Do young people still show solidarity?

Helena Spriet
16 December 2019
Only 23 percent of young people think solidarity is important. If they are not directly concerned by social problems, they are unlikely to act swiftly in order to save the world. Why is that? A recent study by Annoncer La Couleur examined this phenomenon.

Young people want to turn the world upside down and improve it, but they only commit themselves when they find themselves faced with injustice in their daily lives. Still, it is a hopeful finding that young people are committed to a better world at all.

Annoncer La Couleur (ALC), a programme of the Belgian Development Cooperation, carried out a study together with Dedicated Research to discover the values, interests and position of young people when it comes to issues in society. In June 2019, 500 adolescents (aged between 14 and 19) and 40 teachers were interviewed in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.

Young people have more confidence in what their family says, rather than in what the media and politicians have to say. Worse still, they even distrust the latter.

Solidarity in their own environment

The study’s conclusion is unequivocal: young people attach more importance to society and social problems in their immediate environment. For more than 90 percent of the young people surveyed, friends, family and the future play an important role in their lives. As a result, they also have more confidence in what their family says, rather than in what the media and politicians have to say. Worse still, they even distrust the latter. In other words, young people show more solidarity with their immediate environment than with distant problems.

Yet almost 50 percent are committed to a just and inclusive world. What drives them? Emotions! Young people commit themselves as soon as they are emotionally touched, feel involved or can personify the problem. Migration, for example, is close to their hearts because they usually come into contact with refugees in the classroom or through testimonies.

Adolescents’ reorientation towards their immediate surroundings and the diminishing importance of humanist values can be explained by the fearful climate around young people.

Teachers

Teachers see these findings confirmed by what they see in reality. ‘Adolescents’ reorientation towards their immediate surroundings and the diminishing importance of humanist values can be explained by the alarming climate around young people: current events, global warming, the world in "crisis", unemployment, etc. They tend to protect themselves behind an identity, an environment of togetherness. The “me first, others/the world afterwards” attitude has become acceptable because of the bubble that adults create,’ it sounds. However, this attitude becomes more prominent only because adults do the same.

Education has an important influence on what students think and on the way they behave. Global citizenship education at school therefore aims to educate pupils to become responsible and inclusive citizens. Teachers can, for example, enable pupils to openly look at the world from the perspective of their personal environment. Moreover, critical reflection needs to be fostered. A positive approach to events is crucial in this respect.

‘Finally, young people’s participation is also very important: allowing them to participate actively and to be involved in projects contributes to a sense of belonging and solidarity. Global citizenship education is therefore more than ever an essential school for young people who are losing their grip a little', concludes Florence Depierreux, coordinator of the Annoncer La Couleur programme.

 

Pedagogical material can be found here.

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About the same theme - Article 2 /6 Children and colonisation: 'We're lucky to be born now'