The Myth of a Golden Age?

We are in a Golden Age, by any measure, us, who reside in NSW in the first decade of the 21st century. Agree?

However, it seems that I hear nothing but negativity from a diverse range of people – the media, educationalists, parents, my Mum and Dad – anyone would think that comparative to past eras:

  • educational standards are declining
  • children are not safe in the community
  • crime is rampant
  • the internet is extremely dangerous rather than a panacea
  • that opportunity has decreased

Of course, anyone reading the stats of child neglect and abuse will be shocked to see that our youngest are mostly at risk in their own homes from loved ones. We have unnaccceptable conditions for Aboriginal Australians and a host of other issues but this is, fortunately, quantifiably better than in the past. The community is now aware where once there was silence, now we know. Or, are most not cognisant of this and how it can change perception.

When Lucy, my 5 year old daughter, was born Mum was of course joyous – but a shadow appeared when she said, ‘it is a shame the world is what it is nowadays’. What did she mean?

I (p)rattled off a list to support my contention that we live in a Golden Age the crown heads of Europe could only have dreamt of in centuries past –  and that my daughter was blessed. Health and medicine, technology and opportunity all have developed for us in NSW in  stellar fashion; even the least advantaged are better off. I thought, what opportunities did Mum, as a female have graduating with a Leaving Certificate compared to those Lucy will have?

I pointed out that Mum was born on 30th August 1939 and by the time she was 10, the world lived with the spectre of MAD after the horrors of 1945. We didn’t even discuss what was happening to the Jews in her early years of life but on reflection this, and the purges in the Soviet Union or the genocide in Cambodia didn’t impact on her life for one reason, because she didn’t know about them.

Dad, was one of 7 boys on a farm, without electricity and the crippling effects of polio evident everywhere in the pastoral community. He would still see the 1950s as halcyon days. I guess it corresponds with his youth – and it is as simple as that.

So, what do we make of the naysayers? And they are legion. Why, when any objective measure says we are progressing and infinitely better off?

The most obvious answer is that the media and our high levels of hyper-connectivity publicise what is bad – all of it – and people soak this up without reflection.

Courtesy of Wordle

Courtesy of Wordle

A range of international attempts at measuring well-being rank Australia very highly. The Human Development Index ranks Australia 3rd in well-being behind Iceland and Norway. “The HDI provides a composite measure of three dimensions of human development: living a long and healthy life (measured by life expectancy), being educated (measured by adult literacy and enrolment at the primary, secondary and tertiary level) and having a decent standard of living.” Interestingly enough, the UK is 16th and New Zealand 19th.

Australia capital cities constantly rank in the top 10 in the world to live, in fact, half of this list is made of our metropolis.

Education is often one of the main arguments or examples of how it has all gone to Hell with this generation. It is not just the current affairs shows that demonise youth. This Heckler article is more accurate than funny in its response to the legion of commentators on Australia’s ‘declining’ literacy standards. Anyone who doubts this decline should delve into the post-war examiner’s reports and see the litany of concerns re: the spelling and essay skills of candidates and that’s when very few completed the final year(s) of high school.

We are in a Golden Age, by any measure, us, who reside in NSW in the first decade of the 21st century. Or, at least that’s what I’ll tell my children!

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6 Comments

  1. Dean Groom:

    We are an we aren’t. The majority of the worlds kids either don’t go to school, or if they do, don’t have books or equipment – but still want to learn. I think (as a parent) that the access we (parents) provide seemingly creates a world of endless ease. And why not – we love them and want to give them everything we can.

    The golden age applies to a relative few in this context. Even in NSW, do give our kids these things, we spend stupid amounts of time in traffic – killing the planet, getting stressed etc., just to keep the show on the road it seems.

    If we took what we can do, and simplified it, rather than use it as an accelerator, then perhaps we would not see students using technology in schools to learn to be office automators, and allow them to create and explore the world – good and bad. Our golden age to me is contained within a golden cage. I am fortunate, but I wonder given how easy communication is (cost/access) why we are leaving global education to NGOs like Teachers Without Borders – or only (Australia) focusing on os school investment in an attempt to stop kids going to ‘terrorist training’ schools. We’re a mixed up bunch of lucky bastards.

    Though provoking words my friend. Nice post

  2. I enjoyed reading your post because it is reassuring to me that others around the world are having the same conversations with their parents that I am having with mine. I have to ask, is this more of a parallel to the Golden Age or the Renaissance? Are our children being reborn as we becoming more globally connected and informed?
    A thought provoking post. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Troy:

    Very very thought provoking post and comments…I often think about simple stats-like Australians have never been richer, or with each new suburb in Sydney that requires a millionaires back balance- but to go beyond that… Never has there been a greater quality of Australian literature exposed around the world. I also think of literacy rates and now the rate is much much higher then 50 years ago (I am reminded of this everyday- our students have never been smarter. It is just that what is smart or ‘intelligent’ is different), a golden age or not, we must make the most of it. Sadly in a country that part of the population has the life expectancy of 55, I can’t feel or see a golden age. The imagery of a golden cage is apt. Our leaders for the most part grew and developed in the post war period, becoming socially/politically active during the Vietnam War years, what of our leaders who are now growing up during the War on Terror? I am happy to say the best thing or aspect, if I had to pick just one, about my school it is the student body. I am confident of our future.

  4. kellimcgraw:

    I also often think that we have become too productive. Everyone seems to lead such busy lives, but we produce so much more than we need, so why? To keep up with a standard of living that is far beyond our need?

    If we just would settle for less we could work less. When it comes to taking time out to relax and make room for creativity or play, the ‘golden age’ is FAIL.

  5. darcymoore:

    Thanks everyone :O))

    I keep coming back to this point in all my conversation about these issues. Most are very reticent to acknowledge – or just disagree with the basic proposition – that times are very good. We have our lists of complaints, our environment is being despoiled, the traffic is bad and we work too hard and houses are too expensive and…

    This is why I made the post.

    I am certain I would rather work – 21st century style – than on the farm breaking my back. Houses may be too expensive but they are palaces compared to a few short decades ago. The traffic is bad but we have choices (I have not driven a car for over a decade and catch public transport *halo* ;O)which would help the environment if we made them.

    I will play and try and be as creative as possible during my 11 weeks holidays next year ;O)

  6. darcymoore:

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