Hopes for Children: Is our success determined by outside forces?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Hopes for Children
Pew chart on whether success is determined by outside forces

CLICK on this chart to visit the Pew website for more.

Have you ever heard of the self-serving bias?

It’s the tendency to attribute our successes to ourselves and to blame our failures on outside factors. For example, you got your dream job because you were supremely qualified for it. Or, you didn’t get your dream job because the interviewer was prejudiced.

Now, consider your children’s successes and failures. How do you explain them?

People around the world vary considerably in their views about the causes of success in life, according to new data from Pew’s global attitudes survey.

Among economically developed societies, Americans are the least likely to say that success in life is determined by forces outside our control—only 40% of Americans attribute success to outside factors.

At the other end, South Koreans are the most likely to attribute success to outside forces—almost three of four (74%) do so.

Are Americans the least likely of all nations to attribute success to outside factors? That would be a good guess, since our core values include self-reliance and individualism. And, it’s a pretty good guess, according to Pew, but not entirely correct.

Of the 44 countries Pew surveyed, only four had a lower percentage than the U.S. of those who agreed that success in life is determined by outside forces: Columbia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. The first three are considered emerging economies, while the fourth is classified as a developing economy.

To what do you attribute your successes and failures?

When children don’t live up to our hopes, do we blame them—or outside factors?

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Categories: Self-Reliance

Hopes for Children: Why are parents in rich nations pessimistic?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Hopes for Children
CLICK THE CHART to visit the Pew website and learn more about these reports.

CLICK THE CHART to visit the Pew website and learn more about these reports.

Rising affluence usually translates into optimism about the future. One of the chief findings from the vast World Values Surveys is that economic development generally elevates happiness, well-being, and satisfaction with life.

Why, then, are so many people in affluent societies pessimistic about their children’s future?

The majority of Americans and Europeans don’t believe today’s children will be better off financially than their parents, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. In fact, the citizens of most of the countries with advanced economies are pretty gloomy about their children’s prospects. Conversely, the citizens of many emerging-market societies see a bright future for their children.

The reason for these differences is the rate of economic development. This is shown clearly in this graph from Pew. Those who live in nations with the fastest GDP growth are optimistic about their children’s future. China and Vietnam are prime examples. Nations with slow growth (like the US) or negative growth (like Italy or Spain) exhibit lots of pessimism.

Other factors matter, of course. Argentineans, Lebanese, and Tanzanians are experiencing fast GDP growth, but they are less optimistic than they should be, given their rate of economic change. Conversely, Ukrainians have experienced negative economic growth but they are more optimistic than nations with similar economic experiences.

How optimistic or pessimistic are you about the future prospects of today’s children?

Are your surprised that so many people in affluent societies are pessimistic about their children’s future?

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Categories: Uncategorized

Hopes for Children: What can kids do in our troubled world?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Hopes for Children
Malala Yousafzai's photo has been added to the colorful exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. This photo was posted to Wilkimedia Commons just hours after her Peace Prize was announced.

Malala Yousafzai’s photo has been added to the colorful exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. This photo was posted to Wilkimedia Commons just hours after her Peace Prize was announced.

What can a child do?

Plenty! That’s the word from the committee giving the next Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

At 17, Malala is the youngest-ever recipient of the prestigious prize. (You can read more about Malala and other extraordinary young women this week in our own Interfaith Peacemakers section.)

Children can be heroes—like 12-year-old Kamal Nepali, who rescued a two-year-old girl who had fallen into a gorge carved by the Seti River near Pokhara, Nepal. The child was trapped in a crevice so narrow that adults couldn’t reach her. Kamal was small enough to fit in, and he volunteered to do it. The adults lowered him into the darkness of the crevice, and he emerged later with the girl strapped to his back. (ListVerse magazine has more details about Nepali’s story.)

Pew chart on regions of the world and optimism about children 2014

Click this chart to read more at the Pew website.

