The other day, I visited a local community center and spoke with some of the women there who were playing a game involving dice.
They suggested younger people today had a lower moral character, noting the way they hook up on the internet and the supposedly skimpy clothes females wear. It was as if the women were rolling their eyes and saying, "Kids today..."
I listened to them, but didn't reply.
Their feelings are representative of many who cling to the belief America is on a long downward spiral with each succeeding generation.
In many ways, though, American society is better than ever.
Take teen pregnancy as an example. Think for a moment: Do you think teen pregnancy is higher or lower than it used to be?
I'll bet most people would say higher. But they would be wrong.
According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate is the lowest it's been in nearly 75 years — probably ever.
In 2014, there were 24.1 births per 1,000 females to teens ages 15 to 19. That's less than half the rate of 54.1 in 1940, just before the United States entered World War II. And it's about a quarter of what it was in 1957, the peak of the baby boom.
Here are some other examples of successes in our country:
— Smoking: 17 percent of adults were smokers in 2014, down from 42 percent in 1965.
— DUI: Drunken driving fatalities have dropped 51 percent since 1982.
— Car crash deaths: In 2016, there were 12 such fatalities per 100,000 people, less than half the rate of 26 in 1970.
— Education: Ninety percent of people 25 or older had a high school diploma as of 2017, far more than the 55 percent in 1970.
I often ask people whether they believe crime has gone up or down over the last quarter century. Usually, they say it's risen. Yet national violent and property crime rates have fallen in half during that time.
People don't want to believe that, including my cousin, who responded to my recent Facebook post noting the falling rates.
"Statistics don't lie, people do," he wrote.
But federal crime stats include information from thousands of police departments. I'm doubtful there is a quarter-century-long, across-the-country conspiracy to cover up higher crime rates.
It's mystifying to me why many insist society is declining with each new generation. Maybe it's because some come into contact with society's evils later on. They misinterpret a lost childhood innocence as a coarsening of society.
But statistics show they are wrong. We are slowly but surely progressing as a society. That's something to celebrate, not deny.
- David Giuliani is a reporter for The Times. His weekly column "As It Is" expands upon regular news coverage by adding his insight and ideas. He can be reached at 815-431-4041 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @tt_dgiuliani.