up energy, sexuality, and individualism that teens experienced. Indeed, now that the category of youth extends far beyond the teenage years, encompassing both children as young
as eight and young adults into their late twenties and early thirties, the appeal of rock and roll has broadened even as its forms have fragmented.”
Predominant in the emergence of rock and roll, African Americans remained largely invisible in mainstream popular culture. The African
American writer Michelle Wallace, who was born in 1950, saw few images of blacks on television and the movies o r in comic books and popular
magazines: ‘I .. grew up watching a television on which I rarely saw a
black face, reading Archie and Veronica comics, Oz and Nancy Drew stories and Seventeen magazine, in which ‘race’ was unmentionable.” No
longer, however, could the country’s racial problem be repressed. For
many young African Americans, it was a death in the Mississippi Delta
that energized their comhitment to the civil rights struggle.”
His friends called him ‘Bobo.” Emmett Till had suffered from polio
and was left with a slight speech impediment. He was just fourteen years
old in the summer of 1955, when he and seven relatives and family friends
went to visit kinfolk in Money, Mississippi. A Delta town of about 200,
Money was located alongside the tracks of the Illinois Central Railroad,
which had carried African Americans, like Till’s own family, from the
South to Chicago. His mother thought he would be safer in Money than
in Chicago. Before he boarded his southbound train, she reminded him of
Mississippi’s racial etiquette: that he should say, ‘Yes, sir,” ‘No, sir,” not
look whites straight in the eye, and not talk to them unless spoken to. Despite her warnings, Till found himself in the wrong place at the wrong
.
I
In Pursuit of the Perfect Childhood 303
time. A white woman store clerk in Money claimed, at various times, that
the youth had called her ‘baby,” whistled at her, or spit out his bubble
gum in her direction. Around two in the morning on Sunday, August 28,
the woman’s husband and brother came to Till’s great-uncle’s unpainted
cottonfield cabin and dragged the fourteen-year-old out of bed. Three
days after he was abducted, his neck was found tied to a seventy-fivepound cotton gin fan dumped in the Tallahatchie River fifteen miles upriver from Money. His face was unrecognizable: an eye was gouged out,
an ear torn off, and his skull bashed in. Emmitt Till’s mother insisted that
the body be brought to Chicago for burial and ordered an open-casket
funeral so that the public could see what had been done to her son.”
Federal authorities showed no interest in intervening in or even investigating the case. At the trial in 1957, Till’s great-uncle, Moses Wright, courageously identified the abductors in open court. But barely an hour after
they began deliberating, the jurors returned their not-guilty verdicts. The
brutality of the murder of a child aroused African Americans in a way
that no previous act of violence had. Coming months after the Supreme
Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional, the murder set the stage for the
signal Montgomery bus boycott three months later.”
In Coming of Age in Mississippi, Anne Moody, who was fifteen years
old at the time, described the killing’s impact on her life. ‘Before Emmett
Till’s murder,” she wrote, ‘I had known the fear of hunger, hell, and the
Devil. But now there was a new fear known to me-the fear of being
killed just because I was black. This was the worst of my fears.” The eldest of nine Mississippi children, she went on:
1 was
fifteen years old when I began to hate people. I hated the white men
who murdered Emmett lill and I hated all the other whites who were responsible for the countless murders . . .
But I also hated Negroes. I hated them for not standing up and doing
something about the murders. In fact, I think I had a stronger resentment toward Negroes for letting the whites kill them than toward the whites.”
Emmett Till’s murder underscored blacks’ vulnerability, victimization, and
powerlessness, which could no longer be tolerated by younger African
Americans.
African-American children would stand at the forefront of the civil
rights struggle of the 1950s, when school desegregation and integration of
transportation became major battlefields. In 1849 Massachusetts’
Supreme Judicial Court rliled that the city of Boston had done nothing improper when it required five-year-old Sarah Roberts to walk past white el-
304 Huck’r Raft
ementary schools and attend an all-black segregated school. It rejected the
argument made by the abolitionist and U.S. Senator Charles Sumner and
African-American attorney Robert Morris that segregated schooling
“brandls] a whole race with the stigma of inferiority and degradation.” In
1950, 101 years after the Roberts case, Oliver Brown, a railroad worker,
filed suit against the Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas. His daughter,
eight-year-old Linda, was a third-grader at all-black Monroe Elementary
School. To reach her school she had to walk half a mile through a railroad
switchyard to catch a bus, even though an all-white elementary school
was only seven blocks away. Topeka’s white lawyers argued that Monroe
Elementary School was architecturally identical with Topeka’s white
schools and that the black schools had more teachers with master’s degrees. Brown’s attorney argued that even if the facilities were equal, the
very fact of racial discrimination was detrimental to African-American
children. At the time that Mr. Brown sued the Topeka school board, similar cases were filed in Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. In all but the Delaware case, lower courts had ruled that segregation in public schools was permissible as long as the separate facilities
were equal. The Supreme Court consolidated the case^.’^
Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund used sociological evidence to show that segregation harmed black children’s selfesteem. During the 1940s the psychologist Kenneth Clark had studied racial preferences among a group of black children and discovered that
most black children ascribed positive characteristics to white dolls and
negative characteristics to darker dolls. ‘It was clear,” he concluded,
‘that American racism imposed a tremendous burden of deep feelings
of inferiority in the early stages of personality development in black
children.””
On May 17,1954, a unanimous Supreme Court handed down its decision. It ruled that segrtgated schools were inherently unequal. The court
stressed that the badge of inferiority stamped on minority children by segregation hindered their full development no matter how equal the facilities. The isolation of African-American children ‘generates a feeling of inferiority as to their Status in the community that may affect their hearts
and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone,” wrote Chief Justice Earl
Warren. “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of
‘separate but equal’ has no place.” To win a nine-to-nothing vote on the
case, and the moral authority that a unanimous decision would carry,
Chief Justice Warren agreed in a 1955 decision that schools be desegregated with “all deliberate speed.” This contradictory expression called for
gradual desegregation. At the time, seventeen states had segregated school
In Pursuit ofthe Perfect Childhood 305
systems, and 99 percent of black students in the South attended all-black
schools.
Young people played a critical role in desegregating schools and transportation facilities. Nine months before Rosa Parks, a forty-two-year-old
black seamstress, refused to surrender her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white passenger, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin had
been dragged off a bus and arrested for the same thing. Around four in
the afternoon on Friday, March 2, 1955, the eleventh-grader boarded a
city bus across the street from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and took
a seat near the emergency exit, toward the middle of the bus. In Montgomery, the ten seats in the front of the bus were reserved for whites, and
the ten in the rear were designated for blacks. The sixteen seats in the
middle could go to black riders unless white passengers wanted them.
Blacks and whites could not sit in the same row. When more white passengers boarded the bus, the driver told Claudette to move to the rear. A
