Wipe that misty-eyed look off your Facebook

12th August 2011 at 01:00

A reliable harbinger now exists for the beginning of the school summer holidays. It is that MasterCard ad showing teachers boisterously fleeing school premises en masse, to the accompaniment of Alice Cooper's fantastic 1972 hit School's Out.

In his day, Alice Cooper was an enfant terrible of rock, yet there is something sweetly nostalgic about School's Out. Sure, he's singing it for the kids, but he's also singing it for all the adults who remember that heady beginning-of-summer feeling.

School's Out also taps - like countless songs, books, films, and even themed nightclubs - into a popular adult fantasy: the desire to return to school.

Of course, nobody wants to return as the hapless 15-year-old they were. When people indulge this fantasy, they invariably return themselves to class as an outwardly teenage version of the savvier adult they are now.

One must be careful what one wishes for. Dazed by the aroma of chalk dust, adults overlook a crucial consideration - today's teenagers face trials unimagined when we left school for the last time.

Remember that excruciating crush you had at school where you agonised constantly about what they were doing at any given second? With Facebook and other social networks, teenagers have a real-time window into each other's lives. Every time someone writes on their object of affection's wall "u r well fit, babes", they can see it.

I recently found a girl on the verge of hysteria wandering the corridors. Once I had calmed her down enough to speak, she wailed: "Boy X has un-friended me!" and then completely unravelled like some kind of cyber-Hamlet.

A good friend says the worst thing that ever happened to him while at school was that he got completely trollied on Diamond White at a party, passed out and wet himself. The result was he spent his sixth-form years in a social wilderness. Fortunately, he studied hard and got into Cambridge, where no one knew his "Piss Pants" reputation. If that happened now, it would be recorded on a mobile phone and on YouTube within 20 seconds.

Remember the days you were so hormonal and horny it virtually oozed from your every pore? Teenagers now have hardcore porn on tap if they want it. This does them as much good as showing hungry people video of someone eating a banquet.

My dad recently looked up from the paper he was reading and said in disbelief: "This girl got five As for A-level and Oxbridge rejected her. What do they want? Blood?" The stories my own parents tell me about walking out of school and into a job at Sony Recordsthe BBCBank of England sound as quaint as they are unfair. It's even worse for today's teenagers, who face an ever-shrinking job market, crippling university fees and monstrous inflation on everything. The rallying cry of "School's Out" will bring, for a lot of teenagers, not joy or celebration but real fear and uncertainty.

Chloe Combi teaches at a comprehensive in London.

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