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This just in: Teenagers are
listening to our advice - Martha Randolph Carr

If you're the parent of a teenager and have been stressed out by the economy lately, your silver lining has finally arrived.

Apparently, our kids really are paying some attention. Anecdotal reports are starting to emerge, particularly from the hardest hit areas in the country, that teenagers who had previously been mostly lackluster in school are shaping up and hitting the books. Daily attendance in schools is up as well.

This is particularly heartening, because those areas such as Las Vegas, which has seen a drop of 23 percentage points to a 44.5 percent dropout rate are suddenly seeing an intractable trend reverse itself. GED classes across the nation are also experiencing waiting lists.

While it is too soon to have statistical data, principals are noticing that a lot of kids have watched their parents being laid off and the options thinning out, and have concluded that a good education is a necessity. This means that the Great Recession has actually done what no amount of nagging, pleading, bargaining and outright bribing has managed to do to American teenagers.

They have started to look into their future and make a reasonable plan. This is big news right up there with the reports that Americans are finally saving at record levels. Some of our most ingrained laziness and bad attitudes have been scared straight.

Imagine what else we might do, if the recession drags on long enough. Buying large amounts of junk food to consume in one greasy food orgy might start to seem like a real drag on the pocketbook once you factor in the lower cost of cooking at home and the higher cost of joining a gym to work off the extra weight.

Current affairs and the name of our vice president, Joe Biden, in case you were stuck, may become small talk instead of what Lohan or Hilton are doing with their spare time. Imagine if professional news with lots of facts made a comeback instead of bloggers who just set up shop. If teenagers can see education as part of their life plan, instead of becoming a celebrity or a sports star, then anything is possible.

Driving a smaller hybrid and planning communities where you can walk to work or the store might start to seem chic and even fun. There'll be a return of the common sidewalk in the suburbs. Higher gas prices may mean we'll walk any distance under a mile, rather than drive to our friend's house three blocks away.

During the nearly 500 days this Great Recession has managed to last so far, the fact that teenagers are staying in school and studying is the best news that's leaked out yet. Think of all the future trends this is going to change. There will be a lot more pool tables sold ten years from now as a result of all of those empty basements where our grown children would have been residing.

Instead, they'll all be at work using that fancy education that they actually sat through and studied and graduated from with a career in mind. It's all very heady stuff.

They may even start to look at the consequences of other actions, like marrying someone they met online after three months of dating. Marriage may start to see a downturn, but perhaps the idea of dating for awhile will see a bump.

All sorts of responsible behavior may spill out of this economic downturn. It's like Santa came early, but he was wearing a really nice, three-piece suit and carrying a briefcase. This time, instead of having to be childlike and well-behaved to get what we wanted, which frankly was exactly how we behaved these past couple of decades, we all had to finally grow up. Even our kids have figured this one out and are now leading us by their improved example. It's a brave new world.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.