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Petr Sak, Karolína Saková: Youth at the Crossroads - Resume

The present book "Youth at the Crossroads" is linked with the publication "Metamorphoses Of Czech Youth" that was published in 2000. The authors use the extensive database from empirical research, and analyses and findings gained from the grants issued by the authors. The publication is based in particular on the authors' last two grants: "Young Generation at the Beginning of the Integration of the Czech Society into the European Structure", from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and the grant "The Informatization of the Czech Society in the Context of Globalization and the European Integration", made by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and issued 2000-2002.

A single basic idea links both grants and the book. Two processes with a civilizing dimension are essential for Czech society and for the younger generation. The first process is informatisation and the creation of an information society as the new form for the organisation and functioning of society. The second process is the incorporation of Czech society into a broader European framework.

The publication is based on the theoretical model of the life field, created by three components (the biological, mental and social spheres). Readers who are interested in more detailed information can find further information about this model in the authors' work "Metamorphoses Of Czech Youth", where this model was presented.

The main goal of this publication "Youth at the Crossroads" is the sociological attempt to give a sociological picture of the young generation at the beginning of the process of the integration of Czech society into the European structures and of the formation of an information society.

The crystallising of values in the direction of liberalism, hedonism, individualism, egoism and materialism continues among young people. The process of secularization and despiritualisation persists as well. Developments in the nineties pointed to an ongoing diminution in the significance of interpersonal relationships. Positively, an increasing importance is attached to the value of "enjoying life" in relation to the value of "improving ourselves". Another movement is that from a preference for the value of "space in which one lives" to that of "economic prosperity" and from "quality of the life" towards "material value" Value differentiation is apparent in the correlation with gender. A comparison of value preferences shows the value orientation of men and women. Men differ from women especially in their greater emphasis on "property", "salary", "private business", "success at work", "social prestige" and "hobbies". Women, compared to men's preferences, stress more all reproductive values such as: "love", "partner", "family and children" and social altruistic values. It is possible to say that these values have traditionally belonged to women. On the borderlines of tradition is the higher preference for the value "God" amongst women and a completely new phenomenon is women's higher preference for the values "education" and "truth and cognition" compared to men.

In the sphere of values we can expect an intensification of European social cultural influence on Czech society, differentiated according to the level of Europeanisation, in the coming years. We understand this Europeanisation as indicating the level of real involvement in the communication and interaction in the framework of Europe and also the level of the adaptation of competencies necessary for it. The matter actually is the enlargement of the social field to include the European space. Europeanisation was for the purposes of the empirical research operationalised and measured by the index of Europeanisation . The index measures the real link with the European reality and subjective preconditions for communication in the European space.

A strong correlation can be found between the level of Europeanisation and the range of values. The higher the index of Europeanisation, the more these values are preferred: "the space in which one lives" over "economical prosperity"; "responsibility for others too" over "responsibility only for oneself"; "quality of life" over "material value", "security" over "behave as you like"; "self-improvement" over against "enjoying life"; "spiritual and mental stimuli" over "sensual" experience; "thoughts and ideas" over against "property". Divergence from the value development typical of Czech society in the nineties towards Ingelhartss postmaterialistic values is increasing with the growth of the level of Europeanisation.

Computerisation and the implementation of new information and communication technologies into society are among the most important processes in the informatisation of society. The index of computerisation is one indicator of the process of informatisation. This index tries to link value systems and computerisation. It turns out that the group with the highest IC is the most distinctive in their value orientation. The value profile of the computerization holder determines especially the cluster of values, whose importance grows from group 1 to group 5 and culminates in group 5. These values are "interesting work", "education", "success at work", "property", "social prestige", "private business" and "self-improvement". The second cluster of values represents "love" and "friendship". With the growth of computerization the preference of a space to behave as one wishes increases over against security. Most significantly the group with the greatest IC (5) prefers career against interpersonal relationships. This group also has the most positive attitude towards drugs. There are two values which show a negative correlation: the higher the level of the computerisation index, the lower value is placed on the categories "being helpful to others" and "God".

The main contours of sociability connected with computerization and with the group of computerization holders can already be seen. Individuals with the highest IC gain social self-confirmation in their occupation and therefore their career takes on increased importance. Conversely the significance of interpersonal relationships as the source of social satisfaction is declining and moreover such relationships are virtualised and digitised. The process of secularization and despiritualisation goes hand in hand with computerization. The value profile of group 5 of the IC (computerization index) represents a successful value adaptation to contemporary society: that is to say, high quality productivity that is the basis for social status and prosperity. Values that are not functional in relation to this goal are suppressed. Young Czechs have the best attitude toward their own nationality. Since the separation of Czechoslovakia during the nineties, the attitude of Czechs towards Slovaks has improved significantly. Meanwhile the attitude towards all other nationalities, particularly Americans and Germans, has worsened.

