Ageism in Youth Studies: Generation Maligned (Cambridge Scholars Press)
How Global Youth Values Will Transform Our Future (Cambridge Scholars Press)
Brave: Young Women’s Global Revolution (Volumes 1 and 2, Equality Press from AK Press)
Your Mindful Guide to Academic Success: Beat Burnout (Equality Press)
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44 high school students in Chico, CA, discuss stress, anxiety, and political issues. September, 2017
I asked 44 high school students in Chico, California, about their explanations for girls being more anxious and depressed than boys, according to national surveys. One boy said that male depression is prevalent too, as he knows from personal experience, so it may be we don’t know as much about what boys are really feeling due to social definitions of masculinity. The answers of these Advanced Placement students are found on the book webpage.[i] The most common explanation is female hormones impact emotion so “their brain is a chemical maelstrom.” They’re always moody, said one boy. Another said that the motherly instinct makes girls more emotional. They mature faster; “They take things more seriously so they get anxious about a test that a male might not even study for.”
The second most common explanation is that girls are held to a higher standard in their appearance and behavior, as “society holds women on this pedestal and many women think that they aren’t good enough and feel less than their counterparts,” magnified by comparison to fake posts on social media and airbrushed photos of models. Due to high expectations of perfection, “we always have to act polite and be conservative. They expect more from us but treat us worse than males.” There’s a double standard in appearance, so that “We are worried about the way we look and guys make it clear that eating nothing and being tan is considered hot.” That leads to the third explanation that a patriarchal society makes women anxious due to sexual assault, putdowns (called “hoes” and “stupid”) in a culture where young women are “slut shamed, cat called, put down, and left to basically do what men won’t.” Women are judged by their appearance and attractiveness to men, facing more ”societal scrutiny.” A boy observed, “Society is patriarchal and their lives are significantly more difficult. As a male, everything has literally always been easy for me. That is not the case for anyone who is not like me in color, class, or gender. Our society’s truly deplorable ongoing bias towards women is a strain on our collective unconscious.” It seem that young people believe that girls are more anxious and depressed because of their hormonal fluctuations, being held to a higher standard of appearance and behavior, and faced with more judgment and criticism in a society dominated by men. There’s nothing comparable to the excuse that “boys will be boys.
Causes of stress in this order
- School, homework, tests
- Family problems, pressure from parents
- Social worries, drama
- Time taken by work and sports
- Personal worries about the future, social anxiety
- Bad stuff happening around the world
- Coping Techniques in this order:
- Logic, reason, plan, organize, perspective
- Sleep, nap, bath
- Fun with friends
- Talk with friends
- Pray, meditate, breathing
- Social Media
Some regional differences surface in SpeakOut respondents’ statements about their life purposes. Rural Chinese youth value service to the motherland and to family: Asian students value getting into a good university: Muslim students value following the principles of their religion and spreading it to others: and African youth place high value on their religion and on having children. Mother of George (2013) portrays this African emphasis on giving birth. The film is about Nigerians living in New York City and the problems created when, a year and a half into marriage, the bride has not gotten pregnant. Reginald, a young Nigerian who gathered book responses for me, explained in an email,
Africans are the most religious, with 67% seeking their purpose in God/Allah, followed by Central and South America (47%) and the Middle East (46%). Western respondents are least likely to know their life purpose—56% in Western Europe and Australia and 20% in North America don’t know. The most altruistic, concerning with doing good deeds, are in India (71%), North America (59%), Eastern Europe (57%), and Central Asia (53%). The most altruistic with a focus on helping family are East Asia (36%), Central Asia (17%), and India (12%). The least altruistic in that they responded to the first question about what you would ask the wisest person by asking about their personal success are Central and South America (37%), followed by 35% in Africa, and 34% in Central Asia and India (gender differences aren’t significant). The most desirous of knowing the meaning of life are in Eastern Europe and Russia (42%), Western Europe and Australia (38%), and North America (37%). Interest in what happens after death is highest in Africa (27%) and Western Europe (19%). Regional differences are more significant than gender or age group.
Ageism in Youth Studies
Ageism is prevalent in a great deal of current scholarship in the social sciences as scholars fault youth for being delinquent or politically apathetic. Researchers ignore young people’s actual voices, despite their leadership in recent global uprisings, some of which unseated entrenched dictators. Neoliberalism must be exposed in its focus on youth sub-cultures and styles rather than economic barriers caused by growing inequality and rising youth unemployment rates. Ageism in Youth Studies also discusses the debate about “Generation We or Me” and if Millennials are narcissistic. Resources about global youth studies are included, along with the results of the author’s surveys and interviews with over 4,000 young people from 88 countries.
