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Jewish World Review
Dec. 28, 2007
/ 19 Teves 5768
On the bright side?
A new year and a new reason for hope. Good news doesn?t exactly flow off the
television screen or out of the radio on a regular basis. Nor does good news
scream out at you in large bold headlines from our newspapers and magazines,
so it was a very pleasant surprise when I opened my December issue of
Commentary Magazine and read the article entitled, ?Crime, Drugs, Welfare
and Other Good News." The authors of the piece, Peter Wehner and Yuval
Levin, scholars at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington are not
being sarcastic with that title, either. There really is good news to tell.
Try these stats on for size:
Teenage drug use has fallen by 23 percent since the 1990s, and by more than 50
percent for certain specific drugs, such as LSD and ecstasy.
There is less abortion. In 1990 abortions reached a high of 1.6 million, the
number of abortions performed annually in the U.S. has dropped to less than 1.3, the
lowest level since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
The U.S. divorce rate is at its lowest level since 1970.
Higher educational scores. The high-school dropout rate, now less than 10
percent, is at a 30-year low. The mean SAT score was 8 points higher in 2005 than
it was in 1993.
Teenagers are drinking less, anywhere from 10 to 35 percent less than in 1996
depending upon the grade in school. Binge drinking has dropped to the lowest levels
Teens are smoking cigarettes less than ever before.
The number of high school students having sex has declined by more than 10 percent
since 1991. And the birth rate for teens since that time has gone down by 35
According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, both violent crime and
property crime are at their lowest levels since 1973. In some places, even lower:
New York City, it was reported a few days ago, is expected to have much fewer than
500 homicides this year, the fewest since the early 1960s. Compare that with 1990,
when New York recorded 2,245 homicides.
As far as welfare is concerned, since 1994 the U.S. caseload has dropped 60
percent ? virtually every state in the union has reduced its caseload by at least a
third and as much as 90 percent in some states. Overall poverty, child poverty,
black child poverty, and child hunger have all decreased.
Unfortunately, not all the news is good. Illegitimacy is at an all-time high,
the marriage rate continues to sink, and popular culture largely remains "a
cesspool of violence and vulgarity." Furthermore, the condition and strength
of the American family has thus far, they say, not yet begun to turn upward.
However, the authors write, "the progress we have witnessed over the last 15
years is impressive, undeniable, and beyond what most people thought possible."
So, as we begin 2008 we Americans have solid reason to be optimistic about our
future society. Sure, we need to be concerned about the ongoing coarseness in
American culture and the decline of the American family, and perhaps one day, these
too, shall start to improve. Sometimes, things do change for the better, not often
enough and not quickly enough it seems, but it does happen. Sometimes people wake
up and do the right things, and sometimes good solid values and ethics win over the
One thing is for sure ? if decency, honor, and ethics make a comeback anywhere in
this world, you can bet it will be in the United States of America!
Happy New Year!
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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