Roma are a specific group in the Czech Republic. The research has shown that the Czech population creates their attitudes toward other groups (foreigners, Roma, Jews, religious groups) firstly according to their characteristic value orientation and life style and not on the basis of racial or ethnic differences. What is exceptionally interesting and important is the finding that the relatively distinctive improvement of the attitude towards the Roma happened at a time when there was a worsening of attitude towards all the other nationalities (Germans, Americans, Russians), who were the subject of the research.

Anarchists have the strongest position among youth movements. The attitude towards the anarchists is influenced strongly by generation. The youngest age group has the most positive attitude towards Anarchists. In this group 32% of young people "do not mind" anarchists, 9% of individuals are fans of anarchists and 2% said that they were members of an anarchist group. Skinheads have the highest level of rejection among the Czech population out of the movements that that questions were asked about. Even here antipathy increases with age. However even amongst the youngest age group 75% of young people do not like this movement. The position of the skinhead movement has significantly worsened during the ten years.

The relationship to the Roman Catholic religion is most strongly embedded in the 15-18 age group: however compared to other age groups in the whole of the population Roman Catholicism has its weakest position amongst this cohort. Yoga, New Age and Buddhism follow Roman Catholicism in terms of religious preference among the 15 - 18. The relation of the younger generation to all religions is in a state of permanent deterioration after the boom of religious questions at the beginning of the nineties. One of the main trends in development since November 1989 is the shift from homogeneity towards heterogeneity, and the diversification of society according to different criteria. This process is occurring even in the sphere of the religious and spiritual life. The majority of society participates less in formal religion. In this aspect the development tends to the massive secularization of the society. The younger generation keeps to this trend. Nevertheless contrary to this majority movement, there is a crystallisation of a minority spiritual oriented group of young people. These groups exist in the framework of the Christianity, even in the framework of Roman Catholicism, but maybe most typical today is the so-called new spirituality that is inspired by Buddhism and other Eastern spiritual movements.

Attitudes towards Marxism, Socialism, Conservatism and Liberalism were surveyed repeatedly over a period of ten years. Of the four movements, attitudes towards Marxism are generally the worst in the population at large and in all individual age groups. On the whole the younger generation's attitudes towards all socio-ideological movements has worsened, considering the relatively short time fairly distinctively. Young people consider themselves still less to be supporters of some socio-ideological movement. Global civilization trends arguing that youth and, so, in the future the whole of the world population can do without ideological grounding are gaining approval.

At the end of 1992 most young people (29%) considered the most important event of the Czech state or Czech history to be the Velvet Revolution in 1989. The founding of Czechoslovakia in the year 1918 was in second place (18%). In third place (13%) there followed the time of Charles IV, and in fourth place (9%) the Hussite period. Even in 1992 the Prague summer was important for only 2.5% of young people. The research in 2001 confirmed the opinions of the younger generation concerning Czech history.

The younger generation considers the most important personality of Czech history to be Charles IV, followed by T.G. Masaryk. In the research repeated after eight years their position had even strengthened. If we think of what these people represent, we see that their characteristics correspond with the contemporary needs and tasks of Czech society. These personalities enjoy the dual characteristic of being world-renowned and displaying a sense of Czech nationalism. There followed (less than 10%) the threesome of V.Havel, J.Hus and J.A.Komensk.

Young people stated their expectations concerning further developments in the Czech republic after the split of Czechoslovakia. The answers from the research repeated in 2001 looked backwards, evaluating the preceding eight years development of society. The comparison of expectations from 1992 with the evaluation in 2001 had mainly positive results.

Czech youth - and indeed the whole population - perceive the present as better than were the expectations in 1992. The exception is cultural development, poverty of Slovakian culture is perceived as impoverishment.

Czech society in general, and thus also the younger generation, reject the thesis that Czech patriotism is already obsolete as well as the thesis that the nation will lose importance in the process of European integration. This opinion is held equally by the younger and older generations. The younger generation is the most crystallized in the opinion that every nation, its culture and history has a high value that has to be protected and developed. Living in the framework of the national culture and the Czech nation represents a high value for the Czech people.

The most positive attitude towards the entry into the European Union is in the 24-30 age group. In the younger as well as in the older age groups interest about entry into the European Union is decreasing. In general the younger generation (15 - 30) is more in favour of entry into the European Union than the middle and older generations.

There exists a direct correlation among Czech citizens between the value attached to Czech statehood on the one side and entry into the European Union and the value of Europeanism on the other.

