Saturday, 19 July 2008
Why Are 18% Of UK Young People Bored?
According to recent research by the London School of Economics (LSE) 18% of young people in the UK do nothing except wander the streets living off their parents and or benefits.
Usually their behaviour is explained away as a 'nurture' problem, you know, something along the lines of "bless them, we need to support them by creating opportunities and educating them, or as a 'nature' problem, "these kids lack motivation what they need is a short sharp shock, preferably in the military"
The difference between these two approaches is a classic case of how underlying philosophy determines i) how the problem is characterised and ii) what solutions are regarded as valid.
You might know the 'light bulb' gag that captures what is going off here.
Q."How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?"
A."None"...the light bulb has to want to change!"
What neither of these approaches seem to take into consideration are alternative explanations about why these kids resist attempts to influence their behaviour. They also seem to presume a singular cause and effect.
Even a cursory look at the Social Influence literature will show that we are dealing with a complex combination of cognitive , social and environmental factors, which implies that the problem needs addressing in all these areas simultaneously.
Particularly interesting is the notion of Reactance the emotional response to an influence or persuasion attempt that is perceived to inhibit freedom of action and choice. In the case of 'the 18% they are experiencing an un-natural version of society. Un-natural in the sense that most of us know that participating in our society means that we have to learn to give up some of our independence (freedom and choice) in order to contribute to the peace and welfare of others and get along in a neighbourly way.
Because these youngsters experience a form of societal freedom that many of us do not, reactance to any and all initiatives should be expected. The nature approach will clearly interfere with their experience of 'freedom' and the nurture approach will fail too because it is offering social structures that are seen by the "18%" as thinly disguised initiatives to curb their independence, not as wonderful opportunities to a new sunny horizon of intellectual insight or vocational prestige.
So what are we left with? It is unlikely that overcoming the inertia will be done through appeals to higher ideals such as "its good to participate in society", "just think what it'll be like to earn a living". Offering a choice to these youngsters is misguided too because the deep roots of their attitude reach way down into their anti-societal version of 'freedom'. The change has to be imposed on them before there will any prospect of attitude change.
That means we have a) The Military - and they don't want to waste time and energy on low calibre recruits. Witness military unease with UK National Service in the 1950s. b) Education - aah that old liberal stalwart! - so we just fill our educational establishments with a load of light bulbs,or
c) my favoured option Social Service. No questions, no excuses, formalised, standard 8 hour working day, structured, minimum wage and long-term no 'release' date (most of aren't released form work until we retire note!)
This might mean the 18% will reduce to 1%...and that or course begs the question what do we do with them? I suggest we hurry along missions to the Moon and Mars!