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Social Affairs: Overloaded Snowflakes or Overstressed School Students?

There is an unfortunate and slightly unfair mainstream media depiction of today’s students, whether at university or school. Derided as ‘snowflakes’ because of the way some young people apparently react to any kind of stressful or adverse situation, this criticism doesn’t take into account some of the things young people have to face in today’s world, things that might not have been around years ago. Some of the critics are in their forties or even older and have possibly forgotten their own teenage years but even they, now and again, would have faced a problem of some kind when they were young. They might even be parents themselves now and just as their parents did, often wonder how the teenage mind works.

It works in the same way as it always has and as it did years ago – most teenagers don’t change that much from generation to generation and we all go through the same changes as we get older (apart from the obvious of getting bigger). All that has changed is what is around us.

Another aspect to coverage of the young often seen in mainstream media are comments on the subject of allowing the young to be young and letting people grow up in their own time and in their own way – so why do we insist on doing one thing that hasn’t changed over decades and setting school kids homework? And in some cases, as you go through the school years, from year seven at the age of just eleven, the first year of secondary school and then up to year eleven and aged fifteen, the amount of homework gets much greater, to the point where many kids in their mid-teens do nothing except go to school then go home and carry on doing what they do at school.

What happened to the ‘let kids be kids’ point of view? Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways – you either want to let the young be young or you want them to grow up fast and do what adults do when they leave education and go into the world of work and earn a living. In other words, adults want kids to be mini-adults.

This is the point; we spend such a small part of our lives as young people and once it is gone, it is gone for good. I’m sixteen now so I will never be fifteen again, and although I’m still in education, once I get to working age and get a job - if I can find one - I will never be a schoolboy again either. I can reasonably expect to live for another seventy years or more; seven decades takes me up to the age of eighty-six and I can’t imagine me at that age (when I was ten I couldn’t imagine being sixteen but that’s another story altogether).

Learning never stops, or at least it shouldn’t, and goes on all the time, no matter how old you are. I get a lot of help from my colleagues at KJM Today writing my articles – I’m very grateful for it and I’m learning every time I write one. One of those lessons is that there is a difference between writing this and tweeting – which is why my tweets are very different from what you read here. Tweeting takes seconds and is sometimes done as an instant reaction to what I read from others but writing for KJM Today means that I have to spend time looking something up and researching it before actually writing and submitting an article. And I have to do it at home. So what’s the difference between that and homework set by school?

For one thing, I’m not being threatened with detention if I don’t do it. That’s one of the things I don’t miss about school; the tension that can arise as a result of being pressured into doing something for school, that, in my opinion obviously, I should do at school, not at home.

‘Ah yes, but…’, many people will say. ‘Wait until you find yourself working full time and have to deal with the pressure of work!’

I’m okay with that – I’ll be an adult and I know that as I move on in a career I might find that I have to work harder and go an extra mile to get something done. Actually I get a little of that pressure now, at least to a small degree, from my editor at KJM. There are deadlines that apply so I have to complete my submissions to meet them. But the difference is that I’m not a school kid anymore – that’s the point. We aren’t letting kids be kids.

At school, by the time of year eleven, I used to do four hours a day, maybe more, just dealing with homework and it got even worse when it came to exams. I understand that, since exams are supposed to be the end result of the years you spend at school but that doesn’t change the view I have – as a young boy (and it applies to girls as well) there is too much pressure placed on school kids to do work at home, work that should be done at school.

If we are to let young people grow at their own pace and in their own way, we need to change the way we do things while kids are at school and lessen the pressure they are under now. That means letting kids go home and do things that are not directly related to school. Older people sometimes talk about their days at school and how they used to go out and play football or climb trees or other activities, none of which had anything to do with their school work. Yes, they still got homework but did they get so much of it? I’m not sure they did.

Yes, as we get older, the amount of work we have to do gets greater and yes, the pressure grows too. But as young adults we can deal with that, or learn how to – when we get old enough. Preparing young people for that is not helped by overloading school-age kids with homework and it is why I believe homework for school-age children should be banned.

Since I have been at college, although I still get homework, I have noticed that it is much less stressful all round and they give you the support you need to achieve what you want. Put another way, the element of compulsion is not there.

The choice is simple – either let kids be kids or create small adults. A lot is made of work/life balance today so why is that not applied to kids? If you complain about the time you spend at work, or the time it takes to get to work and home again, if you moan about the amount of work you have then think about how we are putting the same, or similar, pressure on kids at school.

So make your choice. If you choose to create small adults, then don’t complain if kids behave in a way you don’t approve of.

What would you prefer?

© Lee Sibley 2018

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