Education in the Age of Entitlement – part 2.

There is something very beguiling about the word “Entitlement”. As I wrote in part 1, it is reported across the globe that young adults (Gen-Yers) feel the rewards and opportunities of life should be theirs at a rather earlier age than their forebears might have expected. In short, and in some way, we have developed in our younger adults a belief system that  is giving rise to “unrealistic expectations” and, ultimately, “chronic disappointment”.


In reaching Adulthood in the seventies, there was much discussion at the time about the ‘Swinging Sixties’, perhaps the first generation post WW2 who broke free of the conventions wrapped around them by the ‘survivors’ from the war. Despite the protestations from adults for whom black&white, deprivation, rationing, national service and above all injury and death had been a life forming set of experiences, the post war generation saw life in full multi-sensory technicolour. You can read more of the huge life changes that arose at that time in this History magazine article:

Every generation as it ages must look back on its own emergence into adulthood and compare it to the next generation’s opportunities that came available to them. The profumo-514838paradox is very evident to the current teenagers; reading such an article informs them that free sex, drugs and rock and roll were universally available, and not just limited to the new young.  As the Profumo affair (1963) up at our local stately home, Cliveden, demonstrated, there was an awful lot going on throughout society, including government ministers, sex and Russian spies. As the magazine article concludes: The 1960s was a decade of rapid change. Blink for one second and you would have missed it. It was the period that finally allowed people the liberty and individuality people had fought for and what we take for granted nowadays. The sixties began bleak and restricted, but by the end, people were full of hope and optimism for a better future. Now we know what Charlie Fleischer meant by, “If you remember the ’60s, you really weren’t there”.  The article itself is written by a 17 year old this autumn, so worth a second glance. 

In a time of austerity, it’s no surprise that the concept of ‘Entitlement’ has risen, because of course, over the last 8 years, our expectations (worldwide) have steadily been reduced by governments who can’t borrow any more money from the future to give to their current citizenry welfare benefits above and beyond the ability of the tax take to provide. Despite our own concerns as a country about the ability to fund housing, NHS or education for the masses, and the ‘Brexit’ belief that our ‘Entitlements’ are being robbed by the immigrant invasion, the collapse elsewhere in what a society might expect to be offered is simply catastrophic in comparison. Leaving aside the flames that fan across the Middle East and Africa, or the Trump v Clinton show airing nightly across the pond, much of central and southern Europe has seen dramatic reductions in the reasonable expectations for provision to ensure a stable society, whilst having to deal with a migrant crisis that dwarfs that of the UKs. Migrant.jpg

So we are in a period of massive and unpredictable change, when individual freedoms in the UK are still central to the British way of life, at a time when it is indeed difficult to know what the future brings. What I know is that children can still shape their own future and given an appropriate educational, cultural and holistic education, they don’t need to emerge into adulthood obese, disconnected, disinterested and self-serving. That’s simply not what I see in our school graduates or indeed the graduates of 3, 6,9 or 12 years ago. It’s difficult to feel entitled when you have taken on university debt, but many have also chosen to earn whilst they learn and found their own way in life without demanding ‘happiness’ as a given. Our own independent counselling service’s mantra to our adults and children has been consistent over the past 10 years, that expecting to be happy all the time is both delusional and bad for your health.

Education in schools must include the teaching of concepts of wisdom, enlightenment and entitlement. Each emerges from the earlier stage as society weaves better, more inclusive and productive rules for its own protection and development. At any stage in a society’s development, there will be some citizens who feel they deserve a better slice of the pie than is available. It’s education’s job to throw a light on such challenges,  debate and disagree of course on what must best happen next. War, conflict, depression and fascism all have a nasty habit of emerging in each of our lifetimes, and they’ll often not be recognisable until after their metamorphosis into the crisis when it arises. Where I feel we are genuinely empowered in the 20teens is that the strength of the pupil voice has not been diminished, and supported by parents and teachers alike,  can be heard loud and clear. If the government needs any additional encouragement to improve one outcome in schools, it is to ensure that that the entitlement to speak out, to value ‘Free Speech’ is guaranteed for all, whatever the ability, colour and creed of the children concerned.


About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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