Hopes for Children: Is our success determined by outside forces?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Hopes for Children
Pew chart on whether success is determined by outside forces

CLICK on this chart to visit the Pew website for more.

Have you ever heard of the self-serving bias?

It’s the tendency to attribute our successes to ourselves and to blame our failures on outside factors. For example, you got your dream job because you were supremely qualified for it. Or, you didn’t get your dream job because the interviewer was prejudiced.

Now, consider your children’s successes and failures. How do you explain them?

People around the world vary considerably in their views about the causes of success in life, according to new data from Pew’s global attitudes survey.

Among economically developed societies, Americans are the least likely to say that success in life is determined by forces outside our control—only 40% of Americans attribute success to outside factors.

At the other end, South Koreans are the most likely to attribute success to outside forces—almost three of four (74%) do so.

Are Americans the least likely of all nations to attribute success to outside factors? That would be a good guess, since our core values include self-reliance and individualism. And, it’s a pretty good guess, according to Pew, but not entirely correct.

Of the 44 countries Pew surveyed, only four had a lower percentage than the U.S. of those who agreed that success in life is determined by outside forces: Columbia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. The first three are considered emerging economies, while the fourth is classified as a developing economy.

To what do you attribute your successes and failures?

When children don’t live up to our hopes, do we blame them—or outside factors?

Hopes for Children: What can kids do in our troubled world?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Hopes for Children
Malala Yousafzai's photo has been added to the colorful exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. This photo was posted to Wilkimedia Commons just hours after her Peace Prize was announced.

Malala Yousafzai’s photo has been added to the colorful exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. This photo was posted to Wilkimedia Commons just hours after her Peace Prize was announced.

What can a child do?

Plenty! That’s the word from the committee giving the next Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

At 17, Malala is the youngest-ever recipient of the prestigious prize. (You can read more about Malala and other extraordinary young women this week in our own Interfaith Peacemakers section.)

Children can be heroes—like 12-year-old Kamal Nepali, who rescued a two-year-old girl who had fallen into a gorge carved by the Seti River near Pokhara, Nepal. The child was trapped in a crevice so narrow that adults couldn’t reach her. Kamal was small enough to fit in, and he volunteered to do it. The adults lowered him into the darkness of the crevice, and he emerged later with the girl strapped to his back. (ListVerse magazine has more details about Nepali’s story.)

Pew chart on regions of the world and optimism about children 2014

Click this chart to read more at the Pew website.

From small acts of kindness to extraordinary events, children can do a lot in our troubled world.

Parents around the globe envision a better world for their children, according to new reports from Pew. Many people predict that their children will be better off than their parents.

But this optimism is not spread evenly around the world.

Can you guess which region is the most optimistic about their children’s future? Hands down, it’s Asia. Well over half (58%) of Asians are optimistic about their children’s future. Only 24% are not.

Which region is the most pessimistic? It’s Europe, according to the Pew Research Center. Sixty-five percent of Europeans predict that their children’s future will be bleaker than their parents’ experiences. Only 25% are optimistic about their children’s future.

What can a kid do?

What do you hope kids will achieve?

THIS WEEK’S OurValues series by sociologist Dr. Wayne Baker is great for sparking discussion among friends. Please, use our blue-“f” Facebook icons or envelope-shaped email icons to share this column with friends. Or, simply leave a Comment below.

Change of Heart: Who says American churches can’t change?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Change of Heart
Radio Priest Father Charles Coughlin

At his peak, Father Charles Coughlin reached up to 30 million Americans each week. In the 1930s, he preached in favor of Adolf Hitler as a bulwark against Communism and he railed against Jews who he said were behind the Russian Revolution. Even after Kristallnacht in 1938, Coughlin went on the air still backing the German regime and suggesting that Jews themselves bore some guilt in the violence against them. He was not forced off the airwaves until after Germany invaded Poland in late 1939.

In 5 parts, this special OurValues series examines American churches’ changing attitudes on homosexuality and same-gender marriage. Many readers have asked us to gather in one place the latest findings on these issues by researchers and scholars, including the Pew Research Center, the Barna Group and the Public Religion Research Institute. In response, we are pulling together the latest data from these groups and other scholars. We invite you to read along and especially urge you to share these columns with friends.

We begin by looking at the basic question: Can American churches make major changes in the basic values they preach?

Answer: They can. And, they have many times. Here are a few examples—

SLAVERY—At the eve of the Civil War, about 150 years ago, pastors nationwide preached that slavery was entirely consistent with the Bible. After all, hundreds of Bible verses seem to approve of the practice. Even among the majority of Northern congregations, before the Civil War, abolition was not a popular cause. But today? No legitimate church in America preaches in favor of slavery and evangelical churches are active in popular campaigns to end modern-day slavery in the world.

