I’m sitting in Starbucks writing this, trying to avoid the chaos of the sales shopping. Crowds of teenagers are passing by, many of them taught by me incidentally. More than ever, it strikes me that we often fail to notice that teenagers get a terrible press, don’t they?
This is caused by deriding modern culture, the culture our children are faced with every day. Not only the technology they access but the food they eat, the culture they devour. We look down our noses when they eat a Big Mac, drink a Coke. We mock when they boast of completing video games, text messaging, facebooking.
We don’t find their sense of humour funny, their clothes at all attractive. We condemn them for wearing hoodies, jeans which display a large percentage of underwear. Their haircuts seem ridiculous.
And all the time we are reminding them of how terrible their prospects are, how our generation have messed things up for them.
We need to stop it.
I remember being a teenager and eating my first Wimpy burger. It came on a plate with a knife and fork, for goodness sake. I remember believing that I could live on that taste forever. If I could have, I would have. It was a luxury then. Couldn’t afford it. I was enticed by the advertising campaigns of Coke, loved it cold and just out of the fridge. It was a luxury then.
My older brother came home with a BBC micro computer and our house was never the same. Clunky old games, but games nonetheless. We used to play for hours and hours. I may not have had texting but I would stay out with my friends for as long as humanly possible. My friends were my family.
My parents couldn’t understand why Monty Python’s Life of Brian was so funny. Later, The Young Ones, Not the Nine O’Clock News. As an older teenager I didn’t have a hoodie but if I did I would have worn it with pride. Most teenagers don’t wear them as a mask; they wear them because they too are afraid. Afraid of a society which often alienates them.
We forget that Punk Rock meant spitting and vomiting became Olympic events.
Perhaps there is some truth in the above newspaper article. We may may not owe them a living but we do owe them the space to live their lives and the hope that their future will be better then ours, better than now.
Why is it that some teachers want to furnish pupils with our past rather than prepare them for their future? For many of them, we may be the most significant adult influences they have.