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What Schools Can Do To Encourage a Sense of Purpose Philip Hughes, Kingswood College, Christian Research Association.

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Presentation on theme: "What Schools Can Do To Encourage a Sense of Purpose Philip Hughes, Kingswood College, Christian Research Association."— Presentation transcript:

1 What Schools Can Do To Encourage a Sense of Purpose Philip Hughes, Kingswood College, Christian Research Association

2 The Spirit of Gen Y Project Began in 2002 With researchers from ACU and Monash Sponsored by 17 organisations Talked with 350 students all around Australia  In schools and cafes  In gyms and remand centres  In churches and homes National telephone survey – 1200 young people Web-based surveys of 5500 in schools Parallel study among young people in Thailand

3 What we found Reported study in 'Putting Life Together' Determination of students to put own lives together Make own decisions  Careers  Relationships  Beliefs & values Available on book-stall

4 Over last 40 years we have seen great change Used to be a consensus about  Occupations for girls  Occupations for boys About relationships About what the world was like

5 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes (2009) found just 50% identified as Christian

6 Belief in God (including those who doubt and those who believe sometimes)

7 Various Terms Used to Describe the Change Post-modernity High modernity Prefer 'post-traditional' (Anthony Giddens) We live in a society in which 'traditions' cannot be taken for granted: where people feel it appropriate to make up their own minds.

8 Sources of the Change Mostly occurred in the late 1960s and 1970s At the heart of the change was the way in which parents brought up their children Began to seek the children's individual interests  'What do you want to eat?'  'What do you want to play with?'  'Where would you like to go today?' Can seek to meet individual needs in small families. Not possible in large families where decisions must be made for the whole family

9 In Schools We are trying to cater more than ever before for individual difference Encourage students to think for themselves Encourage creativity Very different approach to many other cultures, eg Thailand

10 'Hard to Know What to Believe about Life' Based on responses from 3700 secondary students

11 Easy to be overwhelmed by choice 43% Australian adults confused by telephone plans 50% confused by investment options 38% confused by banking options Many of us confused by the basic choices of life

12 'Spirit Matters' (Peter Kaldor, Alan Black & Philip Hughes)

13 Many of the 'secular' people there by default

14 Looked at correlates between approaches to life and wellbeing Used a wide range of measures of personal and social wellbeing Made a difference Some have a much greater sense of purpose than others  Related to sense of 'belonging'  Have a place in the universe Term of Giddens: ontological security

15 Sense of Purpose Linked to Many Other Areas of Life Key contributor to resilience  With strong sense of purpose can ride through the difficult times Make a greater contribution to society  Know where they are going  Sense of what is worthwhile  Don't give up easily Contributes to general satisfaction in life

16 How our personality affects our happiness Optimism Self-esteem Sense of control Purpose Neuroticism Extrovertism Satisfaction In life Negative Theory: Robert Cummins; Data: Wellbeing and Security Survey (2002)

17 How our personality affects our happiness Optimism Self-esteem Sense of control Purpose Neuroticism Extrovertism Satisfaction In life Christian faith Secularism

18 What this means... Some students have a much greater sense of purpose, optimism, sense of control, self-worth than others Partly a matter of personality But can be influenced by the school and by the approach that they decide to take to life Schools can make a difference

19 Question of students: 'Since you have been in secondary school, what events, activities, experiences or people have helped you grow most as a person? In what ways have these things changed you?'

20 Factors Contributing to Purpose, Meaning and Happiness Mental Health Having passions Belief In a spiritual dimension Wanting to help others Purpose, Meaning, Happiness

21 Mental Health Much the school can do to promote positive mental health – positive thinking about life Contribute to resilience … and more June De Vaus Helen McGrath Catherine Brandon

22 Interests and Passions Think positively about life when have interests and passions 'Follow the sparkle in the students' eyes' Peter Cooper Di Fleming Some practical examples:  Human Powered Vehicle Project (Andrew Robertson)  Arts (Bruce Wilson)

23 Not just any interests and passions Purpose developed when interests and passions seen as being worthwhile beyond ourselves Depends on seeing ourselves in the larger world Sense of a role to play in a larger scheme of things Basic truth: 'Whoever wants to save life will lose it; but whoever loses life for the sake of the Gospel will find it' (Mark 8.35)

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25 Student worldview History Geology Geography Astronomy Chemistry Physics Astrology Reincarnation Psychic power God Miracles

26 Students Want Opportunities to Think and Discuss Various ways of opening up the big questions Tim Sprod – philosophy Graham Rossiter – critique of culture Chris Middleton – retreats Julie Perrin and Jeanette Acland – story telling Jessica Butcher – experiences of other religions

27 Young People Want to Experience For Themselves Try out the options of life Leadership programs that give students the chance to 'make a difference' Peter Kaldor and Ben Weir Arron Wood

28 Task for Kingswood Listen to the variety of inputs Engage in discussion – great variety of experience here Identify what we think is worth trialling Do further research to see what is working

29 The Students We Teach Today Will be the parents of families The managers of business The leaders of the nation In 20, 30 and 40 years from now The Educational Revolution we need most desperately: Education for a Purposeful Life

30 Our Task is of National Significance 'It is essential – if Australian society is indeed to prosper as a unified nation-state until 2050 and beyond – that Australians understand how they will sustain their societal spiritual values in an environment of enormous secular pressure.' … Societies need an 'overarching ethical philosophy'. Australia 2050, Australia's Centre for Strategic Analysis


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