black h i ~ schooler
h
shouted: “The only thing she’s got to d o is stay black
and die.” Claudette recalled her feelings at the time: “If it had been for an
old lady, I would have got up, but it wasn’t. I was sitting on the last seat
that they said you could sit in. I didn’t get up, because I didn’t feel like I
was breaking the law.”‘”
Sitting next to her was a pregnant African-American woman, who said
“that she had paid her fare and that she didn’t feel like standing.” A police officer boarded the bus and turned to the black men sitting behind the
pregnant woman and said, “If any of you are not gentlemen enough t o
give a lady a seat, you should be put in jail yourself.” One man stood and
gave her his seat. When Claudette refused to move, the officer pulled her
off the bus and charged her with assault and battery as well as violating
the city and state segregation laws. At her trial, Claudette was found
guilty and released on indefinite probation in her guardian’s care.
Although she was the first person arrested for protesting segregation o n
Montgomery’s buses, her name has remained obscure. Montgomery’s
black leaders were looking for a symbol around which to organize
antisegregation protests and decided that Claudette was not appropriate.
She had grown up in King Hill, Montgomery’s poorest section, an area of
railyards, stockyards, junkyards, and unpaved streets, in a house without
indoor plumbing. Raised by a great-aunt who worked as a maid and a
great-uncle who mowed lawns, Claudette had a rebellious streak. Her
teachers had threatened to expel her from school for wearing her hair in
plaits. The summer after her arrest, Claudette became pregnant, and E. D.
Nixon, the black businessman who drafted the plan to protest segregated
buses, feared that her pregnancy might discredit the cause. Nevertheless, it
In Pursuit of the Perfect Childhood 307
306 Huck’s Raft
was a child who had led the way in challenging segregated transportation
and provided the example for adults to follow.
?he first major confrontation between states’ rights and the Supreme
Court’s school desegregation decision took place in Little Rock, Arkansas,
in 1957. Seventy-five black students applied to attend Little Rock’s Central High School, and eighteen were chosen. By Labor Day, only nine were
still willing to serve as foot soldiers in freedom’s march. Little Rock
seemed an unlikely place for a civil rights confrontation. Its largest newspapers were generally supportive of desegregation, and the city had already desegregated its public library and bus system. Arkansas’s governor,
Orval Faubus, owed his reelection in 1956 to black voters. But responding to polls showing that 85 percent of the state’s residents opposed
school integration, the governor directed the Arkansas National Guard to
bar the nine teenagers from enrolling in all-white Central High. Built at a
cost of $1.5 million, the school was, at the time of its construction in
1927, the largest and most expensive high school in the United States. In
contrast, Horace Mann, the city’s black high school, had been built for
$300.000 and had no athletic fields.
For three weeks the National Guard, under orders from the governor,
prevented the nine students from entering the school. President Eisenhower privately pressed Faubus to comply with the court order. When he
refused to budge, the president federalized the Arkansas National Guard
and sent in 1,000 paratroopers from the Army’s IOlst Airborne Division
to escort the students into the school.
Elizabeth Eckford, one of the nine black students, encountered an angry
white mob hurling racial epithets. ‘Someone ought to lynch her! Anybody
got any rope?” ‘Go back to your own kind!” she was told, followed by
the chant ‘Two, four, six, eight-we don’t want to integrate.” Why did
she persist? ‘Part of it was pure stubbornness,” she explained, and part a
sacrifice for her cdmmuitiry. When fifteen-year-old Terrance Robem was
confronted by a boy carrying a baseball bat, he tried to hold his head up
high and look the other boy in the eyes. ‘He came up and he half raised
the bat and he said, ‘Nigger, if you weren’t so skinny.. .’ . I thought to
myself then, ‘I’m probably over the worst of it.””
The Little Rock nine were placed in separate homerooms and were
forced to use separate restrooms and drinking fountains. Prohibited from
participating in any of the school’s clubs o r teams, the nine were ostracized and physically harassed, shoved against lockers, tripped down stairways, and taunted by their classmates. One was struck in the head by a
lock. Not all the African-American students were able t o turn the other
cheek. Minniejean Brown was expelled for dumping a bowl of chili on a
classmate’s head when hc persisted in calling her racist names as she tried
to eat lunch. The remaining students were greeted the next day by a sign
that said, ‘One down, eight more to go.”m
‘Most of the white students didn’t bother us,” Elizabeth Eckford recalled; “they just pretended we didn’t exist. But there was this small group
of white students that bothered us every day. They would call us names,
trip us in the hallways, and push us down the steps, without fear of being
reprimanded by the teachers or the principal.” She went on: UWecouldn’t
fight back . It was up to us to make integration a success, and if you
think about it that way, then you realize that when you believe in something, even if you’re afraid, you’ll find a way to accomplish your goals.””
Only one of the Little Rock nine graduated from Central High. Ernest
Green received his diploma in dead silence. In the fall of 1958 Governor
Faubus shut down the public high schools to prevent further integration,
and the schools did not reopen for a year. The lessons of Little Rock
were clear: integration would not come easily, and it would be AfricanAmerican children-like six-year-old Ruby Bridges–who had t o stand on
..
..
Delois Hundey integnm Aluander Grmham Junior High School in Charlotte, North
Carolina, in September 1957. Courtesy of the Public Library of Charlorrc and
Mccklcnburg Counry, North Clrolina.
,
In Pursuit of the Perfect Childhood 309
the front lines. In 1960 Ruby integrated William Frantz School in New
Orleans by herself. Day after day, white adults shouted epithets as federal
marshals escorted her to school. In the midst of the screaming mob, Ruby
knelt down and prayed for her attackers. Because almost all white parents
had withdrawn their children, the school was largely empty except for a
single teacher, who taught Ruby in an otherwise vacant classroom. Six
years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, just
forty-nine southern school districts had desegregated, and only one percent of black schoolchildren in the eleven states of the old Confederacy attended public school with white classmates. Only the activism of the next
decade would alter these bleak facts.”
For many Americans the 1950s represent the ideal of a child-centered
society, a time when children could count on a full-time mother and didn’t
have to worry about divorce. In the face of nostalgia, we need to recall
that the stereotypical 1950s childhood was confined to a minority of children, and that it was a product of a constellation of circumstances unlikely ever to return. In a reaction to Depression hardships, wartime
stress, and Cold War anxieties, middle-class parents placed more emphasis on marriage, parenthood, and childhood than ever before. Rapidly rising adult male incomes combined with low inflation, low housing prices,
and relatively low economic aspirations to allow middle-class and many
workingtlass families to subsist on one income and to have a full-time
mother for young children.
Yet the seeds of social change were already germinating. Early marriages during the 1950s contributed to a surge of divorces beginning in the
mid-1960s. Ever-rising notions of a middle-class standard of living combined with women’s growing expectations of self-fulfillment to propel
many mothers into the paid labor force. Above all, youth was becoming a
group more distinctfro-m children and adults. A large proportion of teens
developed a separate exittence, relatively free from the demands of adulthood and more independent of parental supervision. For longer and
longer periods of their lives, young people were spending their time in the
