Thinking the worst of young people: an age-old problem...
Racism and Sexism. If you asked me, I’d name those two as the highest profile social issues in today’s society. However, as all teenagers I expect are aware, and as was demonstrated to me recently, they are by no means the only prejudices of modern life. Take age discrimination. This isn’t an issue which is viewed as significant, or condemned as harshly as other social transgressions. Perhaps this is because people don’t consider it serious enough to concern themselves about, or perhaps because they don’t believe it really exists as they have not personally encountered it. This is anything but true. Most teenagers have at some time, in one form or another, come into contact with biased attitudes associated with a stereotype of modern teenagers. There are people who subscribe to a myth that all modern teenagers are poorly educated, lazy, misbehaved, or lacking in a sense of community, responsibility, or respect for the law. Moreover, they assume we lack respect
for ourselves. This can lead to difficult occurrences for teenagers to contend with in everyday life. Recently, I encountered such an incident. Inside a store, in full view of the proprietors, not five feet away from them, in fact, I was taking a moment to mull over a purchase, as is my inalienable right as a citizen. Alright, so buying a Sharpie may not have required quite as much intense thought as I chose to give it, but that’s besides the point. Having placed the Sharpie back on the shelf, I opened my bag to find an extra quid to pay for it. At this point, a staff member approached me to ask if I required any assistance. Assuming that they were only trying to be helpful, I replied that I did not. They then proceeded to ask what I was looking for. In response I
informed them I was attempting to locate my purse in my schoolbag (no mean feat what with the amount of miscellaneous papers in there - ah, the plight of a drama student!). This was when I, an innocent party, heard from an adult stranger these words: “You’re behaving rather strangely. You look as if you’re shoplifting.” That’s right; I was accused, outright, to my face. I couldn’t believe it either -which is perhaps why I couldn’t conjure up a witty retort at the time. It is in no way acceptable to make such allegations to any person, regardless of their age, gender, race or any other factor, when not a bit of evidence could be found to support the assumption of a crime. To make a verbal accusation in a public place is not only morally unfair, but potentially incredibly damaging. Consider this: I am at an age at which I could do with a wage of my own, and am therefore looking out for Saturday jobs. What if, by an unfortunate coincidence, a potential employer had walked into the same business place and overheard this entire exchange? To them, it wouldn’t matter if the supposed theft could be proven or not. What’s said is said. Aspersions have been cast. A reputation is irreversibly tarnished, making the individual in question a less desirable employee. If an acquaintance of my own age had been in the vicinity and borne witness to the conversation, they may, without harmful intentions, have repeated it to a friend. The gossip process begins, and within three days most of the year has heard it. I’m not suggesting anyone would care in the slightest, but once it’s out there, it’s out there, and the kind of things that people remember can be surprising. I think it’s interesting that a real, current and commonplace issue such as age discrimination and particularly teenage stereotypes is not treated as significant, or something that needs tackling. Yes, people steal. And yes, some of those people are teenagers. But does that make it acceptable to accuse any innocent person of committing an illegality, without justification? May the record show that neither I nor, I am certain, any of my close friends, have ever stolen so much as a paperclip. Personally, I believe society needs to rethink its attitude towards teenagers. We’re not all criminal lowlifes, you know.
Article by Olivia Foskett Year 11
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