Sunday, January 29, 2012

Is public speaking the greatest fear for US teens?

Last week I read a news story with the usual comical “statistic” from Jerry Seinfeld:

“On Saturday, hundreds of students from across eastern Montana turned out to Rocky Mountain College in Billings for the Class "A" Eastern Divisional Speech, Drama and Debate Tournament.

‘The two greatest fears are death and public speaking,’ said Billings Central Catholic High School head coach Mark Elison. ‘And death is second’.”

Does that claim really apply to teens?

On March 29, 2005 Gallup reported the results (shown above, click to enlarge) for their poll about What frightens America’s youth? They asked a sample of 1028 teenagers (ages 13 to 17) between January 17th and February 6th of 2005. Teens were asked what they were most afraid of, in an open-ended format. Terrorist attacks were the top fear, followed by ties for spiders and death, and  then being a failure, war and heights. Note that public speaking isn’t anywhere on this top ten list.  

These results reminded me of a Sherlock Holmes story, Silver Blaze, in which Holmes tried to draw the inspector’s interest to what he called the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. The inspector replied that the dog did nothing, which Holmes then said was very curious (since it would have barked if a stranger was approaching). 

The sleeping dog image is from Wikimedia Commons.

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