Young People, Behaviour and Social Responsibility

November 23, 2009 at 5:25 pm 1 comment

By Anthea Hollist

“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words” – Hesiod

I attended the Westminster Education Forum and Westminster Legal Policy Forum Keynote Seminar: Young People, Behaviour and Social Responsibility last week, and this was the quote used to set the scene for the event. The quote was used to highlight that anti-social behaviour was not a new problem and had been in existence for many centuries, however the difference is that now we have a 24 hour media.

The media throughout the seminar was ‘blamed’ for portraying an inaccurate depiction of anti-social behaviour which has led to all youth in hoodies/ in groups being viewed as deviants, to anti-social behaviour being more violent and therefore different from anything that appeared before, and to placing the solution into the hands of the government. However Rt Keith Vaz stated that the solution to anti-social behaviour is not with the government but with local authorities who must and should have the power and resources to deal with anti-social behaviour in their area, as anti-social behaviour happens at a local level. In addition he explained that the media’s focus and stake in the issue of anti-social behaviour was gruesomeness (therefore selling papers). But the real question should be to ask why? Victims (and I would add perpetrators) of crime must be at the heart of solving this problem. What we need is to ask why young people carry knifes. Most often it is for fear. Fear, however is not something the government can legislate against, what is needed is a solution to solve their fear.

Indeed to understand anti-social behaviour most of us would agree that we need to hear from those students or young people who engage in it. We would want to hear from these individuals and ask them why they do what they do and what it would take to make them stop. We would want to uncover their background and hear their stories. This according to one speaker Professor Dennis Hayes (University of Derby) is an ‘abdication of adult authority’. According to him, we do not need to hear from the victims, it is not for us to listen to their qualms and stories, what victims need is therapy.  What, he declared, was important is knowledge- adult knowledge. Young people- students are therefore exempt from having knowledge due to their age and congruent lack of life experience. While I do agree that there are people in authority without real power I do not agree with this line of reasoning. I do not believe that ‘we’ adults are privileged or suitable to solve this solution by ourselves due to our chronological age. I believe that understanding of anti-social behaviour and the relevant solution can only be understood by listening to those who ‘living in’ the situation.  Students and young people are stakeholder because they are the ones who must live in the decisions that local authorities, MPs and parents make. This however does not mean that we are abdicating our knowledge in favour of young people, what it means is that we are gaining insight from those who understand what it means to be a student or young person now, those who are living with the current laws and guidelines. Only then when we have that basic knowledge can we applied our ‘adult knowledge’ and develop a solution.  

Well that’s my opinion…


Entry filed under: Education & Children's Services.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Claire McEneaney  |  November 24, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Anthea – I couldn’t agree more! How ridiculous to think that the older we get the more we know about the situations that young people are in?! I would say that the older we get the less we understand! How about having some young people actually REALLY informing and changing policy around anti-social behaviour? At the moment, their involvement seems a little token and without, like you say, any real power to enact change.


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