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Creating global citizens out of generation Y - are we prepared?

By Nicole Pokorney

In 2009, the youth population was recorded at nearly 3 billion strong, almost half of the world's population! Generation Y is technologically savvy, generous, diverse, and global. However, in his book, Generation iY, Tim Elmore takes a reality check on youth. Through interviews, literature and many other methods, his research describes youth as overwhelmed, overly connected, overprotected and overserved. Tim writes, "These kids really do desire to change the world; they just don't have what it takes to accomplish their lofty dreams". His bottom line? Adults are not prepared to lead youth into the future!

Never before has there been a greater need for competent and skilled youth workers to prepare our youth for citizenship and careers. Youth workers must be flexible and transformative to access global challenges, such as meeting the needs of the growing youth population, addressing economic realities and developing vocational opportunities. In her recent Youth Development Insight blog post, Occupy Youth Programs, my colleague Deborah Moore stresses the need for educators to take the lead in engaging youth into global citizenship with social media.

We know what we need to do. But how do we do it?

In a recent post on his own blog, Tim Elmore pleads for adults to also gain the skills to become effective global citizens in order to lead the generation that lies in front of us, "I am asking that adults wake up to the need to lead. We must re-establish our moral authority. For many adolescents, we have no credibility. Many of our kids around the world are a part of a 'leader-less generation.' We didn't stick to the values we claimed to live by, we haven't been transparent about our mistakes and we haven't offered a clear compass for our kids".

What skills do you believe youth lack to become effective global citizens? How can youth workers partner with youth to help them acquire these skills?

-- Nicole Pokorney, Extension educator

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  1. Hi Nicole, I love your post and immediately thought of it when I read about this new study that suggests Millennials – compared to Baby Boomers or GenXers – are the “Me Generation” (Twenge, Campbell & Freeman, 2012). That is, they are more interested in extrinsic values (money, image, fame) and less interested in civic engagement and the environment, for example. While volunteerism has increased among young people, the study suggests that is due to schools instituting volunteer service requirements. That’s interesting, because I was part of a study that found that even when young people entered a civic activism youth programs for extrinsic reasons like to fulfill a service requirement, they became intrinsically motivated and authentically engaged after developing a personal connection to the program’s mission and values (Pearce & Larson, 2006). So I’m interested in how youth programs support that motivational change process, and I think it is connected to Jennifer’s recent post on the idea of flow.

  2. Hi, Nicole. Thank you for starting this conversation! What comes to mind for me as an important skill for youth to learn is perseverance. I see so many young people give up as soon as a task becomes too difficult. This isn't always the case--the more interested they are in a task, the more likely they are to stick it out. But I think the quick pace of media influences, especially, cause young people (and adults, actually) to have shorter attention spans than they would normally. So often, people give up before they really have a chance to get anything out of the task or activity. This is why I am so intrigued by the potential of civic engagement as a way for youth and adults to learn together the processes behind change--they can learn the value of perseverance by working to make an impact. And adults can model for youth that idea of true follow-through.


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