In Praise of Young People

There has been a phenomenon since I was young to, somewhat, denigrate the younger generation. Whether they spend too much time at the computer, wear their trousers too low, listen to awful music or whatever else it is that they do that is in danger of bringing an end to civilisation as we know it. Well, much as I worry about the direction in which our society is headed, I don’t buy into this denigration. Young people are, in case you should need reminding, the inheritors not the creators of today’s ills. If, however, you don’t share my views, perhaps you would like to consider the following quote. “When are the young to be silent before their elders? How are they to show respect to them by standing and making them sit? What honour is due to parents? What garments or shoes are to be worn, the mode of dressing the hair, deportment and manners in general?” Sound familiar? Well, it is actually a quote attributed to Socrates who died 2,500 years ago!

When I was young, the newspapers were full of articles complaining about the behaviour of young people. First, it was Teddy Boys, then yobbos, mods and rockers, to be followed by punks, skinheads, hoodies, yardies and chavs; and that’s only in modern times. In the 19th century, it was hooligans, hoodlums and scutters, among others. Indeed, anything that could be used to conjure up a picture of young people in groups so that they could be categorised, stereotyped and shown to be a threat. It’s not real but it sells newspapers and allows the popular press and governments to do what they do best. That is to divert attention away from the real causes of whatever is the current problem. Welcome, because, as you will have seen from the quotes above, you are part of a very long history. The antidote is not to do it yourself.

So, it was good yesterday to play a very small part in a team of public speakers who give their time for free to work with students in secondary schools. In this case, Droitwich Spa High School. It wasn’t the speakers, however, who impressed me as I already knew of their commitment, it was to have my views of young people confirmed so resoundingly by the large number of them who took part with so much energy and enthusiasm. It was also good to see the efforts of the teachers and other school staff who put in a great deal to make it all work. Yet again, a profession that is often the subject of adverse comment demonstrates the inaccuracy of any such statements. Now with a wife who is a teacher, I am aware that I could be accused of bias, yesterday demonstrated that I’m not. After all, you are unlikely to enter a profession that isn’t that well paid, has to try to teach large groups of children and young people from a variety of backgrounds and then spend your evenings in marking, reports, preparation and planning, other than if you want to make a difference.

So, thanks to those speakers, teachers and other staff and the students who helped to reaffirm my faith in humanity. The world may not be in a good place these days but, if yesterday was anything to go by, the future is in as safe hands as it ever was.

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