I purposely try to steer away from articles on politics, social ills or a myriad of other “sensitive” issues plaguing our society. I’d rather write about interesting news items and, in doing so, hopefully provide some humor instead of the more serious stuff. I’ll let the Tribunes, Gazettes and Journals take care of that serious “world-wide” news.

Nonetheless, some of the things I come across are troubling to me. And it should be a cause of concern for not just me — and call me and old “fuddy-duddy” if you wish — but it should also bother parents and teenagers, as well.

The newspaper business receives a lot of information from all the local law enforcement agencies pretty much on a daily basis. The information is pretty revealing, and some of it at times is pretty scary.  

Teen alcohol consumption and the newest fad, vaping, in this country are staggering. We’re not talking about a few isolated instances when the kids pilfer a couple of Dad’s beers and a cigar or a few cigs and go whoop it up out in the country. We’re talking about a cancerous social ill that has epidemic proportions.

Give me the dickens if you want, but I think the fault rests with the parents. They need to start the treatment at home and do whatever is necessary to keep the boys and the girls from the booze and the smoke, be it from cigars, cigarettes or a vaping device.

Before anyone labels me as one of those dreaded “Doo-Gooder” types that I sometimes mention, I don’t have the slightest problem at all with legal, responsible drinking or smoking. Nor am I — or ever have been, for that matter — a member of AA and just saying all this to preach their cause. I am a former alcoholic and heavy smoker. Nowadays I’m an old guy who has been off the booze for 25 years and off the two-packs-a-day habit for nearly nine years.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has reported that nearly a third of all high school students say they binge drink at least once a month. And, if you think it doesn’t happen around here in small-town America, you’re wrong. The facts are not bounded by gender, nor are they socio-economically biased. The percentage of “vapers” is even higher than a third.

As parents, we need to teach the youngsters that just because something is socially acceptable, it doesn’t mean it’s permissible or “good” or fun. It might sound stupid, but perhaps we need to take a more simplistic approach and lock up the booze at home.  

Another step would be much harsher penalties for the legal-aged fools who buy the alcohol for the young people. And don’t fault the bar keep. They don’t know whom the fool is that he or she is buying for.

The bottom line is that parents need to be aware, and they need to do something about it at home because, as I’m fond of saying, “It all starts at home.”

Young Americans lost

According to the National Geographic Society, Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 are miserably lacking in basic geography skills. In a recent study, only about 13 percent could find Iraq or Iran on a map. Although 58 percent were correct in knowing the Taliban and al-Qaida were based in Afghanistan, only 17 percent could pinpoint Afghanistan on a map.

Even worse, among the nine countries involved in the study, the U.S. ranked eighth in overall geographic skills. To their credit, 89 percent of the Americans could find their own country on a map. Which really isn’t too encouraging when you know that 11 percent can’t. Somewhere out here, 11 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 don’t know where they are.

“National Geographic is convening an international panel of policy makers and business and media leaders to find ways to improve geographic education and to encourage interest in world affairs.” So said the National Geographic Society.

Other than another meeting or panel, why don’t members of the push to put geography back in the classroom?

John Fahey, the president of National Geographic, said: “If our young people can’t find places on a map and lack awareness of current events, how can they understand the world’s cultural, economic and natural resource issues that confronts us?”

Quick answer, John: They don’t.

Geography needs to be back in school, so the kids can find their home.

Art Jones is the former publisher of The Lone Tree Leader in Onarga. He writes a regular column for the Ford County Record about pretty much anything on his mind. He can be reached at ajonesmain@outlook.com.