Chicago teens have joined other youths nationwide to turn the tables on adults—they’re passing out their own report cards. And the grades they give today’s leaders are lower than ever.
"This is the worst we’ve seen in a long time," says Thomas Vanden Berk, president and CEO of the Uhlich Children’s Advantage Network (UCAN), which organized the 10th annual Teen Report Card. UCAN asked 900 young people across the country to hand out grades to adults on issues ranging from community safety and preventing child abuse to teaching positive values and being honest. This year the highest average grade was a C and seven of the 25 categories earned scores in the D range.
From the beginning of last school year through the end of June, 28 Chicago Public School students died from gun violence. The report card is one way local students from the city and suburbs are saying that their leaders have let them down. Students handed out a D+ to adults for "Making Sure Guns are Less Available" and a C- for "Intervening When Young People Show Signs of Being a Threat to Others."
"I still don’t think there’s enough dialogue between adults and young people around these issues," Vanden Berk says, adding that the report card can be one tool to open up communication.
Charles Kuykendoll, a youth member of UCAN’s "Hands Without Guns" program, agrees with Vanden Berk. Kuykendoll says the biggest problems come down to two of the report card categories: "Leading by Example," where the adults earned a C-, and "Really Listening and Understanding," which the students graded as a D+. "It starts with them taking time to listen to what we say as youth," he says.
But Kuykendoll remains hopeful the grades will improve. "We’re supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow and they’re setting us up for failure," he says. "I’d like to think that these grades will be alarming enough to serve as a wake-up call to adults."