The Patch

January 20, 2007

Saturday 20th January

Filed under: Miscellany,Politics — Ames @ 11:05 am

Young people of the World, unite. I smell something not quite right, and it smells like injustice. Yes, in our politically correct society, obsessed with achieving equality for all races, sexes and sexual orientations, somebody, somewhere, forgot that those of us under the age of 25 are also included in that definition.

This is what I don’t understand; we are no longer allowed to use the terms ‘black’ or ‘white’ coffee to describe our milk preferences so as not to offend people. Men no longer wolf-whistle, for fear that they will be slammed with charges of sexual harassment. And forget about singing your children to sleep with the timeless classic ‘baa baa black sheep’; rainbow coloured wool is apparently all the (politically correct) rage nowadays. Yet it is still acceptable that the minimum wage for 18-21 year olds is almost £1 less than that of those who have hit the magical 2-2. Even worse is for those who aren’t even 18 yet, who only legally have to be paid £3.30, and that’s only for those who are no longer in compulsory education. Never mind that, in many environments, a 16-year-old will do the same job as a 60-year-old; apparently being young automatically means that you are worth less.

It’s not as if being sixteen has any other perks either. You can’t drink, nor vote (though, if you’re not a student, the Government will feel free to take your money), you have to pay as much money as a 22-year-old to travel anywhere by bus or train, and soon you won’t even be able to let off all the stress of all this unfairness by smoking either. You can, however, gamble all your money on the lottery, get married, so long as your parents consent, and have sex. This means that, essentially, at 16 you can be bringing up a family seriously in debt due to Lotto-Gambling, on £3.30 an hour. Hang on, did I miss something here? Every day we read stories about the inequalities between men and women, gays and straights, blacks and whites. But what about this gaping generation gap?

The minimum wage is not the only way in which there appears to be prejudice against young people. Young people are constantly tarred with the same brush; hooligans, alcoholics, sex-craved; the stereotypes are endless. Television crews are constantly filming some bad-mouthed youth giving an older member of the public some lip, as if to prove to the older generation that their preconceptions are right, The proliferation of programmes such as Brat Camp’ and ‘Stop Treating Me Like A Kid’ certainly don’t help matters- adults are shown the younger generation at their worst, leaving them to come to their own conclusion about the state of society today. Admittedly, the latter had something slightly resemblant of a balance between the good and bad, showing the children taking on, and even succeeding in some responsibilities. But every episode seemed to finish with a conflict, with one or two of the teens arguing, causing destruction to the house, or throwing used tampons and sanitary towels over a fellow housemate’s suit. No, really. For the vast majority of the time, it seemed as though the teens were portrayed at their most ignorant, and the ones with an attitude problem certainly got more than their fair share of the airtime. After all, why watch or hear about someone doing well at work, if we can see their housemate getting fired instead? There is no getting away from the fact that young people are misrepresented in the media. And in a world where our views are shaped and based on what we read and view, this has led to an overwhelmingly negative view about the youth of today.

OK, so I can hardly argue that young people are perfect. I went to a school where “Chavs on their hairdryers” would dominate the fields at lunchtimes, and for a teacher to beak up a fight was to risk taking a punch or five. Doing drugs behind the trees and sex in classrooms was, apparently, a regular occurrence. Note there, the ‘apparently’. I never witnessed this. Neither did any of my friends, nor most of the people I knew. Why? Because most young people don’t do that. The height of most people’s rebellious streak is drinking WKD at a house party, or getting a bit tipsy in the park on cheap wine and cider. In a public article I can’t condone drinking underage, but it’s not something that’s confined to our generation. Nor, might I add, should it be the drinking of underage people that we are worried about; what about the adults who get violent, sexually abusive, or just plain crude after they’ve been drinking? Don’t like the stereotypes? While only a minority of people turn in such a manner after drinking, I’d argue that it’s a larger minority than the amount of ‘troubled youths’ among the teenage population. Yet still, in the daylight these night-time terrorists will command more respect than the average under-21.

Prejudices don’t only apply to the under-18 crowd either. While your eighteenth birthday may come with a lot more legal responsibility, adults outside of the teaching sphere rarely appear to respect younger people. I found that, when I worked in a shop, customers were much more willing to take the word of older colleagues, despite us having the same position. One could say that it might have been something about my attitude, but seeing as I worked there for three years with no complaints from management, this is something I’d like to think wasn’t true. I often get the same feeling on the other side of the till- in certain shops, assistants seem perfectly happy to act civilly to the older woman in the till in front of me, but when it comes to serving someone younger the manners go out of the window. Are we truly undeserving of respect purely because of our age? Yes, the older generation have earned their respect; they’ve lived through World Wars, protest movements and eighties fashion. But just because we have fewer years behind us, and stories to tell, does that make us less deserving of our place in society? Is the pay gap a reflection, not, of our inexperience in the field that we are currently working in, but of our inexperience of the world? Never mind that, where I worked, 16 and 17-year-olds would frequently be training people older than they, on a bigger pay cheque. Age may be nothing but a number, but it’s a number that comes with huge stigmas, stereotypes and values attached.

In our society obsessed with fairness and equality, it’s hard to understand how these prejudices against the younger generation have remained. Everyone is hugely aware of the pay gap between men and women. If you made a television programme about how badly behaved black people were there would be uproar. Yet young people are consistently the subject of such discrimination. What’s more, people fighting against it are told that they don’t know what’s good for them. No wonder our generation is known for being somewhat apathetic; we have grown up in a world where it feels as though our opinions are worth less, just because we’re younger. The saying ‘children should be seen and not heard’ may seem outdated, but the ideal still appears to be ingrained upon many individuals.

We no longer allow ourselves to be defined by our race, gender or sexuality. This injustice needs to be fought when it comes to ages, too. So what if the vast majority of 16-year-olds don’t have the same responsibilities as a 40-year-old: if the job description is the same, then so should the pay be. Moreover, being younger than someone should no longer be an acceptable reason for treating somebody differently. Just because we have a lesser number of birthdays to our name, this does not make us a lesser human being. It is time to for adults to forget your prejudices and to stop trampling on the voices of the younger generation; if you give us a chance you might be surprised about what you hear.



  1. “rainbow coloured wool is apparently all the (politically correct) rage nowadays.”

    Actually, the nursery school in that controversy was teaching kids about colours, as I believe I’ve mentioned before. Alas, the first casualty in the tabloid wars is truth, or at least in-depth analysis.

    Comment by freshlysqueezedcynic — January 22, 2007 @ 12:26 pm | Reply

  2. Shhhh Alan 😛 Although I should know better than to believe rumours and the gutter press really. Oh well 😛

    Comment by amyfeldman — January 22, 2007 @ 2:47 pm | Reply

  3. Thank you, thank you! Hopefully that article you wrote will make some difference, but it probably won’t. A lot of adults think all teenagers are loonies, and I admit that a lot of us are, but it’s not all of us. Every time I decide to buy something from the shop with my leftover pocket money the shopkeepers always tell me not to cause trouble and that they’re keeping a close eye on me, and in the shop windows there are signs saying “No more than two schoolchildren in the shop at once!”. It’s so annoying! I know that a lot of teenagers cause trouble but maybe that’s partly because they’re always being suspected for no reason whatsoever. I’m a teenager, and I cause no trouble. It depends where you’re from. I come from a fairly pleasant enviroment, but the adults here still suspect the kids. It’s so annoying!

    Comment by Peson — February 19, 2007 @ 8:33 pm | Reply

  4. I meant to make my name Person. ^_^’

    Comment by Person — February 19, 2007 @ 8:33 pm | Reply

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