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Behaviour of Young Gets Worse


David Adams • Irish Times, 27 May 2005

Despite many "leading experts" holding a contrary view, I remain convinced that, nowadays, general standards of behaviour among young people are far worse than when I was young. (By experts, I mean those academic types who pop up regularly on television and radio or write long dissertations in the Sunday newspapers.)

I suppose it is possible that I'm just getting older (52) and beginning to hark back to a golden age that never existed. Admittedly, of late, there have been signs of my changing with age.

I've been getting out of bed progressively earlier in the mornings, to the point where I now rise at the crack of dawn; I have taken a keen interest in gardening, which previously I hated; and the other weekend I actually enjoyed painting the garden shed so much that I gave it three coats where two would have done.

But, then again, I'm no grumpier than ever I was and no less tolerant. I'm still very much of a "as long as it's legal and doesn't interfere with me or mine" disposition where other people's predilections, pastimes and beliefs are concerned.

So, all things considered, if anything I seem to be mellowing with age. Yet, if it isn't advanced years that has me disagreeing fundamentally with expert people who try to tell us that, according to all research into the subject, standards of behaviour among young people nowadays are essentially no different to what they have always been, then what can it be?

Is it because when I was young we didn't stone ambulances, fire engines and police cars, as seems to be an increasingly popular pastime in various parts of Northern Ireland today. Much less start a fire to lure officers into an area and then, when they arrive, try to cave in a firefighter's head with a boulder, as happened in Belfast last week.

Nor, as far as I can recall, did gangs of us terrorise entire communities to the extent that people were afraid to venture beyond their front door after dark. And, again, only in recent years does it seem that nurses and doctors in accident and emergency departments would benefit from a crash course in riot control before taking up their posts.

Nor can we fall back, as we usually do, on the default position of blaming all our societal problems on being a hangover from the Troubles. Things are every bit as bad, and in some instances worse, in the rest of Ireland and in Britain.

Maybe all of this was going on while I was growing up and, with relatively few media outlets then, we just weren't made aware of it.

Though if that is the case, then everyone I know must have been raised in similar splendid isolation from the rest of the world.

I listened to a radio discussion recently, where a professor of something-or-other, a schoolteacher, a community worker and a conservative-type debated the issue.

Citing enough statistics and research findings to choke a donkey, the professor argued, somewhat amazingly, that in many respects children and young people are actually better behaved now than in the past.

The community worker and teacher immediately agreed with him and weighed in with a few suggestions and comments of their own: lack of recreation facilities, media exaggeration, adults not treating young people with enough respect, and so on.

The fourth panellist disagreed with them all, and, considering he was on the wrong side of a three-against-one debate, for a while was doing quite well. That is until he mentioned a steady decline in the traditional two-parent family unit as possibly contributing to a fall in behavioural standards.

From that point the main focus of the discussion was irretrievably lost as he came under sustained attack from the others for daring to "criticise single mothers who are doing their best". In fact he had criticised no one, though if he had been allowed to develop his point, he might well have gone on to denounce the absent, almost invariably male, parents.

What he had done was raise one of the great taboo subjects: single-parenting and the possible impact it has on wider society. Unpalatable or not, the man on the radio might just have had a point.

For all their quoting of facts, figures and research, seldom, if ever, have I heard any of our experts refer to the findings of separate research projects carried out by members of the West Indian community in London, and by African-Americans in New York and Chicago.

In all of these they concluded that the single most destabilising factor within their communities was the high number of children, particularly young males, being raised in the absence of positive, male role-models at home.

It's high time a similar process of critical self-appraisal was applied to wider society, irrespective of what the "experts" think, or what we might find. Until we are willing to acknowledge that a problem exists and are prepared to consider all the reasons possible for it, it is guaranteed that things can only get progressively worse.

Reprinted with permission from the author.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

31 May 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Justice is the Right of All Our Victims
Gemma McCartney

Quis Separabit? The Short Strand/Markets UDA
Anthony McIntyre

Civil Law as an Instrument of Resistance
Peter Mason

A Salute to Comrades
Dolours Price

Behaviour of Young Gets Worse
David Adams

Recognising Similarities, Delivering for the People
Mick Hall

One Republican Party
Dr John Coulter

Venezuela: A Common Brotherhood
Tomas Gorman

May Day versus Loyalty Day
Mary La Rosa

One Eyed Morality
Anthony McIntyre

Lying in Wait for the Dutch Tsunami…After the French Earthquake

Michael Youlton

22 May 2005

How Those In Power Respond
Anthony McIntyre

Seeking Clarity — And Safety
Justice for Jimmy Campaign

Behind the Betrayal
Philip Ferguson

Self-Deception and Distortion
Tomas Maguire

Civil Case/Witch Hunt
N. Corey

No Entry
Anthony McIntyre

The Moral Reason Never to Tell
Dr John Coulter

Venezuela: Beginning to Borrow Some Revolution
Tomas Gorman

Dangerous Drugs
Sean Fleming

Rebel City
Liam O Ruairc



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