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Since School of Thinking began the Learn-To-Think Project in the USA in 1980–to put thinking on the school curriculum–what has been the results? Are kids better off, not just in school but in life?

The trend is positive. The kids are all right.

We know this because every two years, the federal government asks thousands of teenagers dozens of questions about whether they are all right. Since 1991, it has sent something called the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey to more than 10,000 high school students every other year, to inquire about all sorts of bad behaviors that range from drug use to unprotected sex to fighting at school.

The overarching question this survey asks is basically: How much trouble are you getting into?

The answer, lately, has been, “Not that much at all” — especially when you compare today’s teens with their parents, who came of age in the early 1990s.

Most of the survey questions show that today’s teenagers are among the best-behaved on record. They smoke less, drink less, and have sex less than the previous generation. They are, comparatively, a mild-mannered bunch who will probably shoo away from your lawn quite respectfully (and probably wouldn’t dare set foot on your lawn to begin with!)


Explore the data

Had sex before 13 years old10.25.6

Teen behavior in… 1991 2013
Regularly wear a seat belt 74.1 92.4
Ever tried alcohol 81.6 66.2
Ever tried a cigarette 70.1 44.1
Used a condom during last sexual intercourse 46.2 59.1
Ever had sex 54.1 46.8
Tried marijuana 31.3 40.7
Had sex within the last 3 months 37.5 34
Ever been in a physical fight 42.5 24.7
Drank 5 or more drinks in a row in past month 31.3 20.8
Smoke cigarettes 27.5 15.7
Seriously considered a suicide attempt in past year 29 17
Tried cocaine 5.9 5.5