The Varkey Foundation released a study that claims to be the first and largest global survey of Generation Z attitudes in 2017 because there’s “very little in-depth reputable polling on the opinions and attitudes of Generation Z.” It surveyed 20,088 young people ages 15 to 21 from 20 representative countries in 2016. They were part on online research panels, meaning they all had acess to the Internet. Their results reinforced my Global SpeakOut survey findings that youth attitudes are “remarkably similar” globally: They’re generally happy, comfortable with diversity, value helping others, are not religious, and are most influenced by their parents. Their parents are the main influence on their values (89%)–followed by friends and teachers–and 67% have a good relationship with their parents. Only 30% say celebrities influence their values and less than 17% report being influenced by politicians. Family is their priority for the future, more so than health, career, or money. Only 42% say religion is significant to them (especially in Africa), while 39% say it has no significance to them (especially in Japan, Australasia, and Europe). Instead of religion they value service to others; 67% think that making a wider contribution to society is important, especially if they gain more skills and knowledge.
The Digital Natives have faith that technology (84%) and education (80%) will make the future better, but in 16 out of 20 countries more young people believe the world is becoming worse. Overall, 37% think the world is getting worse, only 20% think it’s getting better, and the rest didn’t pick either possibility. The most pessimistic are in Western developed countries, France and Italy, while emerging countries of China and India have the highest percentage of optimistis about the future. The lack of good education makes 69% of them worry about the future. They’re more concerned about extremism and terrorism (83%) than climate change (66%), except in China. There pessimism is not surprising when they grew up with rapid change, growing inequality, terrorism, the refugee crisis, poor education in many developing nations, the rise of populism, climate change and probably the first generation to that will be worse off than their parents.
Two-thirds (68%) say they’re happy; more so in emerging countries (Indonesia, Nigeria, and India) than in developed countries (France, Australasia and the UK). The older respondents and the young women were less happy than younger and male respondents. The least happy Gen Z respondents live in Japan and South Korea. More than half (60%) think their country is a good place to live. However, over two-thirds lack overall emotional well-being, as measured by they don’t think about their problems too much, they don’t feel anxious, lonely, unloved or bullied. Only 17% think they get enough sleep, exercise, and time for reflection so it’s not surprising that they don’t feel content. Their main sources of anxiety are money and school.
Gen X has liberal viewpoints: Opposing prejudice, 89% believe men and women should be treated equally (especially in Canada and China), 74% believe that transgender people should have rights, 66% believe in safe and legal abortion, 63% believe same-sex marriage should be legal, but only about half believe in free speech if it’s offensive to religion or minority groups. Support for free speech is highest in Turkey and Argentina, countries with a history of authoritarian governments, and lowest in Nigeria and China. Young people in 14 out of the 20 countries are supportive of immigrant rights in their country. Few think a person’s religion is an important factor in selecting a friend. Only 3% think fame is the most important factor in choosing a career.
Emma Broadbent, et al., “Generation Z: Global Citizenship Survey,” Varkey Foundation, January 2017.
Chapter One…………………………………………………………………….. 1
Ageist Scholars Ignore Youth
Chapter Two…………………………………………………………………. 42
Chapter Three………………………………………………………………… 93
The Narcissism Debate
Chapter Four………………………………………………………………… 137
Anxious and Stressed
Appendicies on survey results, films, Internet resources, large global surveys of youth, academic research, and bibliography.
While researching Generations Y and Z for the past decade for a book series about global youth activism and viewpoints, I discovered a split between scholarly viewpoints about Gen Me vs. Gen We. Some researchers fault youth for being narcissists and others praise them for being altruistic. I was surprised that many scholars who write about youth don’t actually talk to them or include their voices when young people face difficult economic challenges globally, with high youth unemployment rates and increasing tuition costs. It’s easier to blame the victim than the economic system that generates more and more inequality, just as teachers get blamed for structural problems in the education system. Ageism in Youth Studies: Generation Maligned exposes how authors ignore youth, disparage them, and fault them for being anxious, depressed and narcissistic without pressing for change in the economic system that harms them. Youth are the best-educated generation ever, an altruistic group that cares about global problems. They should be viewed as a resource in the present, as they are in Nordic countries, rather than as a source of trouble.