As a person who is still considered to fall into the category of ‘young person’, that is, I am in the check box on forms that says ’18-24’ and will be for a few more years, I realise that most people will discount my ramblings on age discrimination as irrelevant. Even I spend a lot of my time complaining about those people who only moan when the cuts affect them, or when their particular social label doesn’t have as much attention as they wish. In this situation however I believe that the people put under the label ‘young people’ get too much attention and self-absorbed or not the following rant is going to be about treatment of young people in England.
The first annoying thing is the language that we associate with young people. They don’t need to be engaged, they don’t need to be ‘taken off the streets’ and they don’t need to be encouraged. It sounds harsh but from my experience what young people need is to be given a chance to do things for themselves. The way people learn is through mistakes but none of us are allowed to make mistakes any more, we are mollycoddled and wrapped up in bubble wrap and simply told how to act which means that when put in a situation where we require experience in looking after ourselves and being logical, we are completely lost.
Words like ‘engaging’ are part of the attitude that is used around young people and does nothing more than lower intelligence. Teachers should be concerned with nothing other than teaching the children the information the children require, keeping the children entertained should have absolutely nothing to do with it. They will learn after failing their exams that just because something is boring doesn’t make it not worth doing and the experience of this will help them to grow as a person. It isn’t society’s job to make children pass exams; it is the job of the child to learn some self-regulation, and to gain some responsibility for themselves.
We should not presume that a horrific school experience or a boring school experience will put a child off learning, because a child who wants to learn will rarely be put off it. A child who loves learning will always find knowledge. This is not an attitude that can be forced by some bright colours and pretty pictures or a thirty year old rapping at them telling them that ‘they can be cool too!’
This applies to those horrible assemblies that all children have to endure, where they are told not to smoke, or not to take drugs. I have not spoken to a person who went through this and didn’t find themselves tempted to do the opposite.
My second point of annoyance is the presumption that if a child calls another gay, or they single them out as looking different, then the child must be homophobic or racist. Children have no concept of these things, if they even notice that a kid has dark skin they aren’t bullying them because of any of the reasons that racists look down on other skin colours.
They are singling them out just like they single out people who are blonde or tall or short or anything. Each child has something about them that other children declare different because this is part of growing up, positioning yourself in a social group as far above other people as can be. Racism, sexism, homophobia and the like are exclusively adult things. At the age where the child is old enough to understand complex concepts like racism, they are told by their parents that they have to be nice to the black kid. They ask why and are informed that the black kid is different and therefore treating them differently is racist. The child then grows up seeing this child who was no different than anyone else, they just had darker skin as opposed to blonde hair, as someone that should be feared and excluded. That situation is entirely the fault of the adult. When I was little, I had a very obvious skin condition on my face, I was never insulted by any child, they didn’t notice it. But the adults did, they would refuse to shake my hand and back off if I went near them.
Young people don’t need to be patronised, we don’t need the attention of adults to give us jobs or whatever and if we weren’t told that we’re racist for treating everyone as equal then we wouldn’t fall into the same failings as everyone else, just like the ‘adults’ wouldn’t be racist and sexist and homophobic if their parents hadn’t done the same. We’re normal people with the same issues and the same failings as everyone else.
It’s about time that we were treated as such.
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