Monday, 7 November 2011

The Kids Are Alright

It’s the easiest trap to fall into. Let’s all have a pop at the so-called ‘youth of today’. They have zero respect for anyone, they grow-up too quickly, they spend all their time writing in indecipherable shorthand on Facebook, and they all want to be WAGS or Premiership footballers.

Oh and let’s not forget that they are so driven by consumerism, they all whipped out their BlackBerrys back in the summer and took to the streets en masse to get their hands on a free pair of designer trainers. Of course, this was at great expense to good honest taxpayers and it was also a massive inconvenience to anyone who just wanted to enjoy a quiet Monday night catch-up with friends at The Mailbox (i.e. me and me).

Earlier this week, I walked into a school for the first time in a scarily long time and my experience has made me rethink all my negative perceptions of young people. I was so pleasantly surprised by the students I met, I came to the conclusion that they are getting a rough deal from certain areas of the media.

I was invited to St. Francis of Assisi Technology College to supposedly pass on the benefit of my wisdom to the group of students who worked on the school newsletter - although at a whopping 32 pages, I would argue that this is more of a magazine! I would also add that the magazine is very well put-together and does its job perfectly – but that’s an aside.

Apparently the word had gone out that an ‘expert’ would be giving a masterclass, and I was greeted by a classroom full of kids including those on the newsletter team and quite a few Creative Writing students. This was quite a turnout for an after school session and I must admit I was surprised, whatever happened to the apathetic generation?!

What followed was an engaging one hour session, where the students dutifully listened, asked questions when prompted, and generally acted as though they were genuinely interested in what I had to say.

When I spent more time with the Creative Writing students, I was again quite surprised to learn that far from using the internet to Google Justin Bieber, some of these young people had their own blogs. In fact they were so passionate about writing they actually enjoyed working on essays and would spend their own free time writing blogs, song lyrics, poetry – anything and everything!

They were particularly interested in the career opportunities open to them and I left feeling very positive about the next generation of media stars. In total contrast to me during my teenage years, they all seemed to be very focused on life after education and were thinking about where their passion for writing could take them.

I also have to say that the teachers I met do a truly magnificent job harnessing this talent and giving young people an outlet for their writing i.e. the school newsletter.

Now, I’m sure every school is different, but if certain pockets of the media are allowed to generalise about our so-called disaffected youth, then so am I – and I think they deserve a little more credit.

Amidst the doom and gloom of the current economic crisis, these Bright Young Things are the symbol of a much more prosperous and positive future, so let’s not talk them down before they’ve had a chance to shine.


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