company of other young people within specialized youth-oriented institutions. New occupations sprouted up to serve this new and growing market, including disk jockeys, adolescent psychologists, and orthodontists.
As the youth market grew, it became the target of marketers. With the average adolescent in the mid-1950s spending $555 annually ‘for goods
and services, not including the necessities normally supplied by their families,” manufacturers of record albums, cosmetics, and training bras aimed
at the young consumer. Even young children were being defined and targeted by their interests and needs. They had their own television shows,
like The Wonderful World of Disney, and their own heroes, like the
coonskin-hatted Davy Crockett. The effect of the consumer culture was to
peel young people away from their families into a world of peers.
Many adults, convinced that the youth culture posed a serious threat t o
traditional values, sought to break down the barriers it erected between
parents and their offspring. Look magazine in 1957 hired a research company to define words commonly used by teenagers, such as blast, bread,
and raunchy. San Antonio high schools banned tight jeans and duck-tail
haircuts on the grounds that undisciplined dress encouraged undisciplined
behavior. The city of Houston prohibited young people under eighteen
from owning a car unless it was used exclusively for transportation to and
from work. But these efforts to hold back the tides of change proved futile. During the next decade the youth culture flourished as never before.”
.
A Post-2015 World Fit
for Children
A review of the Open Working Group Report
on Sustainable Development Goals from a
Child Rights Perspective
A Post-2015 World Fit for Children
A review of the Open Working Group Report on Sustainable Development Goals
from a Child Rights Perspective
People are at the centre of sustainable development and, in this regard, Rio+20 promised to
strive for a world that is just, equitable and inclusive, and committed to work together to
promote sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development and environmental
protection and thereby to benefit all, in particular the children of the world, youth and future
generations of the world without distinction of any kind such as age, sex, disability, culture,
race, ethnicity, origin, migratory status, religion, economic or other status.
— Proposal for Sustainable Development Goals: Outcome of the United Nations General
Assembly Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, para 4
Cover Photo Credits:
Top row: UNICEF/BANA2012-00183/Haque (left); UNICEF/UKLA2012-01103/Kurzen (middle); UNICEF/NYHQ20061474/Pirozzi (right); Bottom row: UNICEF/NYHQ2011-1767/Pirozzi (left); UNICEF/AFGA2007-00179/Noorani (middle);
UNICEF/SWIT2012-0005/Pirozzi (left)
Key Messages
There is much to celebrate for children in the goals and targets proposed by the Open
Working Group, which have significantly built on the MDGs.
Explicit targets on reducing inequality, ending violence against children and combating child
poverty are major steps forward.
This progress for childrens rights must be maintained as negotiations around the new
development agenda continue and intensify, and strengthened where gaps remain.
There must be a clear and explicit focus on leaving no one behind. Reaching first the
poorest and most disadvantaged children must be reflected in all targets, as well as
indicators and national implementation frameworks as they are developed.
Targets need to be measurable and translated into indicators to measure progress within
and across countries and to track equity gaps.
Investing in the rights of all children, in every place in the world — no matter the childs
gender, ethnicity, race, economic, disability or other status is the fundamental building
block for achieving the future we want.
OVERVIEW
As the era of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) comes to an end in 2015, a new framework for
global development will be put in place. The Post-2015 Development Agenda will culminate in the
formulation of a new set of goals and targets the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will
build on the progress of the MDGs and also address the shortcomings.
In anticipation of the transition, the United Nations system has been engaging in an unprecedented
effort to bring the voices of people into the discussions and debates concerning the next agenda and the
future. The aim of these public consultations is to support governments to create and adopt an agenda
that is at once bold and ambitious, inspirational yet practical and most of all reflective of the
aspirations of people from every part of the world, of all ages and from all walks of life. Millions of
people have participated in national and global consultations, surveys, workshops and other initiatives
to make their voices heard. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have been particularly instrumental in this
process and child-focused CSOs have been a critical force in ensuring that childrens voices are heard
and heeded.
At the center of these efforts is the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs). The OWG was established following the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable
Development, commonly known as Rio+20. Consisting of 70 Member States sharing 30 seats, the OWG
has been working over the past 18 months to develop a set of SDGs for consideration by the UN General
Assembly. On the 19th of July 2014, the OWG finalized their report.
Review of OWG Report from a child rights perspective | 2
This report is truly historic and represents a watershed moment for the United Nations. Never before
has there been an articulation of all aspects of sustainable development the social, the economic and
the environmental together in one place.
Crucial issues for children have been captured across the goals and targets: the strengths of the MDGs
have been enhanced, and several areas where the MDGs were silent including reducing inequality,
ending violence against children and combating child poverty are now recognized and addressed.
Right from the introductory text, children youth and future generations are referenced as central to
sustainable development.1
This review looks at the proposals of the OWG from a child rights perspective. This year, as we celebrate
the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the review examines the critical
goals and targets for children proposed by the OWG that must be maintained in the final SDGs and
highlights areas that could be further reinforced. In some places there may be room for further
refinements and improvements to strengthen the links between the SDGs and childrens rights ranging
from small but important refinements in language, to areas where there is scope for greater ambition
and specificity. The deliberate focus on making sure that the poorest and most vulnerable children are
prioritized in the pursuit of all goals must be maintained.
As important as the goals, targets and indicators themselves is the worlds shared vision of the future
we want. It is a world that is safer and cleaner, where all people live free from fear and want, where all
people are healthy, well-educated and treated equally and with dignity. It is a world where they have
hope. The fundamental building block for achieving that future is an investment in the rights of all
children, in every place in the world regardless of the childs gender, ethnicity, race, economic,
disability or other status. If we do not make this investment, the future will not only be unsustainable, it
will be bleak. When a child is not healthy, is chronically malnourished, does not receive a quality
education, does not feel safe in his or her home, school or community, or lacks the opportunity to have
his or her voice heard, this child will not be best equipped to fulfil his or her full potential. That not only
denies the individual child his or her rights, but also deprives the entire human family of the intellectual,
social, moral and economic benefits that derive from the fulfilment of these rights.
The future will be filled with both great opportunities and immense challenges. Children must be able to
harness those opportunities and face those challenges. At the heart of these goals are future
generations todays and tomorrows children.
THE PROPOSED GOALS OF THE OPEN WORKING GROUP