From small acts of kindness to extraordinary events, children can do a lot in our troubled world.

Parents around the globe envision a better world for their children, according to new reports from Pew. Many people predict that their children will be better off than their parents.

But this optimism is not spread evenly around the world.

Can you guess which region is the most optimistic about their children’s future? Hands down, it’s Asia. Well over half (58%) of Asians are optimistic about their children’s future. Only 24% are not.

Which region is the most pessimistic? It’s Europe, according to the Pew Research Center. Sixty-five percent of Europeans predict that their children’s future will be bleaker than their parents’ experiences. Only 25% are optimistic about their children’s future.

What can a kid do?

What do you hope kids will achieve?

THIS WEEK’S OurValues series by sociologist Dr. Wayne Baker is great for sparking discussion among friends. Please, use our blue-“f” Facebook icons or envelope-shaped email icons to share this column with friends. Or, simply leave a Comment below.

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Categories: Justice and FairnessRespect

Children’s Values: Glass Half Empty, or Half Full?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Children's Values
THE PROVERBIAL GLASS OF MILK: Is it half full, or half empty?

THE PROVERBIAL GLASS OF MILK: Is it half full, or half empty?

What values should our children learn?

The new Pew study we’ve consulted this week asked about 12 different values, discovering that Americans have common ground—six values that most people agree are important to teach children. There is disagreement about six other values.

Should we interpret the findings as a “glass half full” or a “glass half empty”?

As we discussed this week, “being responsible” is the topmost value Americans believe is especially important to teach children. Common ground also includes hard work, being well-mannered, helping others, independence, and persistence. Big divides appear when it comes to the values of religious faith and tolerance, as well as the values of obedience, empathy for others, curiosity, and creativity.

It is interesting that Pew decided to emphasize the divides in its report. The subtitle, for example, is “Sharp Ideological Differences, Some Common Ground.” The first sentence of the report notes the general trend of increasing political polarization, and says that “differences between conservatives and liberals extend their long reach even to opinions about which qualities are important to teach children.”

The survey results split right down the middle—widespread agreement on six values, disagreement on six other values. An equally valid subtitle could be, “Common Ground, Some Ideological Differences.”

Why did Pew decide to emphasize the divides?

Controversy sells better than good news. Emphasizing that political polarization extends to how we raise our children is newsworthy and eye-catching. The good news of agreement on many values for children is not an attention-getter.

Do you interpret the Pew results as a “glass half full”?
Or, as a “glass half empty”?
Does good news or controversy draw your attention?

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Categories: Uncategorized

Children’s Values: Just how much curiosity do we want?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Children's Values
Colorado school students protest conservative curriculum

Click this collage of headlines to jump to the Los Angeles Times story.

“Curiosity” is a good value to teach our children, millions of Americans agree—however, the Pew report we are examining this week shows that liberals and conservatives are likely to disagree on its relative importance.

The eruption of protests among students and teachers in a suburb of Denver, this week, may reflect this difference. Pew did not ask specifically about the Colorado case, but a political split over “curiosity” appears to be part of the Colorado conflict.

THE NEW  YORK TIMES REPORTS, in part: “ARVADA, Colo.—A new conservative school board majority here in the Denver suburbs recently proposed a curriculum-review committee to promote patriotism, respect for authority and free enterprise and to guard against educational materials that “encourage or condone civil disorder.” In response, hundreds of students, teachers and parents gave the board their own lesson in civil disobedience. On Tuesday, hundreds of students from high schools across the Jefferson County school district, the second largest in Colorado, streamed out of school and along busy thoroughfares, waving signs and championing the value of learning about the fractious and tumultuous chapters of American history.”

The students are concerned about more than “curiosity,” but their comments in national news media make it clear that their desire to be curious is a prime motivation. In the hundreds of news reports streaming out of Colorado, teenagers are quoted as saying that they want to ask probing questions in their American history classes. They are wary of being taught from textbooks that they fear may be slanted, now, toward conservative viewpoints on our history.

