(three-part father-to-son explanation on the perils of being young in contemporary Britain)
(Part III: The War Against Youth)
English authorities fight against all citizens between the ages of 10 and 18, whenever they try to do the undoable and think the unthinkable, like breaking some rule by smoking tobacco or cannabis, drinking alcohol, forgoing school and writing graffiti on anonymous train carriages.
Of course it would make no sense to encourage certain behaviors, But there is no wisdom in “zero tolerance” either. Take for example School Expulsions, with students threatened for far less than a headbutt on live TV. All one needs is to be a bit less pliable than usual, and the risk is to be literally thrown onto the street, destined to “special schools” where corralled rebels don’t normally help each other achieve the best results, neither at school nor in future life.
The abuse of a school’s right to expel pupils transforms it in a latter-day Pilate, cleaning its hands off the issue of how to educate a child. The impression really is that quite a few places are only geared to instill discipline, not knowledge or crafts in the students’ minds.
Once again, the problem is not the existence of sanctions: what is abnormal, indicating a climate of open war, is the inclusion of sanctions that effectively abandon the “guilty” student and their family to a lifetime of failure even for relatively minor offences.
The war continues outside school premises. It’s fashionable for teenagers to wear hoods on their heads: this makes them look a lot like each other, a common feature in pre-adult fashion the world over. But as soon as rumors have spread of young criminals using the hood not to be recognizable on security cameras, there they went, the whole media circus and a large part of the population labeling a “criminal” anybody wearing hoods indoors. As a result, some teens have been prevented even entering some hood-free shopping malls.
In such an exaggerated climate, isn’t it natural for a lot of young people to embrace a petty criminal lifestyle? British society in all its conformism hasn’t realized yet the charm the forbidden has for not-yet-adult people: as demonstrated by the decrease in cannabis consumption after it has been decriminalized.
The Government, instead, is wasting no time in establishing more and harsher rules against whomever breaks them: for example with the ASBOs (anti-social behaviour orders) allowing cold-hearted judges to force away from society no-gooders, I mean youngsters perhaps with larger problems than they cause individui. Some towns have gone as far as declaring curfews, relegating minors in their homes (why then not forbid young men to drive until the age of 30?)
Is there any third way out of this: something else than sheepy conformism and senseless rebellion?
What can I suggest? We’re foreigners nevertheless. It’s their society and when and if they’ll want to change they better do themselves. Please try not to get too much conformism under your skin: accept the letter, not the spirit of the uniforms. And most important of all, channel your youth energies of upheaval in something worth of a future, instead than bothering a bus driver.
Let’s talk again in 2013 though…when you’ll be 11!