View from the staffroom
"Mab": Teenagers have had a bad press since they first found their identity, circa 1950. The stereotype of the teenager is still enduring today: dangerous, over-emotional and threatening, especially their use of (and perhaps subversion of) conventional language and dress codes. By creating a fear of this "deviant" social group, the media highlights a need for controlling them. This is because the teenager's difference challenges the established rules and social codes of the adult world. This new debate is a way of finding out how to deal with it positively. Let's not alienate the youths, instead there should be a dialogue.
"Cleggy": As a primary school teacher, I believe the seeds are sown early.
At Year 6, you can see who is sensible and responsible and who is likely to become a nightmare teenager. Many is the time in the staffroom I have heard the expression, "I'm glad I won't be teaching them when they are teenagers..."
"Blackflip Queen": While walking through my local town centre in broad daylight I witnessed an elderly, frail lady have her shopping bag grabbed off of her by a young lad in a group as they ran past.She was thrown to the ground. I went to help her as everyone just walked past. A group of teens came up to offer their help too. On seeing them she was visibly upset and asked me to get them away from her. They reassured her that they were nothing to do with her attacker but wanted to help. They phoned for an ambulance, bought a cup of tea and provided lots of TLC. As she was taken off in the ambulance one of the boys smiled and commented that "we are not all bad you know". Enough said I think.
"Tiggywinkle": I think this is the wrong question. We should be asking "Do teenagers deserve the rough deal they get?" The average teenager's workload is heavier than mine was as an undergraduate, their diet is far poorer than that of previous generations, academic expectations are far higher as they have become points earners for league tables. They are less likely to live with both parents, have been bombarded by sexually explicit and violent images since they were small. They are pressured into obsessing about their appearance, bullying or being bullied is a way of life for them, drugs are freely available to them, there are very few affordable leisure facilities designed for them and if they hang out with their friends they are perceived as a threat.
And in spite of all that, the majority of them are good-humoured, polite, optimistic and good company, which is more than can be said for most adults.
"Johncb": So what are teenagers for? (We know what they are against: most things.) Historically, cannon-fodder. Latterly a target market for businesses. Looking forward: a generation which will one day pay the taxes to keep our hospitals open, and provide the labour to staff them.
The teenage years represent a transient yet highly unstable state; a rite of passage (witness the ghastly "prom night" phenomenon) and a reason to have extra settings on your washing machine and hoover.
And one of the reasons they are there is to give the rest of us, through the media, a sense of reassurance that if our values are worth kicking against then they may be worth retaining.
"Olgathefox": Of course teenagers deserve their bad press. How else would the "not like that in my day brigade" justify their cynicism, their blinkered self-justification or their total inability to get off their own backsides?
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Next week: Will the Olympics be good for school sport? Daley Thompson takes on journalist Mick Dennis. Join the debate at www.tes.co.uk pound;30 for the best comments, to be printed in The TES