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AUTHORITIES OF YOUTH ON THE THRESHOLD OF MATURITY

AUTHORITIES OF YOUTH ON THE THRESHOLD OF MATURITY
Koczon-Zurek, Sabina, associate professor

University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland

Conference participant

The article describes authorities of Polish  youth in the last year  of grammar school. They choose characters from  sport, film, theatre, peer and family environment.

Keywords: authorities, youth in grammar school, preferred values, maturity, teacher’s authority

 

I. Obuchowska stresses that "growing towards maturity-is the phase in a person's life, which leads from childhood to adulthood" [1, p. 163]. Adolescence in life of young person is the time of intense changes as well as various risks. It is the moment, as Erikson highlights, when a youngster must choose the way of life that will determine his/her personal identity [1, p. 163] . It’s  a period of rebellion, changes determining further life, creating individuality and shaping value system. Young people nowadays, value  freedom, independence and the ability to make their own choices [1, p. 188-196].  The most turbulent changes seem to involve emotional life. Most commonly, appearing  defiance  is against people who have had so far strong impact on teenagers. The source of this rebellion is confrontation of their own idealistic views with reality. In the later stage of adolescence, it is followed by decentralization. Young people struggling with the world, desire to show adults own superiority or simply want to be treated seriously – on equal footing with adults. Significant persons, including parents can create a space where young people can feel safe [2, p. 371-374]. The importance of characters that fascinate or arouse disapproval is growing [3, p. 2]. In this period of development authorities can help young people make life choices. However, young people should choose authority themselves, it mustn’t be enforced. That is why they need to be listened to and get emotional support.

At the beginning of maturity the process of socialization accelerates: young people prepare to take on new roles, for example the employee, partner, citizen [4, p. 355].  Peer group still has got a significant impact on life of teenagers. While dealing with people of similar age youngsters get to know the rules of life in adult society and try to act in compliance with them to get the acceptance. Being in a particular group of people influences the identification with it. Peer group also allows to confront own views with the views of other members. The process of social identification takes place simultaneously with self-identification: Who am I? What do the group think of me? The process of identifying “self” is actually building an own image in comparison with apperception of others. Due to the process a young man can learn to recognize people who he/she will treat as enemies or friends. Building the first emotional relationships outside a family is also characteristics for this developmental stage[4, p. 356-359].

In late adolescence, young person becomes more autonomous, according to L. Kohlberg theory, reach post-conventional level of moral development. Just then authorities are losing their meaning. All the rules, moral rights are processed individually on the basis of own convictions and expectations [4, p. 188]. L. Witkowski highlights that a growing person aspires to "circle the boundaries of the self" fully [5, p. 1].It seems that in this phase of moral development when the identity is defined, thought and action are self-determined [1, p. 188-189] the impact of authorities on individual development might be diminished.  For sure the choice of an authority will depend on the subject, his/her values and needs.

What are the authorities of today's Polish youth on the threshold of maturity exam, finishing high school and choosing future career? It is widely known that lifestyle changes lead to a decline in authority of a parent, a teacher both in the eyes of student and society. Mass media create other authorities-idols? The changes in the set of values let young people interiorize these new authorities. In order to find out what are the authorities of young Polish students finishing high school a survey was planned. The research was led in March 2010 at one of the grammar school in Silesia (district in southern Poland). Altogether 67 students of grammar school classes (15 boys and 50 girls and two respondents who did not identify their gender) were surveyed with a questionnaire. The respondents attended two profiled classes: humanistic and biological. The main research problems that directed the study  were  to recognize, among other things, authorities of  youth in the last class of grammar school, features and values appreciated by young people and characters found as authorities.

The authority is "the recognition of the prestige of the persons, groups and institutions in society, based on the appreciated in particular society values. Besides authority is a person or institution valued in the particular field. Usually it can be distinguished among law, competence, conscience and religion authorities "[6, p. 292]. According to M. ?ebrowska "authority is the result of a one-or two-way interaction between two persons, two groups or a person and a group, in the course of which [...] one of the participants gets inclination to change way of thinking [...]"[7, p. 52-53]. In the course of relation authority-person a feeling of respect, recognition and trust can appear. The real authority does not enforce anything, respects the choices, let the person think independently, even differently.

