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Community attitudes, human futures – and the challenge to education Richard Eckersley National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health The Australian.

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Presentation on theme: "Community attitudes, human futures – and the challenge to education Richard Eckersley National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health The Australian."— Presentation transcript:

1 Community attitudes, human futures – and the challenge to education Richard Eckersley National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health The Australian National University Canberra

2 Outline of presentation  Content: Progress: benefits and costs Attitudes to quality of life, future and S&T Some trends in health and well being Modern Western culture and its values Winds of change?  Key message: Contest between two worldviews Profound implications for education

3 Progress: then and now Many more people are living much richer, longer lives than ever before. 1000 years ago: 270 million people could expect, on average, to live about 24 years and earn about US$400 a year. Today: 6.3 billion people can expect, on average, to live about 67 years and earn almost US$6,000.

4 The wealth – health nexus: some qualifications  Gains unevenly distributed Recent reversals in some nations.  Diminishing returns with rising income Thresholds beyond which benefits cease.  Health gains due to more than growth Increasing knowledge, education, institutional reforms. Biomedical advances, changed behaviour.

5 The wealth – health nexus: costs of growth  Environment: disruption on planetary scale. Questions of sustainability.  Social costs: increased inequality and deeper divisions within society. Questions of opportunity.  Psychic losses: identity, belonging, purpose, certainty. Questions of meaning.

6 Quality of life trend Worse Better 33 38 34 36 About the same Figure 3 Source: Newspoll / Richard Eckersley Newspoll / The Australian January 2000 Newspoll July 01, Nov 02 37 QUESTION:Thinking now about the overall quality of life of people in Australia, taking into account social, economic and environmental conditions and trends. Would you say that life in Australia is getting better, worse or staying about the same? (uncommitted 2, 2, 1, 3, 2 percent) BASE: 1200 ADULTS NATIONAL IN EACH WAVE

7 Reasons for declining quality of life  Too much greed and consumerism  Breakdown in community and social life  Too much pressure on families, parents and marriages  Falling living standards  Employers demanding too much Source: Pusey, 1998

8 Perceptions of QoL - 1,Since the mid-1980s, Hugh Mackay’s reports have charted Australians’ growing concerns about the rate and nature of the changes reshaping Australian society, and the many signs of ‘degeneration’ in the Australian way of life. ‘We are “tending our own patch” and becoming absorbed in our own concerns….our focus has narrowed to an extent that allows us to exclude some of the “nasty stuff” which has become too unpalatable to think about.’

9 Perceptions of QoL - 2 The Brotherhood of St Laurence 2002 report, Values and Civic Behaviour in Australia, says people felt values were changing, generally for the worse, and that Australia was becoming too selfish and materialistic: ‘Personal aspirations and aspirations for the nation appeared to be largely unrelated….Few participants believed that Australia would become their ideal society (and) they had distanced themselves from this goal….they manage, or control, their reactions to social issues so they can maintain a comfortable and self-focused life.’

10 The future? ‘If the mood is a bit depressed at present, then it turns even bleaker when Australians contemplate the future. They fear further degradation in our quality of life – through excessive development, excessive materialism, excessive reliance on technology, excessive speed.’ Hugh Mackay Mind & Mood, 2001

11 Young people’s expected and preferred futures, 1995  The world in the 21 st century: ‘bad time of crisis and trouble’: 55% ‘new age peace and prosperity’:41%  Expected and preferred future for Australia in 2010: ‘Growth’ scenario: expected 63%; preferred 16% ‘Green’ scenario: expected 35%; preferred 81% Source: Eckersley, 1999 ASTEC survey of 800 Australians, aged 15-24

12 Young people’s attitudes to science and technology  Attitudes to S&T marked by ambivalence, ambiguity and contradiction.  Views on S&T embedded in wider social context.  Role of S&T differed between expected and preferred futures.  S&T were tools; impacts depended on who controlled them: Expected them to be used to concentrate wealth and power. Wanted them to help create closer-knit, sustainable communities. Source: Eckersley, 1999

13 Male suicide rates by age and birth cohort, Australia Research Centre for Injury Studies, August 2000

14 Lifetime prevalence of depression, by birth cohort, USA Source: Kessler et al 2003

15 Growing generation gap in malaise USA, 1975-1999 Source: Putnam 2000

16 Materialism and wellbeing  Materialism: correlated with dissatisfaction, depression, anxiety, anger, social alienation and poorer personal relationships. ‘extrinsic goals’ such as fame, fortune and glamour associated with lower overall wellbeing, compared to ‘intrinsic goals’ of intimacy, self-acceptance and understanding, contributing to community. The more materialistic our values, the poorer our quality of life.

17 Individualism, control and support  Delivers ‘double whammy’ to wellbeing: Reduces social support and personal control.  Individualism confuses autonomy with independence or separateness. Decreases connection to others, belonging. Social forces seen as external and alien.  Individualism demands high self-esteem. Maintain self-esteem by belief that threats to it are beyond our control.

18 Virtues and vices  Virtues : encourage strong, harmonious personal relationships and social attachments. and the strength to endure adversity.  Vices : Are about unrestrained satisfaction of individual wants and desires. and the capitulation to human weaknesses.

19 St Thomas Aquinas 13th century The Virtues Faith Charity Hope Prudence Religion Fortitude Temperance The Capital Sins Pride Gluttony Lust Avarice Sloth Envy Anger The Virtues The Consumer Society 20th Century Source: Funkhouser

20 Rules of happiness: sage advice  Happiness is not a goal but a consequence: it is not to be sought or pursued, but is a result of how we live. it is not found by focusing on the self, but on others.  Happiness comes from balancing wants and means: from being content with what we have.

21 Sociocultural change and wellbeing  ‘Cultural fraud’: promotion of images and ideals at odds with psychological needs and social realities.  Mass media creating an ‘artificial’ or ‘alternative’ reality that is increasingly influential.  Several aspects that introduce a powerful social dynamic: Fractured, ephemeral images (fads and fashions). A focus on personal, often material, goals and expectations. A view of a ‘mean world’.

22 Two views of progress  Material progress: Materialism and individualism embedded in this view. Sees progress as pipeline: growth is paramount. Raises standards of living, increases choice, creates resources to meet social and environmental goals.

23 Two views of progress  Material progress: Progress as pipeline: growth is paramount.  Sustainable development: Progress as evolving ecosystem - rainforest Seeks balance and integration of social, economic and environmental goals. ‘improving quality of human life while living within carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems’. Replace goal of maximising wealth with one of optimising health and wellbeing.

24 Winds of change? ‘The gap between “what I believe in” and “how I live” is uncomfortably wide for many of us and we are looking for ways to narrow it….We want to express our values more clearly and live in ways that make us feel better about ourselves….to feel that our lives express who we are and that we are living in harmony with the values we claim to espouse.’ Hugh Mackay The Wrap: Understanding where we are now and where we’ve come from, 2003

25 A shift in our worldview?  At least 25% of Americans and Europeans are ‘cultural creatives’. changing their worldview, values and lifestyles.  ‘Cultural creatives’ are disenchanted with consumerism, status displays, glaring social inequalities, hedonism and cynicism. care about the environment, relationships, peace, social justice, spirituality and self-expression.  a coalescence of social movements that are changing how people understand the world. Source: Ray and Anderson, 2000

26 Sustainability and education  ‘Material progress’ needs to be replaced by ‘sustainable development’.  This shift requires ‘deep democracy’: Concept of citizenship embracing, not just specific social roles, but whole of our lived lives – worldviews, political stands, personal choices. Poses major challenges for education – values, citizenship; also science, maths, environment.

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