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Teens Voice Idealism, Frustration in Book Published by Peers

January 2, 1989

LOMBARD, Ill. (AP) _ ″The truth-tellers of the nation,″ have spoken out in a new book by and about teen-agers and their views and hopes.

″I’d like to be able to walk down American streets at midnight with the same ease I’d walk down the street at noon,″ one teen-ager, Tobdeleya Dumas of Cleveland, said in ″Voices of Hope.″

Jana Reiss, of Galesburg, Ill., reflected on the maturation process.

″As people grow older, they begin to see things in shades of gray and not in simple black and white as they did as children,″ she was quoted in the book as saying. ″When I was a child, my dreams were simple and selfish. Now I hope for feelings, not things. I dream more for my friends and family, and less for myself.″

American teen-agers are ″incredibly idealistic″ and want to help solve society’s problems, but often are frustrated because they think they lack the means to make a difference, said Greg Jao, an editor of the book.

″They honestly want to be able to talk to their parents and be involved in politics, but they’re also very cynical because they don’t feel any real change can come″ from their efforts, said Jao, 20.

″Voices of Hope″ follows ″Teenagers Themselves″ and ″Voices of Conflict,″ a series researched by the staff of the student newspaper at Glenbard East High School in this western Chicago suburb.

Staff members of the Echo newspaper traveled to 35 cities, interviewed 2,000 students and collected questionnaires from 5,000 more in all 50 states, under the direction of journalism teacher and newspaper adviser Howard Spanogle.

″Teen-agers are unique because they are the truth tellers of the nation,″ Spanogle said.

Students interviewed, ages 14 through 19, ranged from the ″wildly hedonistic stereotype″ of the inner cities to the ″deeply religious″ of more rural areas, Jao said.

″As opposed to statistical studies ... we’ve tried for much more of a qualitative approach,″ said Jao, now an English student at the University of Chicago.

Students want an end to all forms of discrimination - against them as young people and against minorities, Spanogle said.

They seek ″communication between generations, equal treatment for teen- agers, openness to all viewpoints, and awareness of social problems,″ said Spanogle, who has been advising the newspaper for 21 years.

Researchers also interviewed adults such as U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., for perspectives on issues that most concern teen-agers. Nobel Prize-winner Leon Lederman, director of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Batavia, Ill., asserts that science education in the United States is ″bloody awful.″ And Doug Wood, director of youth ministries at Dallas’ First Baptist Church, suggests ways the church can elevate the moral fiber of young people.

Sean Mix of Seattle said of teen-age drinking: ″Teen views and adult views don’t really differ ... when it comes to handling pressure ... because we handle it about the same way. Our parents drink, and so do we.″

Megan McKinney of Abilene, Texas, talked about morals.

″In order to know what is right or wrong ... consult the Bible. Unfortunately, in an increasingly immoral society, people succumb to their natural urges rather than overcome them,″ she said.

″One reason I believed sex should only happen within the marriage vows came from the examply my parents ‘supposedly’ set,″ said a South Carolina girl who was not identified by name. ″When I found out a year ago that my parents were married in ’69 instread of ’68, making me a child conceived out of wedlock, I was shocked and confused.″

The ideal family was on the mind of Kimberly Aretta of Uniontown, Pa.

″The perfect family would be one that is always there for you even if you’re wrong ... one that understands the feelings of a teen-ager and realizes we will make plenty of mistakes,″ she said.

Jao said the book is a challenge to America to find ways for teen-agers to channel their hopes and enthusiasm.

″Teens are incredibly idealistic,″ he said. ″There’s a real frustration people perceive as apathy, that they don’t know how to channel that energy. We need to find ways to channel that incredible idealism.″

The book and the two others in the series were published by Adama Books of New York and is available at major bookstores nationwide.

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