An authority is value, highly appreciated by society, which embodies certain subject, group of people or institutions [8, p. 7-8]. An authority can be so a person who evokes  respect, admiration or desire to be similar to his/her authority. Simplifying, an authority might be a person who can be a model to follow. Thus an authority can create attitudes and behavior.

Who is the authority for young people nowadays? The answers to the question were very varied. There wasn’t one person or institution which was indicated by most surveyed students. According to the gathered data the authority of  Pope John Paul II (17,91%) and a mother (17,91%) were mentioned most often. The sportsmen, achieving international success and championship results such as Adam Ma?ysz (14,93%) and Justyna Kowalczyk (10,45%), are considered to be idols too. A model for the youth is also a person of a father (8,96%), brother and siblings (4,45%). The results seem to confirm the maturity of youth as they didn’t choose just idols, TV stars but people of great achievements or next of kin. However, it is somehow surprising that no one mentioned a teacher. It is highly probable that in other type of school and other age group results would have been different.

The following task was to justify the choice of authority. Talking about John Paul II what impressed young people were personal qualities and attitudes such as justice, wisdom, kindness, forgiveness, deep faith, love of truth and the fight against evil or suffering. In turn, in figure of mother students pointed features worthy of imitation: a strong personality, diligence, set of values, goodness, honesty, moral principles. Also life and work experience in relevant profession were appreciated. Particular attachment and close emotional bonds reinforce the importance of a mother in life of young person, in consequence mothers were very often found as an authority. Also brothers were appreciated for life achievements and being extraordinary.

Similarly students admire famous sportsmen for achieving success, perseverance, diligence, kindness and  honesty. Individual justification of the choices appeared in some statements. For example, Adam Ma?ysz is esteemed  "because he can match  two diverse cultures: Polish and African by eating bread with  African banana. He is simply a diplomat". Although humorous but the exemplification shows interest and appreciation for particular features.

In order to get various information about authorities students were asked to identify their authorities from selected areas of life – sports, show business (musicians, actors, TV journalists)  and social environment (peers and family). When it comes to sport stars students pointed among others to:Polish sportsmen and sportswomen Tomasz Sikora, Agata Wr?bel, Otylia J?drzejczak, Wojciech Fortuna, along with international ones Martin Schmidt, David  Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Gregor Schlivenzaner, Cristiano Ronaldo. Students appreciated these characters for their passion, perseverance in the pursuit of success and  diligence. Respondents also valued that they took part in charity. The surveyed group underlined also that vital qualities for them are the ability to deal with problems (ex. loosing), serenity and abilities to refuse drugs and alcohol.

Studies have shown that young people look for authorities in representatives of artistic professions: actors, musicians or show business stars.  Students have distinguished film and theater actors: among many most often pointed were Robert Pattinson, Johny Deep, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Pawe? Ma?aszy?ski, Krystyna Janda, Ma?gorzata Korzuchowska, Borys Szyc. They appreciated singers and music groups: Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi,  Fredie Merkury, Kurt  Cobain along with Polish singers Marek Grechuta and Piotr Kupicha. Surveyed group valued personal  charm, talent, features of character, moral principles, perseverance, ability to stand for own opinions and participation in charities.

Mass media seems a very important source of authorities for the youth. Another group of figures recognized by young people are film heroes, mostly fictitious. The respondents counted down 25 different characters such as Guts, Superman, Gregory House, Sheldon Cupper, Pikachu, John Paul II, Shrek, Jack Sparrow, Hanna Montana, Pocahontas, Meredith Grey, Harry Goldfarb, Harry Potter etc. What fascinated students was strength, personal charm, an urge to help other people, the ability to cope with difficult situations, goodness, strength of character, kindness and sense of humor. It’s worth mentioning that most of these characters are ambiguous, their morality can be discussed.

Students asked if they admired any of their peers even specified personal data. Except for 7 students, all mentioned at least one  friend, they liked and wanted to be similar to.  Let’s focus  only on their qualities: diligence, openness, determination, self actualization, promoting exceptional way of life, success, perseverance in taken actions, intelligence, willingness to help others and demonstrating own life philosophy. These are, most often chosen, features and attitudes of great importance, worth imitating in opinion of surveyed students.  

