What young people think
For more than ten years the education researcher Klaus Hurrelmann has accompanied the Shell Youth Studies on the younger generation in Germany. A short interview on the new study in 2015.
Professor Hurrelmann, you see a “Generation on the Move”. In what way?
For the first time since the 2002 study young people have a positive assessment of the future of society. Until recently the prevalent mode was one of crisis, even if the individual believed he or she personally would somehow manage. This led to a strong self-referentiality and a tactical, opportunistic attitude. That’s now dissolving. Young people again believe they can change their living conditions.
Does this apply to all young people?
No. It’s dependent on social origin and so still bound up with educational opportunities and prospects. If I belong to the socially marginalized, I now have much greater difficulties than was the case 20 years ago. Without education I’m almost from the start a social loser. Here the situation has worsened, and young people know this.
Previous studies have shown that values such as family and security were very important to young people. Is this still the case?
Yes. Young people still aren’t completely confident of the positive development. How things look in other European countries reinforces this feeling. Therefore the family as safe home port continues to play an important role. Parents are the most important persons of reference – orienting yourself to them makes you crisis-proof.
Will the spirit of optimism make young people again more political?
A change does in fact seem to be looming. But young people are still skittish about the structures of representative democracy. Only a small group can imagine living out their political interests in a party. The whole democratically constituted structure isn’t really accessible to the young. This is a problem. In the long term we can’t allow ourselves to lose the whole generation for policy making.
This is the first generation that from the beginning has grown up with the Internet. How has this affected them?
Young people are accustomed to getting information lightning-fast and responding. They know all the issues, can discuss developments all over the world. They also see that Germany’s role in the world has changed and have taken note of this. Most of them are aware of their country’s difficult history, but are also proud to be Germans. Here is a new, sober self-confidence, coupled with great openness and tolerance.