All of the goals, from infrastructure to marine resources, are important for the worlds children. Indeed,
the future wellbeing of children around the world will depend on the degree to which nations succeed in
making progress across all the goals in a way that combines economic growth, social equity and
environmental protection. This, in essence, is sustainable development. It is critical for children
Review of OWG Report from a child rights perspective | 3
everywhere that the final framework is ambitious and balanced enough to drive a global transformation
of economies and societies towards a fairer and safer future for all. This will be the ultimate test of the
entire Post-2015 process. Within that context, the agenda must deliver on urgent and specific challenges
facing the worlds children. The rest of this review highlights the goals most directly related to childrens
rights and where UNICEFs perspective may add most value to the ongoing deliberations around the
SDGs. The full list of proposed goals of the Open Working Group is below, with those this review focuses
on indicated in bold.
Proposed goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Proposed goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable
agriculture
Proposed goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Proposed goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning
opportunities for all
Proposed goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Proposed goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Proposed goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all
Proposed goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive
employment and decent work for all
Proposed goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and
foster innovation
Proposed goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
Proposed goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Proposed goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Proposed goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Proposed goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable
development
Proposed goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably
manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Proposed Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide
access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Proposed goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for
sustainable development: Finance, Technology, Capacity building, Trade, Policy and institutional
coherence, Multi-stakeholder partnerships and Data, monitoring and accountability
Review of OWG Report from a child rights perspective | 4
CRITICAL ISSUES FOR ALL GOALS AND TARGETS
A universal agenda for all children, everywhere
The proposals of the OWG articulate a universal agenda that protects the rights of all children
everywhere to get the best start in life, to survive and thrive, to receive a quality education and to live
free from violence and abuse. Rights are not constrained by national borders; therefore all countries are
expected to commit to pursuing the goals and targets through national action. This universalism must be
maintained as final goals and targets are decided, and indicators developed.
Equitable results for all children, leave no one behind
Perhaps the most fundamental lesson of the MDGs was that, due to their focus on national averages
and global aggregates, they failed to account for stagnating progress or in some cases growing
inequalities among income and social groups and along gender lines. Addressing inequalities and
promoting equity are addressed in the new framework. However, specific measures for prioritizing and
accelerating progress for the poorest and most vulnerable children should be pursued to ensure the
new SDGs are met equitably.
Disparities and the data revolution
All targets must be measurable to ensure equitable results for all children. In addition, disaggregated
data will be essential for monitoring equity gaps, strengthening social accountability and ensuring that
the gaps between the most and least advantaged groups are narrowing. Data should also be
disaggregated by all grounds of discrimination prohibited by international human rights law, including
inter alia by sex, age, race, ethnicity, income, location, disability, and other grounds most relevant to
specific countries and contexts, for example: caste, minority groups, indigenous peoples, migrant or
displacement status.
Meaningful participation of children and young people, both girls and boys
Member States agreed at Rio+20 that, sustainable development must be inclusive and people-centred,
benefiting and involving all people, including youth and children. They also, stress[ed] the importance
of the active participation of young people in decision-making processes[and noted] the need to
promote intergenerational dialogue and solidarity by recognizing their views.2 The voices of children
and youth have been invaluable for the process of developing the new agenda and will be equally
important to monitoring and accountability.
Resilience of children in an uncertain world
Shocks, including disasters, armed conflict, epidemics, economic downturns and food price hikes, are
eroding the rights of children and impeding sustainable development. Stresses, including violence,
unplanned urbanization, rapid population growth, climate change and environmental degradation, are
Review of OWG Report from a child rights perspective | 5
compounding the vulnerability of children, reducing their resilience and increasing the impact of shocks.
Strengthening the resilience of children, families, communities and systems to shocks and stresses
comes through in a number of the OWG proposals, and must remain as a priority as the final SDGs are
developed.
Financing for development
The goals articulated in the new agenda will not be achievable unless there is a forward-looking,
ambitious and realistic approach to financing at global and national levels. At the global level there is an
urgent need to establish a new, shared understanding of how public and private sources of financing can
be mobilized and combined in support of sustainable development everywhere and particularly when it
comes to developing countries. Domestic financing will be crucial for all countries, not only for reasons
of national ownership of public policies, but also accountability to constituents and their needs. Firm
and reliable commitments on Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) will be essential, and should
have a strong focus on the most deprived children wherever they are, but particularly in poorer
countries. Additionally, as we move to an increasingly multi-polar world, South-South Cooperation and
investment will be an important mechanism of financing. The financial sector, private business,
foundations and non-profits will need to be central players as investors, partners, innovators and
mobilizers to bring new opportunities and innovative solutions to complex problems. Credible and
responsible institutions, which are committed to building domestic capacity, combating poverty and
being truly accountable to the people they serve, must underpin effective financing.
A REVIEW OF GOALS AND TARGETS: FULFILLING THE PROMISE OF THE
MDGs AND BUILDING ON PROGRESS
Proposed Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
For children this goal is crucial to end extreme child poverty in all its forms and extend coverage of
nationally defined, child-sensitive social protection systems for all. Children are over-represented among
the extremely poor, with 47 per cent of the global population living in extreme poverty being 18 years
old or younger.3 Child poverty has especially devastating impacts on children themselves as well as
societies and economies.
The proposals of the OWG under goal 1 represent strong progress for children. As well as the
overarching agreement to end poverty, the explicit mention of child poverty is a major step forward in
recognising its importance and the ability to measure it nationally by national definitions. It is crucial
that this focus remains in the final goals. The recognition of social protection systems for all is a
necessary response in addressing child poverty and is also a vital step forward from the MDGs.
Proposed OWG targets of crucial importance to children:
Review of OWG Report from a child rights perspective | 6

