Emotion, self and communal life: Dr. Matthew Etherington studies tensions between individual thought and social cohesion

How Finnish young adults balance self-pride versus social belonging

Young people navigating uncertain times as they launch into adulthood must learn to affirm and express their individual identity, while also embracing the larger communal identity and promoting the good of society. 

Through a series of interviews with high school students in Finland, Professor of Education Dr. Matthew Etherington takes a closer look at how emerging adults balance self-pride versus social belonging. He gleans many lessons and points of application for the global educational world. His research article, "Finnish High School Students and the Pride Experience," was published this year in the European Journal of Education Studies.

Dr. Etherington sees that students in Finland could provide a good case study for educators in other nations. He notes that schools are naturally “collectivist institutions who rely on sustaining a healthy social capital to function properly,” yet this collectivist institution forms the context in which students must compete.

In his research, Dr. Etherington investigates how Finnish students, as a cohort of future citizens, view the importance of locating themselves within socially-established traditions and values of equality and humility.

He observes tension between individual and communal identity. Students join with others in a culture shaped by a shared set of norms, beliefs, ideas, and social practices; and yet, as Dr. Etherington observes, “As individuals, which they undoubtedly are, they will not ultimately flourish as individuals unless they invest in and draw from their more prosperous social-cultural network."

Through his observations, Dr. Etherington concludes, “This sample of Finnish high school students show themselves to be part of a human-centric education that is committed to independent thought, achievement, faith, and family but not at the expense of quashing the social capital needed to share resources, energy, and confidence and to understand themselves as individuals who also represent a communal life together in successful and uncertain times.”

Read Dr. Etherington's article in the European Journal of Education Studies, Vol. 8, No. 8 (2021): "Finnish High School Students and the Pride Experience".

See also — Dr. Matthew Etherington's ideas on developing an inclusive model of learning:
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