At the launch of symbolic maturity youth who took part in the survey, sought important figures among people in the closest environment  too. They pointed to next of kin as the most important figures for them. A mother was mentioned by almost all young people. In addition to a mom and a brother they repeatedly but less often indicated a dad,  a grandma, an aunt and cousins. They also wrote about closest friend and girlfriend or boyfriend.  In order to support the choices, they specified personal features and attitudes worthy imitation and somehow influencing relationships with questioned person. Giving advices, coaching how to “identify appropriate ways of life” had persuaded to name a person an authority. Besides such characteristics as intelligence, respect to others, being helpful turned out of great importance. Respondents also stressed self-sufficiency, caring for the health and ecology, piety, life success and the skills needed to perform the relevant profession. Young people also appreciate optimism, life experience and willingness to give a hand. One of the surveyed girls admitted that thanks to her boyfriend she learned respect, showing feelings appropriately and disposing  of  money- “(…)I learned to live”. As it can be seen an authority of a friend may have an impact on personal development.

The study has shown that young people find authorities in different areas of life. They value first and foremost character traits, wisdom, the ability to cope with life  problems and professional competences. They also quite often paid attention to external image as important in life.

What is most appreciated in authorities? According to the questionnaire answers students most valued intelligence (85,07%). Similarly important was the ability to cope with everyday demands and obstacles (77,61%). A bit more than half of students (56,72%) found knowledge meaningful. About 1/3 of young people indicated to skills as appreciated and useful attributes and a bit less significant was physical condition (23,93%). Financial situation is a material aspect of authority mentioned by less than a quarter (20,90%) of students. What people possess, how much they earn, what they spend money on attracted their attention. Not everyone valued money and property but it was only a declaration. Part of the young people pointed out other valued features (23,88%). They were: devotion to own convictions, expressing feelings, sense of humor, respect for others and the world, piety, self-discipline, love, humility, diligence, ability to talk with people, cooperation, faith, physical appearance, charisma, emotional strength, interesting personality, creativity, diverse interests, ambition, competencies, perseverance in the pursuit of purpose, commitment, independence and mental strength. As it can be seen the surveyed group preferred pragmatic features and attitudes, which were defined as characteristic of “successful people" helping in overcoming the difficulties of life and "testify to the strong personality of man". Some respondents stressed that these traits are difficult to develop. However it seems that, contact with the authority, the perception of his/her positive features stimulates young people to develop, achieve aims  and not give up facing the obstacles. The authorities, their attributes and successes are some kind of a proof that development and achieving is possible. That’s why the authorities are a trigger of changes in behavior, motivation, life plans etc. Nevertheless, if a young person chose not a real authority but an idol whose behavior was destructive (alcohol, drugs, addictions, breaking law etc.) it could be very risky and cause pedagogical work very difficult.

The following question in questionnaire concerned set of values which young people preferred. Inquired what is most important in their lives, almost 2/3 of young people named    intangible values such as love, family or faith. Furthermore, they enumerated them first as the most significant in their lives. Adolescence is a time of first love and it was visible in students’ replies about values. For them the most important is love (71,64%). They search for love and try to build first relationships-their thoughts and emotions are focused on that aim. They found family, honesty, respect for the others (70,15%), self- confidence (64,18%), good upbringing (55,22%) also meaningful. More than half of surveyed youth highly estimated knowledge (52,24) and faith (50,75%). Insignificantly less students  value  work and education (46,27%) and health (43,28%). The rest (32,84%) of research group declared that no more than material values are important as “money rules the world”.  In declarations of youth money, possessions (car, house, clothes, jewelry etc. ) are of only value and that’s what guide them in life. 

It can be noticed that for surveyed grammar school students the most significant are these values that create positive relationship with another human being. Young people do not forget about love and constructive interpersonal relations. It seems that it's a very constructive and optimistic attitude. Obviously, these statements do not apply to the entire population of Polish youth only to grammar school students, such type of school that prepare young people for higher education. Perhaps future Polish intelligence with such values will change positively the social and political reality. Observing postmodern reality, the results seem quite optimistic. I hope their idealism will carry on and allow to make socio-political world more humane.