by 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people
living on less than $1.25 a day
by 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in
poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions
implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including
floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable
by 2030 build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations, and reduce their
exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and
environmental shocks and disasters
Proposed Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and
promote sustainable agriculture
All children have the right to optimal nutrition for their survival, growth and development. In addition to
tackling the unfinished agenda of acute malnutrition, which puts nearly 51 million children under age 5
at increased risk of death,4 another issue of particular urgency is childhood stunting. Stunting affected
162 million children under 5 around the world in 2012,5 and is highly correlated with children from the
poorest households, trapping those children in a vicious cycle of poverty and under-nutrition.
The OWG report includes a child nutrition target, including a commitment to achieve by 2025 agreed
targets on stunting and wasting of children under five years of age, and addressing the needs of
adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women. This target draws from the 2012 World Health
Assembly (WHA) nutrition-related targets, which contain six distinct nutrition related targets.6 Although
these targets could have been separated by the OWG to underline their importance, this is generally
very positive and these distinctions can instead be captured at the indicator level. There are two
important areas that can be further expanded upon: (i) lack of explicit mention of the rate of exclusive
breastfeeding and (ii) no mention of the growing challenges of children being overweight. UNICEF
suggests that all elements of the WHA nutrition targets should be captured and measured.
Proposed OWG targets of crucial importance to children:
by 2030 end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving by 2025 the internationally agreed
targets on stunting and wasting in children under five years of age, and address the nutritional
needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, and older persons
Proposed Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
The MDGs were instrumental in providing the framework and political commitment for reducing child
and maternal deaths, and much progress has been made over the last two decades. However, UNICEF
data show that approximately 18,000 children died per day in 2012 mostly from preventable causes
before reaching their fifth birthday.7 Additionally, around 800 women died per day in 2013 due to the
health risks inherent in pregnancy and childbirth.8 The emerging development agenda must continue
the work of the MDGs in this area, with a prioritization on the hardest-to-reach communities and on
Review of OWG Report from a child rights perspective | 7
making sure that children do not just survive but also thrive, develop and grow up healthier through
affordable access to quality health services and care.
The proposals of the OWG maintain a clear focus on child and maternal health, providing a goal for
maternal mortality, the ending of newborn and under-five preventable deaths and the recognition of
the need to continue the fight against the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected
tropical diseases, as well as achieving universal health coverage and reducing the negative impacts of
pollution.
Because the OWG report does not include a numerical target in the ending of preventable child deaths,
UNICEF suggests the inclusion of targets from A Promise Renewed9, namely (i) reducing the neonatal
mortality rate to 12 or less deaths per 1,000 live births and (ii) reducing the under-five mortality rate
to 25 or less deaths per 1,000 live births.
In 2012, approximately 534,000 deaths amongst children under five were attributable to household air
pollution, resulting from the use of energy sources in the home that release particulate matter (soot)
into the air.10,11 UNICEF believes that a target on reducing the incidence of mortality from indoor air
pollution that specifically mentions children under five would strengthen the target on deaths and
illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water, and soil pollution and contamination.
Proposed OWG targets of crucial importance to children:

