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11/6/2013 2:38:00 PM
Guest Essay From the Nov. 7 Print Edition: 'Kids Today Aren't Like They Used to Be'
By Eric Witherspoon

I recently attended a community dinner event, and the conversation turned to discussing “today’s kids.” I could tell by the tone that some of the adults felt teenagers today are not keeping up with past generations. One person at the table said with great concern, “Today’s kids aren’t like they used to be.”

I’ve been thinking about that conversation. I have the good fortune to interact every day with today’s Wildkits, and here are some of the things I know about them.

Today’s kids are dealing with the advantages as well as the stress of growing up in a world of digital technology, a world of exponential growth in human discovery and knowledge, and a world dependent on a global economy where they are competing for college admission and for jobs with young people around the globe.

At ETHS, our students take courses like multivariable calculus, pre-engineering, and advanced science courses that are often considered college courses. Students are taking classes in flipped classrooms, where they learn new content outside of class using web-based lessons, and then in class where they practice their new learning with the guidance of their teachers and actively engage in critical thinking about what they’ve learned.

More students than ever at ETHS are taking college-level Advanced Placement (AP) classes. In fact, last year 60 percent of the juniors and seniors took 1,927 AP exams, and that number will be higher this year. We have records of our ACT scores over the past 41 years, and our Class of 2013 achieved the highest ACT scores in ETHS history. That’s right—the highest in history. That is impressive enough. But, it’s even more impressive when you understand that Illinois is one of only nine states where all graduates are required to take the ACT and are competing against only about 60 percent of the students nationally who are applying to highly competitive colleges. Even our students at the bottom of the class take the ACT college entrance exam; yet, the ETHS scores are still the highest in the school’s history and exceed the national average.

Students today are also very active in school clubs, academic teams, and athletics. Most of them participate in school-related activities while at the same time achieve academically. Last school year, for example, all 33 of our varsity girls’ and boys’ sports teams earned above a 3.0 G.P.A. both semesters, and the average G.P.A. of all our varsity sports teams was 3.53.

Student talent is constantly on display at ETHS. For our alumni who participated in or have attended YAMO over the past 56 years, you’ll be pleased to know that this year’s YAMO kept the tradition alive. YAMO 2013 is very well written, comical, satirical, entertaining, farcical, energetic, and topical—just what YAMO should be. Abundant student talent is constantly on display at ETHS. Students shine in orchestra, marching band, jazz band, symphonic band, theater, sculpture, painting, creative writing, debate, chess, Smart labs, STEM courses, composition, research, community service and so much more.

You know, as I reflect on that dinner conversation about today’s kids, I couldn’t agree more. Today’s kids aren’t like they used to be. They are navigating the digital age and global competition. They are navigating social media and a rapidly changing world, and they are accomplishing as much and more than teenagers have ever accomplished. For my money, I look daily into the eyes of today’s generation of ETHS students, and I see a bright future for them and for our world.

Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Article comment by: Rosemary Caruk

Someone develops Alzheimer’s every 68 seconds. In a little more than a minute, someone's life and that of their family will change, maybe in small, imperceptible ways at first, but Alzheimer's is a disease that will never go away. It is a fatal disease for which there is no cure. As an advocate for the Alzheimer's Association, I urge our United States Senators Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin to support $100 million for Alzheimer's research, care and support in the Fiscal Year 2014 final budget. These funds are crucial for Illinois, where more than 210,000 people are currently living with the disease, and for the more than 5 MILLION diagnosed Americans and three times that number--15 MILLION-- caregivers across the country.

Members of a bipartisan Budget Conference are tasked with finding common ground between the Senate and House draft versions and forming a budget in the coming weeks. As members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, both Durbin and Kirk have input into the conference's breakdown of funds and consequently can play an integral role in securing appropriations for Alzheimer's disease in the final budget. Unless something is done, Alzheimer's will cost an estimated $1.2 TRILLION in 2050 and costs to Medicare and Medicaid will increase more than 500 percent. The conference must report all budgetary findings and recommendations by December 13, 2013, allowing Congress until January 15, 2014 to pass the legislation. We must pass this budget or our country will face the next round of sequester cuts, which will prove even more devastating to the health and human services community.

I am sharing these concerns because I am a caregiver for my father, who is in the final stage of Alzheimer's. He is bed-ridden and on hospice care in his own home. Despite this extra assistance, the bulk of care falls to my mother, my husband, and I—that means toileting him, monitoring his permanent catheter, physically turning him from side-to-side every two (2) hours, feeding him, as well as simply being with him. It is a 24/7/365 responsibility and exhausting.

The costs for Alzheimer's care and services continue to rise, straining our overwhelmed health care system and threatening to bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid. I humbly urge our United States Senators Kirk and Durbin to prioritize Alzheimer's funding.

Rosemary A. Caruk
Evanston, Illinois

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