Finally, it seems interesting and theoretically justified to ask about who or what had influenced students’ personality development and choice of authorities. The results of the study may be a positive surprise for people who are not familiar with the specifics of Polish grammar school. According to the gathered data the greatest impact on young person and his/her identity has a family. Family house first and foremost influences personal and moral development. ¾ of all respondents (74,63%) indicated to family as a decisive factor. Much more rarely other groups were indicated as significant. Peers were designated by 28.36% respondents, colleagues and friends by 26,87%. Church (23,88%) and school (17,91%) are institutions that are gradually loosing impact on young generation.

Teachers used to play important roles in societies. Can temporary teacher be an authority?  Referring now very selectively to gathered data the figure of teacher can improve the image of modern teacher in the eyes of most students (73,13%). Style of teachers’ work, how they: lead lessons, communicate with students, respond to students’ expectation was nominated by 59,70% respondents as meaningful. They stressed that a teacher who wants to be an authority should perform well own duties, be competent in teaching, should have "professional knowledge". Moreover being the source of knowledge, having a passion to teach and making students interested along with incorporating exciting are essential competencies (abilities) of professional teacher. Students often underlined that teacher’s authority depends on what he/she demands from himself and others. In addition teacher’s personality traits reinforce the authority in student’s opinion. Features such as: justice, understanding, kindness to students, altruism, a sense of humor, intelligence, good contact with students, honesty and openness are some of the most appreciated qualities. A reflection appears that a challenge for modern teacher is to "rebuild the lost" authority. It could enhance the efficiency of educational work and teaching.

Seeking for the authorities of young people at the threshold of maturity it turned out that they admire and follow different characters: actors, musicians, parents and friends. The most popular figure was John Paul II and a mother. The choices of authorities and cherished values  proved that surveyed group is quite idealistic. At the same time it must be underlined that surveyed students had already been preliminarily selected. They could attended grammar school only if they had had high school achievement in secondary schools. Thus students from other types of school can present different opinions and attitudes. The results are of value for teachers’ as they show chances of recovering the teacher’s authority.

References:

  1. Obuchowska I. Adolescence/Harwas-Napiera?a B., Trempa?a J.(ed.)//The psychology of human development.- Warsaw, 2000. (in Polish)
  2. Bee H. The psychology of human development-Poznan, 2004. (in Polish)
  3. Raczkowska J. The trouble with authority. An invitation to discussion//Problemy opieku?czo-wychowawcze.-1999.- No 1. (in Polish)
  4. Brzezi?ska A.I. (ed.) Psychological portraits. Practical psychology and development. – Gda?sk, 2005. (in Polish)
  5. Witkowski L. Education and Humanities, new (Con) texts for modern teachers. –Warszawa, 2007. (in Polish)
  6. Petrozolin-Skowro?ska B. (ed.).The new encyclopedia PWN.-Warszawa,1995. (in Polish)
  7. Bandura E. Emotional determinants of the authority of the teacher.-Warszawa,  1981. (in Polish)
  8. Kosmala J. The authority of the teacher in theory and sociological studies. -Cz?stochowa, 1999. (in Polish)
Comments: 2

Koczon-Zurek, Sabina

Dear MakotroVa G.V. Thank you for your support. In reported research I asked about some charactereistic of authorities: they were wisdom, hardworking, politeness and many other qualities. Yours sincirely Sabina Koczo?-Zurek

Макотрова Галина Васильевна

Спасибо за интересную работу! Изучали ли вы установки, мотивы старшеклассников (учеников старшей школы) при проведении учебных исследований? Если да, то какие какие личностные качества ученых будут привлекать школьников? С уважением, Макотрова Г.В.
Comments: 2

Koczon-Zurek, Sabina

Dear MakotroVa G.V. Thank you for your support. In reported research I asked about some charactereistic of authorities: they were wisdom, hardworking, politeness and many other qualities. Yours sincirely Sabina Koczo?-Zurek

Макотрова Галина Васильевна

Спасибо за интересную работу! Изучали ли вы установки, мотивы старшеклассников (учеников старшей школы) при проведении учебных исследований? Если да, то какие какие личностные качества ученых будут привлекать школьников? С уважением, Макотрова Г.В.
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