The knowledge of three worldwide languages is fairly widespread in the Czech population. Knowledge of French, Spanish and further languages appears to be marginal. The Czech population is split according to dominant language knowledge. English is the dominant language for the population under 45: in 2000 Russian was the dominant language for the population up to the age of 45 years, Russian and German now share the position of the second language now.

The quality of leisure activities for youth has diminished during the nineties. At the end of the nineties there was a change in the specific forms of spending leisure time. Over the whole range of activities their frequency has grown. This crystallization of leisure activities presents a certain turn in the development of the society. A series of differentiating processes happens in society. These processes in their general operation lead from the more equal and homogeneous society of the eighties towards a more diversified society, especially in terms of prosperity, but also in socio-cultural terms. The consequence is the "rupture" of the young generation. Gaps are appearing between segments of youth. These gaps can be seen even in the way young people spend their free time. Due to this fact grows frequency of those activities having high socio-cultural value, as well as those of low quality. Both these trends concern more or less different parts of the younger generation.

Positively more time is given over to studying, and there are more frequent visits to the theatre or to exhibitions, as well as in individual artistic activities. The greatest increase can be observed in the use of personal computers by young people. The changes in the way in which young people spend their leisure time was characterised most of all by the activity - work with a computer. More negative activities such as "hanging out", visiting pubs and using game machines. Contemporary youth is personalized and individualist to a large extent. The social participation of youth is low across the whole spectrum of possible forms of participation. Young people are more interested in participating in the economic sphere.

Tolerance towards drugs has increased significantly in the whole of society. In 2000, in the different age groups, the following percentages had had experience with drugs: 42% in 15 - 18 age group, 48% in the 19 - 23 age group and 37% in the 24-30 age group. In 2002, (that is, less than two years later) 48% of young people in the 15 -18 age group had already had experience with drugs.

More than half of the individuals from the youngest age group consume alcohol and the rate of consumption ranges around 90% in the other age groups. The period between 2000 and 2002 marks a further increase in youth alcohol consumption. In the 15 - 18 age group a quarter of young people smoke, whilst in the 24 -30 age group every third young person smokes.

We observed a decrease in television watching, first in 2000 and this trend was confirmed in the research conducted in 2002. Television is mostly watched by individuals without the school-leaving exam and least by those with a University education. Corresponding with this trend, the same correlation appears since 2000 generally at a lower level. The decrease in television watching is occurring across the whole educational range.

A significant decrease can also be seen in the time given to the reading of books, newspapers and professional literature. A radical increase of time has occurred with time spent on the Internet (which has roughly quintupled). This increase is not constant across the whole educational scale. It can be found mainly among the group of university-educated individuals and students. There was almost no increase among people without the school-leaving exam. While the difference between the university educated and those without the school-leaving exam was relatively small in 1997, it was immense by 2000.

Czech movies are the most popular television programmes. In the other positions according to the popularity come news, popular science documentaries. Already traditional is the low popularity of the action and American movies. Young people are in the long term relatively critical towards foreign serials, which they say are among their least favorite programmes. The predominant view among Czech viewers is that there is an over-representation of American programmes and an under-representation of Czech and European programmes (to different degrees according to the particular television station).

The phenomenon of commercial broadcasting and its negative influence on public radio broadcasting has proved a transforming factor. This influence has lead mostly to the dumbing down of radio and the commercialisation of public radio broadcasting. Listening to the radio as the main activity has decreased to a minimal level. What has been noted every time - listening to the radio as side activity whilst doing other things - has started to be almost universal.

Almost half of the population does not read a single book in a month. Czech readers have a fairly narrowly defined interest in terms of the nationality of the literature. Most frequently read is Anglo-American literature; this literature is read even more often than the Czech literature which is in second place. The total number of readers of Czech and the Anglo-American literature is about 60% and for all others literatures there are only 10% of the readership. The most commonly read books are from contemporary literature, according to our classification the period from the beginning of seventies to the beginning of the new millennium. Only 1-2% of the books read belong to the period until the end of 18th century (literature from antiquity, Middle Ages, the Renaissance and romantic literature). The number of people who do not read any book has grown sharply in all age groups with the exception of the young people between 15 - 18 in the nine years from 1992 until 2001. Obviously the most essential attribute of the contemporary youth compared to previous generations is the their connection with the new information and communication technologies. In 2002 38% of young people between 15 and 30 owned a computer and a further 35% could use a computer. Overall 73% of youth had access to a PC. In 1995 in the separate age groups between 4%-16% of young people had access to the Internet and in the year 2002 in the 15 - 18 age group it was 80%. Access to the Internet correlates with the type of employment. Workers differ significantly: 69%, that is more than two thirds, did not have access to the Internet, whilst conversely the intellectuals had the most access, 95%. There has been a massive incorporation of electronic post into the life style of young people between 2000 and 2002. In 2002 over 60% of individuals communicated via e-mail within the Czech Republic and almost 30% of the Czech youth of the given age with the whole of Europe and with the USA almost 20% of the members of the age group.

