“Survey after survey has revealed disturbing historical ignorance, with one teenager in five believing Winston Churchill was a fictional character while 58% think Sherlock Holmes was real.” – Michael “Pob” Gove
Mr Gove has yet again put his foot in it with an uneducated and unresearched statement – he came to the above conclusion and didn’t check the credentials of the surveys. Teenagers will make mistakes – but then so do adults: America voted for George W Bush…twice!
Cambridge are beginning research into how the human brain changes during puberty and how it develops to cope with all the changes in physicality and emotions they face. And they do have it tough. I hated being a teenager with everything changing at the same time as I was trying to do exams, develop social skills, attract the opposite sex and survive on a day-to-day basis. So why do we hate teenagers so much. I think it’s because we hated our own teenage years so much. We tend to think of them now with rose-coloured spectacles but remember back to those painful emotions, the mood swings and angst about every decision you made – we forget deliberately because it is so horrible.
The boffins are telling us that the brain effectively rewires itself to cope with hormones and developments – it’s often at this point that any mental illness can come to the fore and be recognised for the first time. Many teenagers will suffer from a form of depression or anxiety during these changes but most will self correct. I hate the way society treats teenagers because too often their reactions are to our actions, our prejudices. That’s not to say teenagers are perfect – not by any stretch of the imagination – but the pressure we put them under during these important years seems disproportionate to their whole lives. If you consider between the ages of 13 and 18 we expect our kids to develop all the academic skills that will set them up for their lives and careers; ask them to make huge choices about a future they are not fully aware of or considering yet; to “grow up” all the time because that was the message drummed into us and become part of functioning society.
You can only do this through education and love. We need to support them more and be there for them when they do struggle. Too often I see fellow teachers cast kids aside and dismiss them as issues and problems rather than actually support and try to help them. It is difficult because of the time you have with them that you can’t help them all – and schools don’t always know the best way to deal with some of the issues if it’s not in a book or hasn’t been discussed on a training course. Teenagers will push you away as a parent or adult but the important thing is that they know that jokes and teasing aside that if they need someone to talk to you will be there to listen and support however you can.
Yes they’re noisy, daft, ignorant, rude, immature and vulgar – but so were we when we were teenagers. We did that heavy breath out then mumbled about them “not understanding us”, but that because they made the same mistakes we are making. Just cast your minds back to being a 14-year-old kids and everything changing around you and then have some empathy. We expect so much of them, but for most they are still just big kids and they need us to be there for them when it gets too tough.
So Mr Gove, next time you want to criticise todays youth please remember back to your own informative years and all the well publicised mistakes you made and how rude you were to your teachers and cut these kids some slack.