We are the Youth of Today

Teenagers from Badminton School in Bristol, Lucy Warden, Sam Crumpton and Maddie Sunter celebrate in the rain

It’s late August. The last remnants if the summer are swept away in a scourge of last year’s games kit and M&S have been promoting “back to school” buys for at least three months. But something else is about to happen; an air of tension and nervous excitement pulsing through the brick work and vibrating around the gates of schools and colleges across the country. When the public examination results are finally revealed and the predictable, posed photographs of jumping girls in flowery summer dresses (though read this for an interesting take on the politics of results day pictures) literally leap out at you from the front page of The Times, spare a thought for those same teenagers who will have their achievements waved away like a swarm of irritable flies by the time the following day’s news drops through the letterbox.

“A-Level results are up in Britain by an overall figure of 5%” announces the Radio 4 newsreader, whilst the pompous proprietors of educational supplements will mock these findings incredulously with a chortle of “oh well they’re surely making the exams easier then!”. Why this incomprehensible need to put a negative slant on the painstaking hours of work and revision from so many students across the country? As someone who is on the brink of sitting the first in a long line of external exams this summer I find it ridiculous that the significant measure of time and effort allocated to what I have been educated to believe are some of the most important exams I will ever take has the frightening potential of being blown out of the water by someone at News International who decides it’s about time the youth of today were on the receiving end of some criticism for a change.

Sadly, it’s not the only item on life’s agenda we’re ever reprimanded about. All too often, sweeping statements are made about the attitude of the under-twenty generation, be it a lack of interest in current affairs or our supposed appreciation of all things rebellious and anti the establishment. Unfortunately, more often than not it is the people who issue such generalisations whom are guilty of shunning the very portion of society they complain about. This manner of discrimination I find indescribable, though I am not short of examples and none so obvious as when we are paying passengers on public transport. If I had a pound for very time I’d been refused a child ticket whilst still legally a child, or had the details of my ticket unnecessarily scrutinised by an officious employee of the GMPTE I’d have been wealthy enough to avoid the aforementioned people by chartering my own private jet for even the most local of journeys.

I can still vividly remember,  although the memory isn’t so much tinged with anger as it is saturated, being publicly humiliated when boarding a bus into my nearest town. I was fourteen years old at the time and after cheerily greeting the driver I politely asked for a return child ticket to my destination. After receiving the most obvious once-over, the driver sneeringly told me to “pull the other one love” as he blatantly believed me to be lying about my age. I wasn’t trying to scrounge the saving of a measly 47p or whatever it is by saying I was younger than sixteen; I was younger than sixteen! I do apologise if my smart appearance suggested that I might actually be an ambassador for the polite and educated contingent of Britain’s youth population. Or rather, I don’t apologise one bit.

3 thoughts on “We are the Youth of Today

  1. Alexandra, I think that both you and I must be on exactly the same wavelengths. I came to spend some time reading your wonderfully articulate posts, and found that we had both written about change (and the link to the seasons) very recently. I then started on this article, and felt as though you had plucked some thoughts out of my head! I have just this minute finished reading an article on the Guardian about the proposed changes to the A level curriculum, and my hands were itching to open a word document and start typing.
    The points that you made here are ones that I wholly agree with. Not only are teenagers often judged according to portrayals in the media (my friends and I have had countless experiences travelling on the train to college), but as a group we are often considered as somehow being ‘lesser’ than those that went before. I am currently doing my AS levels. I have never worked so hard in my life. My mum reads my essays occasionally and comments that she doesn’t remember doing anything as challenging when she was my age.
    I think that with regards to the ‘grade inflation’ or ‘dumbing down’ of A Levels (both phrases favoured by the national press), these are by and large a result of government policy towards the education system – with League Tables and Grade statistics leading to high focus on results. Some exams may be easier, but certainly not the ones that I am entered for. The hours spent revising facts and exam technique have been endless.
    However, although I am always frustrated to read the sneerings in the media, I do have a lot of problems with education in this country too. Although I work hard for my exams, I am increasingly irritated with the limitations of the courses. Because they are all exam based, information is given to us at a high speed rate with little time for thinking, evaluation or debate. The syllabus is aimed with tunnel vision at the passing of an exam with the highest grade possible. The actual joy of learning and gaining knowledge is completely bypassed unless one either has a passionate teacher, or a large degree of self motivation. If Gove is serious about education in this system then he needs to start at grassroots level. Why not install a love for learning and exploration at primary school age, rather than trying to repair the damage at sixth form, or even university? Then one is actually addressing the causes, rather than the consequences.

    I could write about this for another half an hour, but I need to go and have dinner. Thank you for such a thought provoking piece.

  2. Oh my goodness, this post is right up my street. It’s funny that I’ve just written a blog post on my frustrations with the education system too! I completely agree with everything you pointed out in your article, and with what Rosalind has commented above.
    The education system in this country is seriously flawed. I mean, I could literally rabbit on forever about it, but everyone knows what the problems are.
    I sympathise so much with the so called ‘dumbing down of exams’ analogy. I am a little older than you but I did my A-levels two years ago now. I worked so hard I almost had a breakdown (seriously haha) and to have teenagers efforts casually dismissed as the simplistic endeavours is all too familiar.
    However, when I started my AS levels, I decided to do things differently. I skived lessons, my attendance was appalling. I worked mostly from home because spending time in college, was frankly, if I wasn’t in English, a waste of time. I knew I could use my time so much more productively. Unsurprisingly, though I achieved the highest grades in the year, I was conveniently excluded from press articles and school newsletters. Maintaining the image of a united institution was obviously more important than its students.
    I have a major major issue with schools and colleges suppressing individuality too. Sadly, as Roz mentions, there is absolutely no emphasis on a stimulating syllabus or learning worthwhile knowledge that enriches a child’s life. Education in this country is the most farcical thing imaginable; all about statistics. I often find myself wondering who on earth gets to decide what children should learn, because they need a reality check.
    It gets worse at uni level too. I spend hours and hours writing essays only to have them handed back, alongside my friends essays, with one, non-committal sentence that bluntly says that you cannot write. As long as you have the satisfaction Alexandra, of knowing that you have talent and determination, don’t let people doubt you.
    Check out my post, its such a coincidence we’re all writing about this at the same time!
    Christobel xx

  3. you keep on frighting on, you are obviously very strong minded and can hold an argument/discussion. really well written post

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