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Something has been happening in America. More and more young people are showing up with various mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders—based on the 2009 Institute of Medicine Report on the Prevention of Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People. These disorders—from alcohol addiction to other serious mental and behavioral problems—are not just happening in K-12 education: they are fully present in larger numbers on college and university campuses. And, even more importantly, they are now epidemic in our broader society, causing untold damage to the fiscal stability of America, its national security, and global economic competitiveness.
Oddly, it is American institutions of higher learning that have pioneered the world’s best science why and how this epidemic is happening and what can be done to avert the problems. Still more oddly, it is not American institutions of higher learning leading the charge on applying that science—something at odds with the unique heritage of America applying science to better the world. Other rich democracies now lead in applying prevention science for the protection of their future generations.
American Colleges and Universities can become one of the drivers of great carbon revolution, not just a revolution in silicon technology. By a carbon revolution, this means resolving the problems of human behavior that are the largest burdens of social and economic pain and suffering.
In my presentations, I intend to outline how the youthful energies of our young people might be combined with prevention science for population-level prevention and protection against mental, emotional, behavioral and related physical disorders plaguing our futures.
• First, the presentation is aimed at evoking understanding of how these problems have arisen from fundamental evolutionary mismatch—something that my colleagues in the evolutionary sciences have started to map well.
• Second, the presentation gives concrete examples of how prevention science can be scaled to a public-health model to protect our young people and our broader society.
• Third, the presentation outlines how colleges and universities—students, faculty and staff—might have a leadership role in changing the trajectory of these problems rapidly.
• Fourth, the presentation maps how all this can be funded in a politically powerful way, which will in turn strengthen colleges and universities by reducing the huge rise in tuition and other costs that have well outpaced inflation. Indeed, the cost of higher education is now significantly higher in the US proportionately than that of other rich democracies.
I realize that this not a standard presentation about addictions among our college-age youth, decrying the alcohol industry or arguing over the age of drinking or the legalization of marijuana. I believe we must have a much bigger solution, not just for the sake of the young people on our campuses—but for all o