Young Americans couldn’t care less about Iraq

iStockphoto.com It is a generally accepted axiom that the Vietnam War helped make America’s baby boom generation one of the most socially aware generations in history. They knew what was going on in the world, even if the majority of them didn’t like it. Might the war in Iraq be having the same impact on the current generation ...

600645_070711_teens_05.jpg
600645_070711_teens_05.jpg

iStockphoto.com

It is a generally accepted axiom that the Vietnam War helped make America's baby boom generation one of the most socially aware generations in history. They knew what was going on in the world, even if the majority of them didn't like it. Might the war in Iraq be having the same impact on the current generation of young Americans?

Nope. Not according to a study (pdf) released yesterday by Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, at least. Nearly one in three American teenagers, according to the report, pay almost no attention to daily news. Another 32 percent are merely "casually attentive." So, taken together, 60 percent of teens can be considered to be basically uninterested in what's happening in the world.

iStockphoto.com

It is a generally accepted axiom that the Vietnam War helped make America’s baby boom generation one of the most socially aware generations in history. They knew what was going on in the world, even if the majority of them didn’t like it. Might the war in Iraq be having the same impact on the current generation of young Americans?

Nope. Not according to a study (pdf) released yesterday by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, at least. Nearly one in three American teenagers, according to the report, pay almost no attention to daily news. Another 32 percent are merely “casually attentive.” So, taken together, 60 percent of teens can be considered to be basically uninterested in what’s happening in the world.

News flash: Teenagers are apathetic. Tell me something I don’t know, right? It’s tempting to just dismiss this as normal pubescent behavior. But that might be a mistake; these numbers appear to represent a sea change. “A few decades ago,” the report notes, “there were not large differences in the news habits and daily information levels of younger and older Americans.”

But surely, you say, “the Internet” must be informing America’s youth. Apparently not. Just one in five teenagers say they get exposure to news on the Internet everyday, and two thirds of the teens who say they do get some news from the Internet also say they’re not seeking it out, they “just happen to come across it.”

I bet that if the military draft came back, though, you’d suddenly find U.S. teens paying rapt attention to what’s going on out there.

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.