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A Future Where All the Children Are Above Average

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Sixth-grade students in Minneapolis and St. Paul have seen the future--and it looks pretty good.

Although nearly half of the 11-and-12-year-olds surveyed in an 18-month study said they fear that a nuclear war or other manmade catastrophe will destroy the world, 86 percent said there is a good chance to reverse the trend and build a world "very different from and far better from the one we know now."

"They are optimistic, but they are realistic, too," said Ruthanne Kurth-Schai, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota's Col-lege of Education who conducted the study for her dissertation.

The 154 students surveyed said they think life in the future will be better than it is now, Ms. Kurth-Schai reports. According to the students, robots will relieve mankind of work, families will live in outer space, people will be more intelligent, and men and women will share responsibilities more equitably.

But the youngsters said they fear the environment will suffer. "Most of nature will be destroyed to make room for people on Earth," one of them wrote.

Surprisingly, Ms. Kurth-Schai said, the media appear to have little influence on the youngsters' view of the future. They attributed their views to their own intuition, their religious beliefs, and the influence of their parents.

It is important to study children's views of the future, the researcher said, because "how people perceive the future has a major impact on how they behave in the present." Children can also offer "creative, unique ideas," she added.

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