RACIAL-ETHNIC PURITY—At the start of American involvement in World War I a century ago, some of the most famous preachers in America supported the eugenics movement and called for the forced sterilization of millions of Germans to wipe out their population (as documented in Philip Jenkins new book). Now, after the Holocaust and other genocides, no church in America would stand for such preaching that encourages wiping out entire populations.

ANTI-SEMITISM—On the eve of World War II about 80 years ago, anti-Semitism was common in American churches and leading preachers, especially the infamous Catholic “radio priest” Father Coughlin, whipped up so much anti-Jewish feeling that U.S. policy slowed the flow of Jewish refugees trying to escape the Third Reich. Even a written plea by Anne Frank’s father to escape to America was held up in the prevailing American antipathy toward European Jews. Anti-Semitism remains a problem around the world, but no legitimate American church preaches this hatred—and evangelical churches have become some of the strongest American supporters of the state of Israel.

ANTI-CATHOLICISM—Fifty years ago, anti-Catholicism was so rampant in America’s Protestant churches that a household name like the Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, founder of Guideposts magazine, could feel confident leading a national coalition of pastors opposing John Kennedy’s election because he was Catholic. Peale warned the nation, “Faced with the election of a Catholic, our culture is at stake.” Since then, anti-Catholicism hasn’t entirely vanished, but evangelical leaders now widely embrace Catholic allies nationwide.

What other basic values have changed in American churches?

What has changed in your lifetime?

What has changed in your church?

Care to read more?

Positive Business: Is your work a calling?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Positive Business
This photo of a woman working in a warehouse was taken by Magnus Fröderberg, released via Wikimedia Commons.

This photo of a woman working in a warehouse was taken by Magnus Fröderberg, released via Wikimedia Commons.

What do you think of the work you do?

Is work a curse? Just what you have to do to make a living? Or, does your work serve a higher purpose? What work means to you—and how you can recraft your job to make it more meaningful and joyful—are parts of positive business.

Let’s start with: What does your job mean to you? Work orientation is the phrase we use to refer to the meaning of work for a person. The seminal work on this way done by Amy Wrzesniewski, a business school professor at Yale University. Amy discovered three basic work orientations. Usually, each person has a dominant orientation.

Which one comes closest to how you feel about your work?

  • JOB ORIENTATION: People with a job orientation look at work as something they do to earn a livelihood. They might be very good at their work, but it doesn’t have any special meaning or purpose for them. They do it for the money. If they won the lottery, they would quit right away.
  • CAREER ORIENTATION: Those with a career orientation see work as a means of getting ahead and moving up the ladder. A good job is one that has good opportunities for promotions and advancement. Getting ahead, we know, is one of the 10 core values I documented in United America.
  • CALLING ORIENTATION: People who see their work as a calling believe it serves a higher purpose and does good in the world. Those with a calling orientation have a passion for what they do. They are fulfilled and energized by their work. If they won the lottery, they would keep doing the same work.

Kathryn Dekas, my former PhD student now in People Analytics at Google, and I got interested in the origins of work orientations. One big influence is parents: How your parents (or guardians) saw their work when you were an adolescent influences your work orientation now as an adult.

One of the most intriguing findings involves the calling orientation. You are more likely to have a calling orientation now if both your parents had calling orientations when you were growing up. Parents who spoke about their passion for the work they did are more likely to produce offspring who also see their work as a calling.

Which orientation is yours: job, career, or calling?

Does it match your recollection of your parents’ orientations when you were growing up?

No matter what your work orientation is, you can recraft your job to make it more meaningful and energizing. Care to learn more about how to do this? Go to the annual conference on positive business this week at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, Ann Arbor, MI.

Mother’s Day: Does a child need a home with both a mother and father to grow up happy?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Mother's Day
Grant Wood American Gothic plus tourists posed as well

NOSTALGIA FOR OLD-FASHIONED FAMILIES? Did you know that visitors to the original “American Gothic” house in Eldon, Iowa, are invited to dress up like Grant Wood’s famous farming couple? These are just some of the snapshots visitors have posted online.

Like yesterday’s headline, this one is provocative.

What’s your answer? Do you agree or disagree with the view that a child needs a home with both a mother and father to grow up happy? I asked this question in my national surveys. The surveys revealed one of the areas in which Americans are deeply divided. Which side of the divide are you on?

More than one of five Americans (22%) strongly agrees that a child does need both a mother and father at home to grow up happy. An additional 30% agree with this position, meaning that just over half of all Americans are on the traditional side of the divide.