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by 2030 reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births
by 2030 end preventable deaths of newborns and under-five children
by 2030 reduce by one-third pre-mature mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
through prevention and treatment, and promote mental health and wellbeing
strengthen prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and
harmful use of alcohol
by 2020 halve global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents
by 2030 end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases and
combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases, and other communicable diseases
achieve universal health coverage (UHC), including financial risk protection, access to quality
essential health care services, and access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable essential
medicines and vaccines for all
by 2030 substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and
air, water, and soil pollution and contamination
support research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and noncommunicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries, provide access to affordable
essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration which affirms the
right of developing countries to use to the full the provisions in the TRIPS agreement regarding
flexibilities to protect public health and, in particular, provide access to medicines for all
Review of OWG Report from a child rights perspective | 8
increase substantially health financing and the recruitment, development and training and
retention of the health workforce in developing countries, especially in LDCs and SIDS
Proposed Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable, quality education and promote
lifelong learning opportunities for all
The last decade has witnessed significant progress in expanding access to primary education and gender
parity in education. Between 1999 and 2011, the number of children out of school fell almost by half,
and the percentage of girls who are out of school has decreased in a number of regions.12 Many
countries have achieved gender parity in primary education.13 However, for those in school, at least 250
million primary-school age children are not learning basic skills, even though half have spent at least
four years in school.14 Disparities in both enrolment and achievement also persist for children with
disabilities15 and children from indigenous groups.16
The proposed goals and targets of the OWG build on and strengthen the MDGs on education, and
include a focus on gender equality. Other significant achievements include commitments to early
childhood development, care and education, learning achievement, enrolment and completion and the
importance of developing relevant knowledge and skills, as well as youth and adult literacy and
numeracy. UNICEF supports all proposed education targets as they stand.
Proposed OWG targets of crucial importance to children:

