Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Growing Pains

So young people are the government's easy targets again today. Last week we heard that young people aged 16 would be "offered" the first wave of non-compulsary identity cards which they could opt to take - especially if they want a student loan or other key services like a bank account.

Today we heard the suggestion that 16 year olds will be taking part in citizenship ceremonies and swearing allegiance to Queen and country. Now I'm not unpatriotic or a republican (I think the queen is a great lady and the words President Thatcher still haunt me!) but I know there are people who are and there are young people who are, too. I also know peer pressure is still a big issue for some aged 16 and taking a stand could be difficult for many. I've been to a citizenship ceremony with my American (now Anglo-American) friend and the patriotism is fairly red white and blue. I suppose it wouldn't be anything too shocking to the baby boomers or anyone who did national service but I think it's fair more flag waving than most 16 year olds are use to - except in their viewing of American teen dramas!

It's not the nationalism that's really the issue for me but the way these things have been focussed on 16 year olds.

Does anyone else feel concerned that the country is targetting these big changes at a group that are not yet given full rights as adults?

A group who are not able to vote against such things? The NUS has stood out against it - will other adults join them?

I work with a lot of 16 and 17 year olds and the issue of not yet being full adults is always a tricky one. Often young people are respoponsible enough to take on adult roles but have not yet been on the planet long enough. Others do exhibit an eagerness to take on responsibilities though not always the maturity to handle the full implications. There's a fine balancing act between enabling, supporting and standing back with 16/17 year olds. They're not yet adults and they're not yet legally responsible but they want resonsibility some of the time and we need to give them the chance to try it on and the opportunity to break out and be teenagers when they don't. To put these new initiatives on their shoulders as a trial run for adults simply isn't fair.

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