sad teen siting on bed
Image courtesy merfam/Flickr.

At the EARCOS conference, one of the other keynote speakers was Michael Furdyk, co-founder of TakingITGlobal, a fantastic organization we’ve written about and highlighted at IHE.

During his keynote, Michael shared an interesting (if not disturbing) statistic from the BBDO GenWorld 2006 study. When teens were asked if they agreed with the statement, “I think the world is becoming a better place,” only 14 percent (on average) responded in the affirmative. The breakdown by country looked like this:

China  34%
Taiwan  25%
India  26%
Brazil  16%
Russia  15%
United States  14%
Australia  11%
Spain  10%
Poland  10%
United Kingdom  9%
Germany  9%
Mexico  6%
France  2%

What’s ironic about these statistics is that, historically, things have been improving for centuries. As I’ve written about before and most recently shared here, by so many measures the world is indeed becoming “a better place.” There is greater freedom and democracy; girls are able to go to school, and women are able to live self-determined lives in greater and greater numbers; gays and lesbians are gaining rights; nonhuman animals are gaining greater protections; tolerance is on the rise and prejudice on the decline; life expectancy has increased almost everywhere, and death by violence has never been lower than in the last half-century.

True, the expanding human population and increased standard of living for a growing percentage of people has meant faster resource depletion and more global warming; increased rates of species extinction, and higher numbers of animals being brutalized and killed for expanding global appetites for meat. And the rise of the middle class has certainly not reached everyone—far from it—and slavery, trafficking, and sweatshop labor persist.

But even as the problems we face become potentially more grave, the opportunities for young people (the target of this BBDO survey) to solve them expands dramatically as organizations such as TakingITGlobal and IHE help pave the way for greater learning, networking, solutionary thinking, and problem-solving.

I am not surprised that only a small percentage of youth believes the world is getting better. After all, because they are growing up in the information age, they now know more about the grave problems we face, something previous generations did not. Fortunately, the fact that they believe the world isn’t getting better does not seem to stop them from committing to improving it.

I wish these youth had a greater sense of the arc of history, but I’m relieved that they are, by and large, staving off apathy and despair and joining forces through a globally connected world (which, ironically, is a perfect example of how the world is getting better) to solve the challenges we face.

~ Zoe

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm; Above All, Be Kind; and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDxDirigo talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach
My TEDxConejo talk: “Solutionaries”
My TEDxYouth@CEHS “How to Be a Solutionary”


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