by 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and
secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes
by 2030 ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care
and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education
by 2030, increase by x% the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including
technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship
by 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of
education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities,
indigenous peoples, and children in vulnerable situations
by 2030 ensure that all youth and at least x% of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy
and numeracy
by 2030 ensure all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable
development, including among others through education for sustainable development and
sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and nonviolence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of cultures contribution to
sustainable development
build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide
safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all
by 2030 increase by x% the supply of qualified teachers, including through international
cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially LDCs and SIDS
Review of OWG Report from a child rights perspective | 9
Proposed Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Achieving gender equality for women and girls is crucial to achieving the world we want. Women and
girls face particular vulnerabilities and threats which must be explicitly tackled. The MDGs created a
strong foundation with a clear focus on gender equality that has been carried forward in the proposals
of the OWG. As well as a focus on discrimination, there is explicit mention of the sexual violence and
exploitation faced by women and girls, child marriage, female genital mutilation and the recognition of
unpaid and domestic work. The goal could be developed to acknowledge that sexual abuse is suffered
by boys as well as girls, as well as the inclusion of boys and men in promoting and achieving gender
equality.
Proposed OWG targets of crucial importance to children:

end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres,
including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital
mutilations
recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services,
infrastructure and social protection pol…

Introduction: Childhood experiences play a significant role in shaping a person’s personality and behavior. Looking back and reflecting on one’s childhood memories provides insights into the cultural and societal influences that impacted their lives. This discussion is centered on reminiscing childhood experiences and comparing them with the current generation, specifically the Millennials.