Only 11% are in the middle. This is the neutral position, neither agreeing nor disagreeing with the statement.

This means that just over a third of all Americans (37%) don’t believe that, to grow up happy, a child needs both a mother and father at home. This side of the divide is smaller than the other, but still represents a sizable number of people who reject the traditional model of the family.

This divide is mirrored in responses to another issue: whether marriage should be defined solely as between one man and one woman. Here, six of ten 62% take the traditional position on this issue. Only 11% are neutral. And, about one of four (26%) disagree with this definition of marriage. As we know from other surveys, the trend on this issue favors more support of same-sex marriage, especially for younger Americans.

Were you raised in a home with both a mother and father?

If yes, how did it affect your happiness growing up?

If no, tell us about your experience growing up.

Mother’s Day: Is it Mom’s job to look after hearth and home?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Mother's Day
DURING WORLD WAR II, the U.S. government encouraged women to leave home and join the labor force. This photograph was widely distributed in 1943 with this caption: "Leaving her youngster at a well-run nursery school in Oakland, California, this war-working mother can devote all her thoughts to the job, knowing that the child will be kept busy and happy during the day."

DURING WORLD WAR II, the U.S. government encouraged women to leave home and join the labor force. This photograph was widely distributed in 1943 with this caption: “Leaving her youngster at a well-run nursery school in Oakland, California, this war-working mother can devote all her thoughts to the job, knowing that the child will be kept busy and happy during the day.”

OK, I know that’s a provocative title to today’s column. But I asked this question in one of my national surveys. Given that this Mother’s Day is the 100th anniversary of the nationwide Mother’s Day proclamation, I thought I would ask you the same question:

Is it a woman’s job to look after home and family?

I grew up in the “Mad Men” era, characterized by a traditional gendered division of labor. My father was the bread winner; my mother stayed at home. As a young woman, she was one of the best trumpet players in the nation—an amazing feat, given that female musicians were relegated to “All-Girl” bands. But she chose to give it up. She wanted to get married and raise a family. I once asked her if she ever regretted giving up her musical career. Her answer was swift and clear: never.

So, what do you think? Is it a man’s job is to earn money and a woman’s job to look after the home and family?

Times have changed since my childhood. Only 18% of Americans now agree with the traditional division of labor. About 15% are neutral on the issue.

Overwhelmingly, Americans disagree with the traditional division of labor. Almost half (46%) say no, they oppose the idea that a woman’s job is to look after home and family, while the man’s job is to earn money. One of five Americans (21%) strongly disagrees.

Is it the man’s job to earn money and the woman’s to take care of family and home?

How about the other way around?

How were you raised?

Civil Dialogue: Everyday philanthropy?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Civil Dialogue
the live civilly approach

Click the graphic to learn more about live civilly inc.

Dialogue is words. Dialogue is action.

Everyday philanthropy is the idea that we are surrounded each day with countless opportunities to give. I learned the concept from live civilly, inc.—a community movement that began as a family project in 2009. I discussed live civilly in an earlier column. It was initiated by three young sisters who saw homelessness and hunger around them and wanted to do something about it. Today, we check back in with them to see how the movement has grown.

Does this model inspire you to do the same?

Civility starts young. Part of the mission of live civilly, inc. is to create opportunities for young children to get involved and serve their community.

“Harnessing the energy and desire of the sisters, the Buss family developed live civilly, inc. as an effort to engage children ages 5-15 in meaningful service opportunities. The evolution began in 2011 with the incorporation of the organization and since that time, through partnerships with many local and regional organizations, live civilly has embraced its slogan, ‘…people helping people, helping people helping people…’ ”

Formally incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit, the Moorestown, New Jersey, organization has expanded exponentially. (Moorestown is across the river from Philadelphia.) For example, the organization has developed relationships with the department of parks and recreation, public library, public schools, garden club, Habitat for Humanity, and many corporate partners and individuals to establish a “web of assistance.”

New programs have been established, such as the ExCELS Snack Program, the Summer Lunch Program, the ExCELS Homework Help Program, HELP Programs, Community Supported Garden programs, and much more. Every program engages children in outreach. “By providing support and strength to all members of a community we build bridges to span the chasms of inequality, misunderstanding, and indifference.”

The live civilly approach has matured and developed over time. It addresses a hierarchy of human needs: nutritional security, educational security, and life skills security. These programs “empower young people to care for themselves, care for one another and become proactive members within their communities.”

Do you engage in everyday philanthropy?

What’s it like in your community?

How could you adapt the live civilly model?