First encounters

17th March 2000 at 00:00
Pam Jarvis on the g-g-generation gap

Miss!" Miss!""Oh, you mean me. Well you're not at school now, you're in adult education. Call me Pam."

"Oh, right. So am I an adult now?" "Yeeesss - um - a young adult."

"But what does that really mean?" (Well it could mean I'm an old adult.) "Let's say it means you can call me Pam and be a bit cheekier than you were at school. And you don't have to wear school uniform. But it doesn't mean you can sit at the back and look at your holiday photos, or use your mobile phone in my lesson."

"Oh. So I can call you Pam, but you can still tell me off?" "Yes."

"So you're still a teacher, really?" "Yes."

I contemplate the idea that "young people" and their relationships with mature (yes, that's the word) adults have been newsworthy since Plato complained about ill-mannered youth. Shakespeare, too, I remember, got in on the act, proposing that the young male of the species was good only for fighting, drinking and getting wenches with child. But surely young people nowadays don't show the solid diligence and respect we did, do they?

"So what was it like to be a teenager in the 1970s, Miss - I mean Pam? Were you better behaved than us, like my mum says?" "I think so." But I can just about remember leaving school to go to fashion college because I would still have had to wear uniform in sixth form.

Let's also not mention the times we bunked off college to catch celebrity appearances in Top Shop. We didn't actually see the hairy one from The Professionals because we got there too late, but I did see my hearttrob DJ from Capital Radio.

We could also try to forget that at discos we used to pretend to be Swedish and "going home tomorrow" so boys bought us drinks but didn't ask for our phone numbers.

And then there was the good-looking English teacher. Our wholly female group used to compete to see who could make him blush first.

"But wasn't there a group called the Sex Pistols who swore on television, and a really violent film called Clockwork Orange?" "Oh yeah, I thought they were great - er, that's enough about me. Lets get on now." Sociology students, always comparing the past with the present - smartarses. But who taught them to? Oh, shut up.

I suddenly remember Spitting Image's 1980s take on The Who ("I used to think that I was 'ard, now I make ads for c-c-credit cards"). My God. Is this me? And were "mature adults" of the 1970s really less judgmental about what their "young adults" got up to? Does every generation think it is cleverer than the one before and wiser than the one after? Especially us? Are we joining the Plato and Shakespeare society of miserable old gits? Or - worse - miserable, hypocritical old gits?

Banish the thought! And - "Put those photos away, please. Whose phone is that playing the William Tell Overture? Will you please turn it off? Don't you know the rules?" Well, why can't you just obey them for once, like we used to? We'd have been too scared to do anything else. Honestly. Kids today.

Pam Jarvis completed her PGCE at Huddersfield university last year. She teaches at Barnsley college of the Open University

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