Teenagers and people's expectations

"That was a good film," I commented to my wife with some surprise. The previews we'd seen some weeks earlier had us thinking that the movie would be of no interest to us. But a few friends highly recommended we see it for ourselves. They said the film was actually quite thoughtful, funny, and intelligent, despite the way in which it was promoted.

I've been seeing previews of a different sort recently—stories in the news telling us what we can expect to see over the next decade with a 23 percent jump in the number of teenagers in the United States. With the additional teens, we're warned, will come additional crime. Even though this rise in crime has yet to occur, people are being told they should expect it and prepare for it.

Which brings me to the point about previews and the potential for leaving a wrong impression. You might avoid a truly good film, not because the film has nothing good to offer, but because you believe it doesn't, on the basis of what you learned from the preview. The question is: Will there be a negative effect in society because of what we're all being told to expect from the new generation of teenagers? Will prediction after prediction of bad behavior reinforce a false concept of teenagers, convincing them that they're not good? Will this persuade everyone else to avoid interacting with them, to view teenagers as a kind of enemy? That would be a terrible shame—for everyone.

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Simple, penetrating truth
September 9, 1996

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