The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

In 2018 Oregon’s Kids are Not All Right

I had hoped that I could start this year with a report of something good happening in public education, but that just isn’t possible. The best I can do is describe the results of a survey given recently to Oregon’s eighth and eleventh grade students and then suggest some changes that might produce more positive results the next time around.

An article in the December 30th issue of  The Oregonian began by saying “In Oregon the kids are increasingly not all right.” What it was referring to were the results of the biennial “Oregon Healthy Teens Survey” given to 8th grade and 11th grade students.  In responding to the survey’s questions more than 19 percent of 8th graders and 22 percent of 11th graders reported that they had mental health problems. In addition, very few students at either grade level said that they were able to cope with their everyday stress and anxiety. Even worse, 18 percent of those responders said they had contemplated suicide and 9 percent said they had actually attempted it.

From that point on the article focuses on the living conditions of  today’s young people as seen by two specialists: Dr. Ajit Jetmalani, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University and Wes Rivers, adolescent health policy assessment specialist for the Oregon Health Authority. In both their views many outside factors have had a strong negative effect on adolescents. Jetmalani sees children’s lives as more difficult than in the past because of the wide differences in family incomes. Young people living in poverty are well aware of the fine clothing, toys, and technology their wealthier classmates have access to and their own lesser belongings.

In the opinion of Mr. Rivers the presence of social media in the lives of young people is detromental. Their continuing use of smart phones emphasizes-or exaggerates- continually what some children have and others don’t.  Although not all the information communicated is accurate, many young people believe what they see or hear and it makes them feel that their own situations are far less favorable.

To some extent I agree with the specialists that family insecurity and the power of social media have a strong negative effect on many young people. But I think they have overlooked a greater problem in not even mentioning the current public school practices that have made test results the determining factor of a student’s quality and future success. What’s more, many of the common classroom practices label students’ performances as good, mediocre, or poor for everyone else to see.

In order to lessen the mental and emotional problems that young people have I suggest two major actions by policy makers, educators and parents: changing many of the current school practices and limiting the amount of social media and where and when it may be used. Because describing in detail what I think should be done would take much more time and space than I have already used, I will defer writing further until later this week, hoping readers will come back for more of my opinions.




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