How are we investing in the next generation?

Clare Condon SGS

Clare Condon SGS

What do we mean when we say the next generation should be better off than the previous one, asks Good Samaritan Sister Clare Condon.

BY Clare Condon SGS*

Often I hear the comment that the next generation should be better off than the previous one. Parents want to leave their children better off than they were.

Usually I find that those advocating this mantra are simply considering material goods and wealth. They are usually the already wealthy or those aspiring to be so – those with a greater share of a nation’s wealth. Interestingly however, there doesn’t appear to be much consideration given to the next generation having a greater sense of well-being, health, peace, or a stronger spirituality and a more intelligent and cultured life.

In economic terms, one of the key indicators of progressive wealth is home ownership. Statistics recently cited in the UK edition of The Guardian indicate that “for those on low to middle incomes the situation has become particularly tough”. “As recently as 1998,” writes Larry Elliott, “more than half of those earning 10-50% of average national income had a mortgage. That figure has now dropped to one in four and will be around one in ten within a decade on current trends. Owner occupation is increasingly the preserve of the elderly and the well off.”

These are UK figures, but the trend is similar here in Australia. What stands out for me is that those who are marginalised in our societies are the ones who will not be better off than their parents. For the most part, they will never be able to afford their own homes.

So is it time to consider what other indicators could more accurately determine future betterment for the next generation if the Australian dream of owning one’s home is not going to be a reality, and increased wealth will not be achieved by those most marginalised?

The findings of a recent study from The Australian Child Wellbeing Project might offer some advice. The study, undertaken by a group of Australian universities and the Australian Council for Educational Research, engaged with some 5,440 young people, aged 8 to 14 years in 180 schools. Their final report, entitled “Are the kids alright?”, notes that “a significant proportion of young people in their middle years have low well-being, and are missing out on opportunities at this crucial time”.

This is manifested in: “High levels of health complaints, experience of bullying, low levels of engagement at school, low levels of subjective well-being and low levels of social support”. Those defined as marginalised were young people with disability, young carers, materially disadvantaged young people, culturally and linguistically diverse young people, Indigenous young people, young people in rural and remote Australia, and young people in out-of-home-care.

These findings indicate the opposite of healthy living, inner peace and intellectual and cultural achievements for this band of young people. What might offer future betterment for them is unclear.

As the report noted: such findings challenge the development of national policies in defining well-being and where resources are to be allocated for the achievement of longitudinal well-being for future generations. A simple economic indicator such as home ownership is inadequate. Our western secular societies require a broader understanding of what constitutes human well-being, fulfilment and happiness.

The project referred to a vague concept of “subjective well-being”. It considered social support networks such as family and friends. To my thinking there was no reference to a healthy spirituality which might contribute to inner contentment and peace at the heart of one’s being.

As the project included Catholic schools in various dioceses, a further study might be undertaken to determine whether a spiritual focus and formation within a school environment counteracts any of the disadvantages identified and experienced by children who are marginalised.

Do Christian schools have any impact on the future well-being of those young people in their care by integrating faith, life and culture, which is a stated aim of Catholic education? What are the well-being outcomes for students who are marginalised, and what impact does it have for their future well-being?

These are serious questions for Christian educational institutions to grapple with if they are to be true to their Gospel call.

* Sister Clare Condon is the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict.

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The Good Oil, April 19, 2016. If you would like to republish this article, please contact the editor.

5 Responses to “How are we investing in the next generation?”

  1. Ameria Etuare says:

    thank you Clare for this information and interesting to reflect upon.

  2. Jeanie Heininger says:

    Always worth reading. I’m about to hand write a letter to GREENS asking for their policy regarding Independent schools and Catholic Education in view of Elections.

  3. Marie Casamento says:

    Some of the values that progressively lead to a deepening of the spiritual in the life of the child have to do with the child’s rights. The child has the right to see, hear and feel what they see, hear and feel and not what they should see, hear and feel. If they have the right to be the person they were meant to be then insight, enlightenment and spirituality will follow. So much of a child’s life is dictated by others and this is to our shame. Marie

  4. Marie Rose says:

    Very well written Sister Clare as I have daughters who have been educated in the Catholic system. Unfortunately, they came in with strong values and faith from a Catholic Primary school and came out with only frail remnants of it though at home the faith is practiced. I found that the Catholic School is not fully integrating Faith, an emphasis on the inner contentment, and pride of adhesion to the Catholic Church in the day to day running of the school. Peace and blessings.

    • Rose says:

      Hello Marie Rose.

      A Catholic education can give the most underpriveled a ‘good shot’ at life!

      There may be stronger values and faith in primary school because this is when children receive the Sacraments, and consequently a greater emphasis on the faith during this time.

      I wonder whether high school students have access to a Missal in their religion classes. I believe it would be great for high school students to have a Missal as an ‘issued’ text, and their teachers be ‘trained’ to have a good understanding of the Missal/the Mass. I am in my forties. I came across a Missal much later in life.

      I’m sure they do, but is it possible high school student do not know what a Missal is?

      I believe a good appreciation and understanding of the Mass via the Missal would increase youth Mass attendance exponentially. Now that would be a great legacy!

      All the best, Rose

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