So, this week adolescents have featured large in our news headlines.
And please notice the “So” which is so necessary when beginning statements made by adolescents and post-adolescents and is a linguistic tic that so makes me want to scream. So, yes, adolescents. So, what have they been up to?
Well, Shamima Begum, for a start. She is a British ISIS bride who, “heavily pregnant”, wants to return to the UK, having absconded in 2015 to join the so-called caliphate in the Middle East. She wants to come back so that her child can be brought up here. One third of me says, under my breath, “Brought it on yourself, dear”; another third wonders what kind of hell it is to be heavily pregnant, aged nineteen, living in an overcrowded, stinking refugee camp – and, yes, I know she claims to have been unfazed by seeing severed heads; while the final third feels for her parents. Having spent a significant part of my career surrounded by adolescents – in loco parentis, I hasten to add – I have yet to meet a parent who does not continue to love their child regardless of the foolish things they may have done, the exasperatingly stupid scrapes they may have got themselves in to, even the criminal offences they may have committed.
I fear there are no easy or happy answers in Shamima’s case.
And then at the end of the week, there were the adolescent crowds walking out of class to scream that we need to wake up to climate change, allegedly inspired by sixteen-year old Greta Thunberg from Sweden. This is how Toby Young writes about these young people in The Spectator this week:
Greta Thunberg is everywhere, appearing at Davos, giving a TED talk, speaking at the UN Climate Conference in Katowice, and her message is always the same. Western governments are doing nothing to combat climate change.
She isn’t saying they’re not doing enough. No. She claims they’re not doing anything. ‘Everyone keeps saying that climate change is an existential threat and the most important issue of all and yet they just carry on like before,’ she says in her TED talk. ‘You would think the media and every one of our leaders would be talking about nothing else, but they never even mention it.’
Now, I admire Toby Young, who has done a great deal to challenge (constructively) the educational status quo in England. I have even publicly defended him in a letter to the Times, but on this, Toby, you need to cool, man.
Subtlety tends not to be in the nature of the adolescent. It is all or nothing. Here sixteen-year old Greta is talking – not in her native language, mind you – but talking nevertheless with passion about a matter of global significance. Yes, she may have overstated and exaggerated, but that is what sixteen-year olds do. Some of her followers in this country are equally passionate, some probably just fancied an afternoon off. How was your behaviour when you were sixteen, Toby?
Toby goes on to say that youngsters who walk out of class are causing their teachers real problems in terms of planning lessons. Even the Prime Minister has joined in on this one, claiming that “it is important to emphasise that disruption increases teachers’ workloads and wastes lesson time that teachers have carefully prepared for.”
Maybe so, but I bet that for every teacher who had to rearrange their lesson about Boyle’s Law or reschedule that stunning presentation about the past perfect tense in French reflexive verbs, there were ten who privately sighed with relief that they didn’t have that restless bunch of terminally bored, hormonal adolescents to manage during all of Friday afternoon.
And remember, those teachers and their pupils will be back in their classes in a day or two and the next day and the next day and the next day.
So, adolescents, then.
I just SO want you to lose that SO.
Adolescents who manage the transition to adulthood are the living proof that their parent(s) and th4 society in which they live are remarkably tolerant or just plain cowardly. There can be few parents, teachers and random members of society who have not, at some point, felt a burning desire to prematurely end the life of the adolescent(s) with whom they are forced to share living space. In other words, adults are saved from violent action against adolescents by a very healthy cowardice.One imagines that the desire to use a blunt instrument on the adolescent is itself blunted by the thought that the law frowns on murder and/or manslaughter and there seems little to recommend a sojourn behind bars just for the sake of a delicious momntary gratification.The only consolation is that, should the adolescent make the transition to becoming a reasonably decent human being, the possibility exists that they, too, will one day become parents and thus be subjected to the same pie of sh*te that they inflicted on their parent(s) back in the day. Of course the new generation of shattered parents then offload the sullen adolescent(s) on grandparents. But the good news is that the grandparents hand him/her/them back at the end of the visit.
There is much to be said for the revival of the Celtic system of fosterage. Neighbouring chieftains woud foster out their children to each other in the hope that this would – pardon the verb repetition – foster good relations betwwen their tribes.The idea of such fosterage is very sensible: adolescents seldom behave as badly in other people’s houses as they do under theor own roof! Perhaps with the advent od Brexit, it might be an idea to revive the fosterage system. It might even encourage adult behaviour in the House of Commons. It was interesting to watch a debate in the EU parliament some time ago. A few people (possibly British MEPs?) started to heckle. The Vice President Mairead McGuinness nipped it in the bud by calling them to order with the comemnt: You’re not in the house of Commons!’ As to the young lady Shamima. While one can ascribe her present dire situation to the adolescent error of believing that what you FEEL MUST BE TRUE and and that your parents know f*ck all about you and the world in general, te present writer believes that if the young lady Shamima should come home, after an initial period of euphoria, she would once again find fault with her parents, society and the western world in general. Of course I could be wrong, I confess that I would like to be.
Interesting thoughts, as always, Kevin