“Show Them All the Beauty They Possess Insiiiiiiiiiiide…”

Call me a pessimist. Go ahead. Do it. I freakin’ dare you.

But I’m not finding this Josephson Institute report, which surveyed the ethical tendencies of nearly 30,000 youngsters across the United States, to be very encouraging.

In its 2008 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth, the Los Angeles-based organization said the teenagers’ responses to questions about lying, stealing and cheating "reveals entrenched habits of dishonesty for the workforce of the future."

Boys were found to lie and steal more than girls.

Overall, 30 percent of students admitted to stealing from a store within the past year, a two percent rise from 2006. More than one third of boys (35 percent) said they had stolen goods, compared to 26 percent of girls.

An overwhelming majority, 83 percent, of public school and private religious school students admitted to lying to their parents about something significant, compared to 78 percent for those attending independent non-religious schools.

"Cheating in school continues to be rampant and it’s getting worse," the study found. Amongst those surveyed, 64 percent said they had cheated on a test, compared to 60 percent in 2006. And 38 percent said they had done so two or more times.

Despite no significant gender differences on exam cheating, students from non-religious independent schools had the lowest cheating rate, 47 percent, compared to 63 percent of students attending religious schools.

"As bad as these numbers are, it appears they understate the level of dishonesty exhibited by America’s youth," the study warned, noting than more than a fourth of the students (26 percent) admitted they had lied on at least one or two of the survey questions.

What I liked the most is that one in four admitted they had lied on a survey that was asking if they ever lied. Although, maybe they were lying about lying. Who knows with these kids today?

Somebody please submit a comment telling me there is hope for our children and that I, and those of my ilk, are just cynical ne’er-do-wells who have too little faith in humanity.

That said, perhaps my hypocrisy knows no bounds as I’ve eaten more than my fair share of "complimentary" supermarket grapes in my lifetime. (But in my defense, if it’s not on the stem, it’s fair game. It’s just going to die a slow death anyhow. It’s a mercy killing, really — so you’re welcome, mother nature.)