The main problem in life is most often connected with study for the youngest age group. This problem was faced by 37% of individuals from the youngest age group. Young people between the ages of 19 - 23 have mainly financial problems (20%) with study problems (12%) in the second place. 25% of respondents in the 24-30 age group have financial problems, also the main problem for this age group. Working problems are to the forefront (10%). Problems with housing are most urgent in the 24 -30 age group (7%).

Gaining education and qualifications is the most often stated (61%) goal of the youngest age group. 9% of individuals from this age group connect their life goal with employment. For the older age group (19 - 23) education and qualifications are still in first place, but only 25% of respondents state this goal. Employment is in second position; this is the goal of 15% of respondents. Three times more respondents (12%) than in the previous age group see their life goal in a partner, marriage, family, and children. The most often stated goal (27%) of the 24-30 age group is partner, family, marriage.

In the opinion of young people the most important signs which characterize poverty are the lack of food and impossibility of providing themselves and their children with education. The importance of the PC has increased since 1992 and in 2001 being unable to own a PC was a sign of poverty for one third of young people. The perception of poverty and the attributes that create poverty have moved towards a more realistic and modest approach.

The social problem which most often concerns young people is housing. 24% of the whole group of young people have problems with housing. Young people are largely dissatisfied with their work. About two thirds of young people are dissatisfied with their financial rewards and with the quality of management. Only 9% of young people claimed a high level of satisfaction with the standard of the management. 40% of young people are worried about the sort of work they will have in the future and an even greater proportion (48%) are worried about unemployment.

Young people more or less count with commuting to work. 27% of young people have commuted or still commute to work and 43% of youth are willing to do so. 23% of young people are only willing to commute in a critical situation and only 7% of young people reject commuting altogether. 47% of young people are not interested in working abroad, but the same rate is interested in working abroad. Only 6% of young people have already worked abroad or are now working abroad.

An important characteristic of contemporary youth are the changes in their life field and its diverse elements. Media, including new information and communication technologies, are changing the social spheres of young people most radically. The life field of a man, especially in the mental and social sphere, is changing through its medialisation and digitalization. This change represents the greatest difference in comparison with the previous generations of youth. The intersection of the media into the life field and life style of young people is so significant that we can characterise the new generation of youth as "media youth". This characterisation is supported by data about the amount of time that the average young person spends in front of the PC or television screen. He or she gives 37 hours per week to the media, that is 34% of the amount of time not spent sleeping. Further evidence is seen in the way in which young people are equipping themselves with the necessary technical facilities. In 1994 about 14% more individuals owned a library than a PC. The situation has changed, so that in 2002 about 12% more owned a PC than a library. The amount of library owners has declined about one third during eight years.

The computerization of society and the gradual spread of computer literacy across the generations is leading to the information society. Undoubtedly the ongoing trend towards the computerization of society has also had unplanned consequences. We can already observe some new phenomena and processes after only a few years of the penetration of information technologies into society. A part of the younger generation is located behind the digital barrier and is threatened by its marginal position in society. We can define another trend connected with computerization; this trend is connected with the dichotomy of the phenomenon "virtual-media" on the one side and "vital" on the other.

The category of cyberspace and cyber-culture enables an understanding of the new phenomena and trends connected with information technologies taken as a whole. These categories will be crucial in the future for the understanding of the younger generation.

The expansion of the life field in all its elements, that is the expansion of social, mental and biological field sphere can be considered as one of the signs of the development of civilization. The change in the life field occurs also through the change in the rate of the separate elements, by their restructuring. The quality and importance of the biological field is decreasing. Even the decrease of the vital to the benefit of the virtual and the digitalization of the life field represents a reduction and displacement of the biological element from the life field.

The enlargement of the life field is the result of the interaction between energies, material factors and information, the mental and social overlap underlying traditional existence. The life field is well balanced with the base and the superstructure of the subject. Due to this fact, the enlargement of the life field is the result of changes in society and in the human personality. The enlargement has its own technological causes; on the other hand the changes in socialisation including the ethical and spiritual sphere of the given society also need to be considered. The possibilities for enlargement in the social field lie to a certain extent in its digitalization. Another phenomenon is connected with this digitalization, namely the globalization and Europeanisation of the social field. The social field of Czechs - and undoubtedly not only Czechs - has been broaden and gained other dimensions - European and global. Alongside the real expansion, the virtual European and global space can be considered to be of primary importance.

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