Diagnosis of Our Time: Wartime Essays of a Sociologist

By Karl Mannheim | Go to book overview

III
THE PROBLEM OF YOUTH IN MODERN SOCIETY

The problem of Youth in modern society has two aspects which can be formulated in the following two questions: What can Youth give us? and What can Youth expect from us?

Here I shall try to answer the first question only: What is the meaning of Youth in society? What can Youth contribute to the life of society?

The framing of the questions shows sufficiently that the sociological approach to the problem of Youth is new in two respects. The sociologist no longer thinks of education and teaching as a super-temporal method only, but is very much concerned with the concrete nature of society, in which Youth finds itself and to which Youth will have to make its contribution. There are, of course, some elements in the psychology and in the sociology of education which are general, but the picture is only complete if the general approach is supplemented by the analysis of the historical background and concrete context for which, and in which, Youth has to act.

The other innovation of the sociological approach is that it thinks of Youth and Society in terms of complete reciprocity. That means that the answer to the question what Youth ought to be taught and how it ought to be taught depends to a large extent on the nature of the contribution to society one expects Youth to make. By becoming society-conscious we no longer formulate the needs of Youth in the abstract, but always with reference to the needs and purposes of a given society. Our modern educational movements of the last decades, healthy as they were in realizing for the first time the rights of Youth and its genuine needs, were still limited and one-sided in that they over-emphasized the claims of Youth without paying due attention to the needs and claims of society. The modern educational movement with its experimental schools often behaved like wealthy parents towards their children. By asking themselves exclusively how to make the life of the child easy and how to provide him with everything and at all costs, they pamper the

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