PEW FOUND—Liberals are much more likely than conservatives to value curiosity as a quality they would like to see in children, according to the new Pew survey we’ve been consulting this week. Over eight of ten consistently liberals (86%) say that curiosity is especially important for to teach children. A third say it is among the most important values. Just over half of consistently conservative Americans (55%) say that curiosity is a very important value for children, with 6% saying that it is among the most important.

What do you think about the school protest this week?

Do you think the protests are motivated partly by curiosity—or other motives?

How would you resolve the Colorado conflict?

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Categories: Critical PatriotismFreedom

Children’s Values: Is ‘religious faith’ better than ‘tolerance’?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Children's Values
Collage of world religions from Wikimedia Commons

A WIDE ARRAY OF FAITHS: All the world’s faiths are represented in the U.S., these days. (This collage of images comes from Wikimedia Commons.)

Americans have a lot of common ground when it comes to the values we want to teach our children, as we’ve discussed so far this week. But there is also a lot of disagreement.

Consider these two values: “religious faith” and “tolerance.” Is one more important than the other? Or, do we want our children to learn both?

The Pew Research Center asked about 12 different values in their recent survey. Six are widely shared (see Part 2 in this series). Religious faith and tolerance are not among the six. Some Americans emphasize religious faith as a value that is especially important to teach children; others say that tolerance is a more important value.

Americans who are consistently conservative in their views are very likely to stress the importance of religious faith. Over eight of ten (81%) say religious faith is especially important for children to learn, with a majority (59%) ranking it among the most important values. In contrast, consistently liberal Americans say that religious faith is very unimportant for children to learn. Only a quarter (26%) say that is especially important.

We see the opposite pattern for the value of tolerance. Almost nine of ten consistent liberals (88%) say that tolerance is especially important to instill in children, with 22% saying that it is the most important value. In contrast, consistent conservatives are the least likely to say that tolerance is very important for children to learn. Only four in ten (41%) say it is especially important, with 3% saying that it is the most important value for children to have.

Do you believe that it is more important for children to learn religious faith than tolerance?
Or, is tolerance more important than religious faith?
Would you rank them both the same in importance for our children?

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Categories: Justice and FairnessRespect

Children’s Values: More Common Ground than You Think?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Children's Values
Wayne Baker United America front cover

AMERICANS SHARE MORE VALUES THAN YOU MIGHT THINK. That’s the message drawn from nationwide research that went into my book “United America.” Click on the cover to learn more about this book.

Americans generally agree about several values that are especially important to teach our children. “Being responsible” is #1, as we discussed yesterday. What other values are also widely considered to be essential?

As a reminder, here are the 12 values the Pew Research Center asked about in their recent survey of the nation:

  • Curiosity
  • Religious faith
  • Obedience
  • Tolerance
  • Persistence
  • Empathy
  • Creativity
  • Independence
  • Being well-mannered
  • Helping others
  • Being responsible
  • Hard work

Half of these 12 values are widely considered to be especially important to teach children. After responsibility, “hard work” is part of the common ground. At one end of the political spectrum, 95% of consistently conservative Americans say that hard work is one of the most important values to instill in children, with 44% naming it as the most important. At the other end, 82% of consistently liberal Americans agree, with 26% naming hard works is the most important value.

Large majorities of Americans across political lines also say that “being well-mannered” and “helping others” are among the most important qualities for children to learn.

“Independence” is very important to teach children. At least three of four Americans in every political category—from consistent liberals to consistent conservatives—agree that this value is among the most important.

And, “persistence” is a key value. There is somewhat less support for this value, compared to the other five, but at least six of ten Americans in each political category say persistence is among the most important values to teach our children.

Are you surprised to learn that there is so much common ground when it comes to the values we want our children to have?

Would you put these six values—responsibility, hard work, good manners, helping others, independence, and persistence—at the top of your list?

If not, what values do you consider to be more important?

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Categories: Justice and Fairness