I remember being the youth of today (yes, my memory is that good).
Having big dreams and ambitions but no money to fulfil them. Not being taken seriously by anyone over 30 as you didn’t look or sound the part. Being told you would learn what life was really about when you:
- Had a mortgage
- Had your own children
- Had to pay taxes
What a crushing verdict and dispiriting message to receive. This, from people who despite believing they’d figured life out, didn’t seem particularly happy themselves. And not much has changed.
The cries of ‘what’s wrong with youth of today’ seem to be a never-ending echo down the generations. A kind of spiteful torch handed down as soon as the youthful zeal gives way to middle aged envy, regret and misery. It really isn’t their fault that your life turned out less than you’d hoped for you know.
The youth of today are pretty much the same as the youth of any generation since the war. Largely bright, kind and idealistic – with insecurities, a need to belong as well as a need to be different. Socially awkward, frustrated by the demands to remain a sweet child, yet grow up at the same time.
What gives particular ammunition and relish to the moaning middle-agers and the grey brigade of whinging pensioners are the tales of the nasty ones. Muggings, drugs, violence and general anti-social behaviour. These are seized upon and extrapolated to demonstrate what our young society has become.
And I agree. Some of these little blighters have never trodden the straight and narrow since they could walk. Give them help, support and every opportunity to turn it around. If all fails, get them off the streets.
But for the sake of sanity – remember they remain a small (but highly visible) minority. Putting them on the front pages, the top of headlines and the main topic of conversation simply exaggerates the problem and annoys the majority of good apples in the basket. Not forgetting that most of the low lives that pollute our society are well past their youth.
Our education system lurches from one inadequate posture to another. The rigidity of the war / post-war years, the “progressive” agenda (with alternative spellings for goodness sake!); the ‘everyone gets a prize’ anti-competition stance. Now we have the narrow, statistically-driven approach. Standard inputs designed to achieve standard outputs: University freshers, regular workforce fodder and those who will “never amount to much”.
The model consists mainly of cramming young skulls with retrievable facts. Exams as memory tests. League table results and monetary gain are the evidence of success. Thomas Gradgrind would be very proud.
It has to be said that the downbeat drums driving discontent among the young have grown over the years. I felt some pressure when studying for final exams at school, but nobody was pointing a spotlight on the scores like today. A top club replica football kit was pricy for my parents, but not the cost of a night out in London. And where bullying and intimidation in the playground or college could be left behind when you got home, now they can get you at every angle on your phone. The topics may be similar, but they have been amplified somewhat. Good for those level-headed enough to cope and/or with supportive families, but the transition is tough on those without.
The thing that threatens a teacup at the telly most is when our politicians start talking about ‘young people’. The drivel the spew out about the “importance of our young people” – “we want to look after our young people” – “it’s their future” and other tripe served up to make them appear concerned, tuned in and dedicated.
How is it that young people are more important than people of any other age? As well as being patronising in the extreme, it’s insidious targeting of parents and grandparents, rather than the yoof vote. We care as much about your kids as you do, so vote for us. If you believe that, you deserve everything you get from Westminster! Look where the money is invested, not the weasel words.
So what about the youth of today? Are they any better or worse than we were? Does something ‘need to be done’? Are we facing a crisis in the moral fibre and fabric of our society?
Well, no. I work with plenty of under 25s and don’t fear for my life, sanity or lunch money. I’m blessed with family and close friends of the same range and they’re as lovely and trustworthy as any of my peers.
In short, the biggest problem with the youth of today is the same as the biggest problem was many years ago – the rest of us. The demands, expectations, condescension and exasperation put a huge burden on them.
Yes, they can be annoying, capricious, contradictory and make you mad. You know what? So can I. And the same is true of plenty of 30-90 year olds. No generation has a monopoly on good or bad behaviour.
I’m just going to remember what an alternately charming little gent and irritating little turd I must have been from time to time. I seem to have turned out OK (others will have to ratify this). And the same will probably be true of most of our ‘young people’ today too.