A lost generation

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In a decade New York Magazine has called one for “counter-intuitive thought”, a Yougov poll published yesterday seems to refute perceived wisdom about the younger generation.


The survey of 3,994 16-25-year-olds found – in contrast to the view that young people aren’t “bovvered” – that 64 per cent intended to vote in the next election or when they were eligible, considerably higher than the national turnout in 2005.


Rather than voting on age or personality, 73 per cent planned to vote after considering a political party’s position. International problems were identified as the most important issue by 35 per cent of respondents, while a quarter chose local issues and 22 per cent cited national problems.

Another area investigated was the teaching of politics and current affairs at high school. When asked, 43 per cent of respondents said that teaching of politics and current affairs in their school was inadequate.

The Head of English at a North West secondary school commented: “The overcrowded curriculum and the politician’s current drive for academic success inevitably leaves little room for classroom debate, however important this is for the social functions of future generations.”


Despite huge increases in spending on education, it appears emphasis is placed on the wrong things. Would the reduction of bureaucracy promised if the Conservatives win the next election give teachers back the discretion needed to teach for life, not just for tests?

With BBC3 the most popular publicly-funded channel among young people, should more resources be concentrated on programmes that educate rather than on shows like the purile Dance Like Michael Jackson? Veteran BBC journalist John Humphreys supports the axing of BBC3 because it is not performing the broadcaster’s core functions.

In a bid to make politics and parliament accessible to the young, the Hansard Society lead by John Bercow has launched an outreach programme to schools. Can politicians inspire support in an institution that has lost so much credibility, or is electoral reform, a fairer system, the only way to engage disenchanted and new voters?

Half of those questioned thought more should be taught about personal finance, while 36 per cent wanted more education on the economy. After the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, we should be glad those who will be supporting the “time bomb” of an ageing population want to avert future catastrophes.

The UK is just seven per cent short of New Labour’s target of 50 per cent of young people attending university, but with unemployment of 16-25-year-olds at nearly 1million, the messages are increasingly confusing.

Although this is a year where professions from social work to sports have been embroiled in scandal, the young still need guidance to help them to become responsible, hardworking citizens.


There is certainly the desire for it, but will someone put their head above the parapet – policy makers, broadcasters or teachers – before today’s young people become the “lost generation” of a decade the United States are calling the “Oughties”- we oughta have seen this coming?

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