Since 2008, I’ve worked with approximately 3,000 British teens between the ages of 14 and 18 in schools and colleges throughout the country, as Gossip School (the Body Gossip self-esteem programme).
From observing and speaking with them I understand the issues they face. I don’t envy the teenagers of today. They are invariably shown little respect, but a lot of respect is demanded of them. They are often from difficult family backgrounds. They feel let down and betrayed by various systems of government – the economy, education, employment etc. I’ve been staggered by how well even the reportedly most ‘difficult’ students respond to simply being asked their opinion.
Some young people are angry, others confused, most disillusioned. And it’s understandable.
………..But I’ve always maintained that young people get an unnecessarily bad rep from the press and public. I haven’t yet met a teen I couldn’t find something to like about. The vast majority have been bright, full of humour and have welcomed me into their school and lives.
So over the past 3 days, when thousands of people, mainly in the teenage age bracket, took to the streets of London, my home city, committing arson and assault, looting and vandalising huge areas of the Capital my immediate reaction was this:
“How could you? All those times I’ve defended you in front of wanky middle-class huffer puffers who wanted to tar all teens with the same brush! And then you go and prove them right! You’ve made me look a right knob!”
After further consideration, however, I came to the realisation that it was, of course, me who was being the wanky middle-class huffer puffer.
My initial observations remain true. The people committing mindless acts of criminality represent a tiny minority of all the young people out there. And whilst they might claim that their actions are a socialist protest against the country’s wealthiest and most privileged, this argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny (Hackney and Clapham aren’t famed for housing the affluent).
So, my thought of the day is this : When all this scariness and unrest has come to a conclusion, please let’s not punish all teenagers for the actions of a few. Let’s not use these events as an excuse to perpetuate myths and stereotypes concerning our country’s youth.
In the meantime, my love goes out to all the people affected by the riots. Special mention to the shopkeepers of East London, who bravely defended their businesses and fought off rioters last night: Rock on.
And that is my two penneth.