Enabling Change
Enabling Change

Next generation learning is all about everyone in the system—from students through teachers to policymakers—taking charge of their own learning, development, and work. That doesn’t happen by forcing change through mandates and compliance. It happens by creating the environment and the equity of opportunity for everyone in the system to do their best possible work.

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EMPOWERED! Chapter 6

Beliefs are changing generationally in many key areas of life. Can we keep up?

Note: This article is a reprint of the first half of “Chapter 6: Re-Framing What Young People Believe” of the author’s book, EMPOWERED! Re-framing ‘Growing Up’ for a New Age.

From Unempowering 20th-Century Beliefs to Empowering 21st-Century Beliefs

The next step on our journey is for us to re-frame our understanding of what young people are coming to believe. This is crucial, because today beliefs are changing—quickly and globally—generationally.

In more and more instances and places, young people no longer believe what their parents did (or do) about many areas of life. Today’s young people’s deep, inner perspectives about more and more things are often very different from those of the adults that preceded them, and often their own parents. This became very clear to me when I spoke at a school in Abu Dhabi. All the young people—still traditionally neatly dressed in white thoubs and black niqabs—literally pleaded with me to speak “not to us, but to our parents”—because the differences in beliefs were so great. Those young people are not alone.

So let us examine “beliefs” more carefully.

What Are Beliefs?

Everyone has beliefs.

I call them our frames. Others call them our mindsets, or worldviews. They are among humans’ most fundamental and personal thoughts—the deepest ways we choose to see, and interpret, the world. They typically form when we are young, and are selectively and continuously reinforced throughout most of our lives—particularly our early lives. One important result of this continuous, selective reinforcement is that we often view our own, personal beliefs as “truths.”

It is therefore often quite a shock when we come up against others with different—particularly opposing—beliefs. It often leads to fighting, and even to war. It can be even more of a shock when, as adults, we see beliefs that we hold deeply and dearly changing significantly in our children—despite our most strenuous attempts to instill our beliefs into them through parenting, schooling, patriotism, and/or religion.

Generational Belief Is What’s Happening

But “generational belief change” IS what is taking place now. It is happening in a big way, and to a much greater extent than it has in the past. It requires a big re-frame on many people’s part:

From our own beliefs being truths forever,
To beliefs, in many cases, changing to fit the times.

An important implication of this new change in frame is that, to move forward,

It is the adults, not the young people, who must now change their beliefs to fit the changing times.

This is not an easy thing for many adults to accept, or to do. As I write in 2021, all adults were born in the 20th century. Wherever they grew up, it was in a 20th century context that all of their early beliefs were formed. Those beliefs were reinforced and confirmed by, in many cases, decades of 20th century adult experiences.

In a recent conversation I had with a well-known, well-respected business leader, he began a sentence to me with, “All my experience tells me that…” Yet all his (20th century) experience didn’t make him right in today’s context—he was incorrect in his conclusion. In the new, 21st-century environment, his, and many other adults’, beliefs about how the world works—i.e., their frames—are completely wrong for what is coming.

Another big implication is that...

We ALL need to re-examine our deeply-held and often unconscious beliefs—because a great many of today’s adults’ old 20th-century beliefs no longer help in the 21st century.

Not Just in One Area

Perhaps the most interesting thing to me is just how broad the generational change in beliefs is. Several years ago, working with Australian cultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell, I put together this list:

areas where beliefs are changing

And here are some of the generational changes we now see:

table of how beliefs are changing

I have not the space, in this volume, to explore each of these in more detail—I hope to do so in future writings. I do highly recommend, however, that you carefully go through each item on the list, asking yourself whether your own beliefs and those of the young people you know, coincide. And if they don’t, reflecting on how the beliefs of the young people differ from yours (and possibly why).


Continue on to read Part 2 of Chapter 6.

  • Chapter 1: Re-Framing Growing Up for a New Generation, Part 1 and Part 2
  • Chapter 2: A New Generation Seeing Things in a New Way, Part 1 and Part 2
  • Chapter 3: Re-Framing Our Young People’s Times, Part 1 and Part 2
  • Chapter 4: Re-Framing Who Young People Are, Part 1 and Part 2
  • Chapter 5: Re-Framing Where Young People Will Live, Part 1 and Part 2

The full book is available on Amazon.

Image at top: Screenshot of children’s work from Design for Change website—“Our children are telling us they don't need permission to make the world a better place.”

Marc Prensky headshot

Marc Prensky

Keynote Speaker, Author, and Re-Framer

Marc Prensky, an internationally-acclaimed keynote speaker and award-winning author of 10 books, has been called a “usefully radical thinker.” He has given keynotes in over 45 countries on 6 continents, and is the coiner of the term “digital native”—now in the Oxford English Dictionary. Marc’s newest book, EMPOWERED!: Re-framing ‘Growing Up’ for a New Age has been characterized by reviewers as visionary, radical, moving, transformative, and extremely insightful. Marc serves on the advisory boards of several organizations, and his work is taught in graduate schools around the world. He started the Two Billion Kids Project and the Global Ministry of Empowerment Accomplishment and Impact to empower every young person on the planet to better their world. Marc’s many talks, writings, interviews, posts, and videos can be found at www.marcprensky.com, marcprenskyarchive.com, global-future-education.org, twobillionkids.world, ministry-of-eai.org, prensky-empowered.com, @marcprensky and #marcprensky. His You Tube channel is https://bit.ly/PrenskyYouTube. Marc lives in Palo Alto, CA, and can be contacted at marcprensky@gmail.com.