Description: The Pew Research Center report titled “Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change” provides an insight into the behavior, values, and opinions of this generation that is making the passage into adulthood. Millennials are characterized as confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat, and open to change. They are diverse in ethnicity and race, less religious, and have not served in the military. Furthermore, they are on track to become the most educated generation in American history.

The discussion prompts individuals to reflect on their childhood experiences and answer questions such as their leisure activities, favorite heroes, favorite foods, and fears, reflecting the elements of their time and culture. The report highlights that Millennials embrace multiple modes of self-expression, with three-quarters having a social networking profile and one in five having posted a video of themselves online. However, they also have privacy boundaries on their social media profiles. Despite struggling to find jobs in a recession, Millennials remain upbeat about their future and long-term financial goals. However, fully 37% of the age group between 18-29 years old are unemployed or out of the workforce, the highest share among this age group in more than three decades.

The discussion calls for a comparison of one’s childhood experiences with the current generation and the societal and cultural changes that have occurred. It also prompts individuals to evaluate whether these changes have positive or negative impacts on the current generation.

Objectives:
– To reflect upon personal childhood experiences, in terms of leisure activities, heroes, favorite foods, and fears
– To identify the elements of personal childhood experience that reflect the time and culture in which the individual grew up
– To compare personal childhood experiences with the experiences of children today, based on information from the Arnett or Burnham article
– To analyze the characteristics of the millennial generation, based on data from the Pew Research Center report

Learning Outcomes:
By the end of the discussion, learners will be able to:
– Recall and describe personal childhood experiences with leisure activities, heroes, favorite foods, and fears
– Evaluate the common elements of personal childhood experience that reflect the time and culture in which they grew up
– Assess how personal childhood experiences differ from those of children today, based on information from the Arnett or Burnham article
– Analyze the key characteristics of the millennial generation, such as their confidence, self-expression, diversity, and outlook on various issues, based on data from the Pew Research Center report

Solution 1: Embracing Technology and Self-Expression in Childhood

As a Millennial, my childhood was marked by a fascination with technology and self-expression. Leisure activities revolved around electronic devices, video games, and the internet. Rather than spending time outdoors, we preferred to immerse ourselves in the digital world, chatting with friends on instant messaging services like AOL Instant Messenger and posting on early social media platforms like MySpace. Our heroes were often celebrities, athletes, and musicians that we admired from afar, but we also looked up to influential bloggers and YouTube personalities who were breaking new ground in the world of online content creation.

Favorite foods were often fast food and processed snacks, reflecting the fast-paced lifestyle and convenience-oriented culture of the time. However, we were also beginning to shift towards more health-conscious choices, incorporating vegetarianism and veganism into our diets. Fears included the Y2K bug, school shootings, and the looming threat of terrorism in the post-9/11 era.

The elements of our childhood experience that reflect our time and culture are undoubtedly tied to technology and a desire for self-expression. The rise of the internet and social media created a generation of young people who were constantly connected and eager to share their thoughts and experiences with a global audience. Our experiences differed from children today in that we had significantly less access to technology and fewer options for self-expression. The rise of smartphones and social media has made it easier than ever for children to stay connected and share their unique perspectives with the world.

Solution 2: A Focus on Education and Career Prospects

Growing up as a Millennial, education and career prospects were of utmost importance. Fueled by a desire to succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy, children of my generation were pushed to excel academically and prepare for high-paying jobs in fields like medicine, finance, and technology. Leisure activities often took a backseat to studying, with extracurricular activities and volunteer work geared towards building impressive resumes for college applications.

Heroes ranged from successful businesspeople to top-performing athletes and musicians who were seen as role models for success and achievement. Favorite foods were often healthy and nutritious, reflecting a culture that was shifting towards healthier lifestyles and greater awareness around the dangers of obesity and related health issues.

Fears centered around the economic uncertainty of the time, with many Millennials growing up in the aftermath of the Great Recession and witnessing firsthand the impacts of job losses, foreclosures, and financial hardship. The elements of our childhood experience that reflect our time and culture are linked to a more pragmatic and goal-oriented approach to life that prioritized economic stability and upward mobility.

Children today may have a different outlook on education and career prospects, with many questioning the value of a college education and seeking alternative paths to success. The gig economy and rise of entrepreneurship have created new opportunities for young people to achieve financial and professional success on their own terms. However, the focus on building strong networks, developing critical skills, and pursuing career paths with high earning potential continues to be a defining characteristic of the Millennial generation.

Suggested Resources/Books:
1. “The Generation of Youth” by Victor C. Strasburger
2. “Growing Up in America: The Power of Race in the Lives of Teens” by Nicole R. Fleetwood
3. “Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials” by Malcolm Harris

Similar Asked Questions:
1. How has the current economic climate affected the job market for millennials?
2. How has social media impacted the self-expression and privacy of millennials?
3. What values and opinions define the millennial generation?
4. How has technology influenced the experiences of millennials compared to previous generations?
5. What are some of the challenges that millennials face in achieving financial stability and achieving long-term goals?

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