British kids less bothered by recession

Photo: Kevin Krejci

Kids are more anxious about their future in Europe than those growing up in the UK. A new study from the UCL’s Institute of Education found that the children on the continent are increasingly concerned about living “on the edge”, thanks to the economic downturn.

The aim of the project, funded by the European Commission, was to explore children’s expressions of their day-to-day lives as citizens within Europe.  Teachers in art and technology lessons explored children’s views of European citizenships in six countries: the UK, Finland, Spain, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Ireland. For the first time, children were also able to discuss their work with each other through a secure website that provided a simultaneous language translation capability.  

While being very pro-European, as opposed to nationalist, in their views, kids were also very aware of country-specific issues. Children in Finland, for example, focussed their art and discussions on the vulnerability of Finland, while those in the Czech Republic were worried about a further Russian invasion. One Portuguese pupil, on the other hand, saw the project as a vehicle for showing “what we think about our country and also how Europe controls our money”.

Money, or the lack of it, was of overwhelming concern to all non-UK children who voiced very similar views: an Irish pupil said of his drawing; “There was a river flowing out and things like poverty and that written in the river; like stuff I want to float out of my life.”  In Spain, Lucia wrote: “This art work …called Crisis and money waste.  Euro notes 50 and 500 € on the asphalt and pavement are directed towards the sewer grate …Politicians throw money away; down the drain.”

Children in the UK, though, were less concerned about the global financial crisis. Rather, they drew their inspiration from US cultural artefacts, or consumer goods, labels and logos. The only references to Europe UK children made in their artworks and comments were centred on sporting celebrities and events.  

“It was clear that English children saw the economic downturn and events in Europe as ‘happening to someone else’,” says Dr Mary Richardson who led the study. “It is possible that living on an island, with no recent history of invasion, has had an effect in reducing children’s anxiety about being affected by events happening outside this country. However, this does not fully explain their lack of interest in the politics or society happening around them.”