You might be a teacher, youthworker, parent, social worker or health care professional, youth minister, volunteer, scout leader or researcher – and if you were asked the question what would your dream be for young people in the UK? what would your answer be?
History tells us a number of things about how the UK has traditionally viewed young people. Since working in the factories, education became about being job ready. Activities such as sunday schools were about keeping young people busy on their day off from the factory. Other education was only for those who could pay for it. Voluntary organisations like Brigades helped to train young people for the war effort. Young people who didnt go to youth clubs created moral panics in the 1950’s fuelled by the media, and aided by a population boom. And everything that goes on today for young people, whether educative, preventative or interventionalist has part of its roots in some of these traditions. Society has created a world in which young people are largely feared, misunderstood and seen as separate from.
So it would be living in a dream world to try and start again- but if you could what would your dream be for young people?
You might dream that they are safe, that they can get a job, that they succeed, that they are healthy, and they thrive and these are all worthy and understandable. But if i were to have a dream for young people it would be this;
I would dream that young peoples flourishing is not subject to efficiency savings in the structures that are there to educate, support and enable them to think, play and grow. That children and young people are educated in schools in which creativity and inclusion is targetted, and that there are no targets that imply failure for teachers, governors or local authorities. Where young people have opportunities for creative learning involving music, arts, drama, dance, to learn in a way that readies them for adaptability in their lives beyond that includes further learning, and the pursuit of their dreams, and not held back by their postcode or their upbringing which is not their fault. I dream that the data of them does not define them. I dream that schools who educate them are not in competition to succeed, but only to succeed in the ways that provide breadth of learning, opportunities for participation, for leadership and skill development and not just academia.
I dream that young people are not treated solely as an economic prospect, where their education is not job readiness, and any additional programmes for them does not solely revolve around enabling this. That young people have the capacity to be able to learn and be educated according to their capacities and development and not be regarded as deficient because of their background, such as being a young carer, or in care. I dream that the wastage of the gifts that young people have, from generosity, hospitality, artistry, entrepreneurship, performance and academic is not continued in order that all have the capacity to contribute and be valued.
I dream that young people can grow up in a world where theyre not scapegoated, misinformed, judged for being quiet, loud, on the streets, inside, too successful, not successful enough, lazy, bored, wearing the wrong clothes, threatening others just by standing still, by being on their own, or in groups, by being in public or by being in shops, where they grow up unafraid of adults, and adults not afraid of them. That they are viewed as not problems in society or anti social, but that society takes responsibility for its young people through conversations, understanding and forming meaningful connections between adults and young people. That young people dont grow up in a society where adults value stuff, buildings and shops more that people, and that spaces can be transformed by the energy and music of young people. That young people and their ball games are not restricted to X-boxes and Fifa. I dream that young people in the UK are never regarded as outside society, as disengaged, or deficient of anything, and if so they are not to be found at fault for this, it is that society has let them down. Dreaming that young people are always participants in society, and their place is found, accepted and that they are given chances, second and third chances to find their space and be creative within it.
I dream that young people will not need to be on Mental health waiting lists. Not because there are more mental health professionals, but that aspects of society that are causing these are reduced, exam stress is reduced, where the pressure to be anything other than they are is challenged and rejected by young people, because they have been given the skills and wisdom to do so. I dream that young people grow up to challenge inequalities, to challenge the status quo and not be content with the contentment given by things or stuff, but to find contentment in what they give, how they help others and being valuable to others.
At the risk of sounding like someone who is hankering after the good old days, im not, because young people should be viewed differently to the hand that history has played in that, but at the risk of sounding like Martin Luther king, or the youthworker political broadcast or Manifesto ill shut up.
But what would your dream for young people be?