Education, young people and the modern way of life

Loynes, Christopher (2008) Education, young people and the modern way of life. In: Schirp, Jochem, (ed.) Learning out doors: support for young people in risky transitions. BSJ Marburg / Threshold Consulting, Marburg, Germany.

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The way of life in Western Europe has seen many rapid developments in the last century. Industrialisation has led to considerable changes in work patterns providing increased wealth and standards of living for many and leading to urbanisation and rural depopulation in some areas. The quality of life has also seen many positive changes as a result with education for all, advances in health care, increased leisure time and the availability of consumer goods and services that would have been unimaginable only a few decades ago. Human rights have also benefited and democracy has become established and expanded. The globalisation of this way of life promises similar benefits to many more people. However, this causes new problems for a global society. Production shifts to countries with cheaper and less regulated labour changing and sometimes threatening work opportunities in the west. Resource consumption and pollution threaten the existence of other species and the ecosystems on which we all depend. Political instability, corporate expansion and competition for key resources such as food, water and oil have led to a century of dispossession, violence and war in which many of the poorer people on the planet have lost the basis for making a living and suffer from poverty, malnutrition and disease.

For young people in Western Europe these rapid changes in society have had a major impact on their lives. The concept of youth, non-existent 100 years ago, now extends to young people under the age of 25. The age of financial independence from the family has shifted from 16 in 1950 to 25 in 2005. Schooling is compulsory for all until mid-teens. The transition to adulthood, in which establishing an adult identity is typically achieved through employment, home making, marriage and parenthood, has become more complex. A generation ago and earlier schools taught traditional subjects and set universal tests and examinations that channelled and filtered young people into established work or career paths typically reproducing the lifestyle and identity of the local community and the family. Some sociologists describe this route to adulthood as being like a train journey. The young person finds out from the school system which train to catch at which station, when it departs and where it goes to and the young person is like a passenger on the journey. More recently the journey has been likened to a car journey. The student is taught to drive and sets of at a time of his or her choosing in a direction and at a pace to suit themselves and with no destination or arrival time necessarily in mind. Of course for some young people the pathway to adulthood remains as it used to be, especially for those who are academically gifted. Others may have a destination in mind but take a while to reach it or are tempted in a different direction after they have set off. Many, however, do not know where to go and may lack the skills to navigate, explore or even to drive along the various and complex routes.

To put it another way employment opportunities are rapidly changing. It is suggested that 50% of the jobs that will be available for a young person of the age of 5 starting at school this year will not yet have been thought of. It is said that we have become a knowledge society in which the best work requires academic success. However, at the same time the service sector has expanded and many jobs for those not academically successful are low paid, part time, temporary and offer little status to a young adult identity. At the same time education, rapidly expanding media and corporations eager for young people to consume have encouraged young people to hold high expectations of what is possible and to consume identities through fashion, music, by association with celebrities or allegiance to a club. Family and community life has also been challenged by the increased social and geographical mobility, extra demands on both parents to work, access to electronic media and raised and often unsatisfied expectations.

Item Type: Book Section
Publisher: BSJ Marburg / Threshold Consulting
Departments: Academic Departments > Science, Natural Resources & Outdoor Studies (SNROS) > Outdoor Studies
Depositing User: Christopher Loynes
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2019 10:31
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2021 12:46


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