The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

English Youth Today

Category: Land + People

By the standards of today’s English youth, to marry at twenty-two is already dangerously late. Marrying so young, having their babies right away, England’s youth are themselves parents with parential problems, often before they reach the age of twenty.

Painfully conditioned by mass advertising, pop records, and the H-bomb, some young people try to use their charms instead of their brains. The current dream amongst the undergraduate intelligentsia is an ivory tower on a small croft in the remotest Hebridean island. (If they ever actually got there they would find, in cold fact, no ivory tower but a hard-working day-school, for the educational drive in the Hebrides is of such earnestness and intensity that their principal product today is not even Harris tweed but top-grade teachers and doctors.)

The solid group of English students try not to think about anything else but the banker’s draft or a good science degree to be cashed in terms of a nice little wife and a nice little family, a comfortable house, asmart car, and a snug respected position in the world. Of the others, there are a few idealists working themselves into shadows and there are also a few layabouts.

Then there are the not-brainies who dress lavishly, fling their money about, tend to be brash, unmannerly, antiadult and fashionable on the fringe of delinquency. Cheeking the cops as a teenager can and sometimes does progress into knocking old women shop-keepers on the head and stealing the till and even armed bank robberies. Young people mixed up in such crimes, conscious of press headlines and the support and moral approval of their teenager friends, have no sense of wrong-doing, but rather a sense of heroism at having revenged themselves on society.

It must be said that their speech, their songs, and most of what they eat and drink come to them second-hand from America together with the crime magazines and crime comics and crime films which are their only ‘point of contact with the arts. Of good American things they are absolutely ignorant.

It is vital that the labour movement does more to involve young people in the struggle for higher living standards and democratic advance. In particular, young workers should be encouraged to set up committees and organise conferences  to consider their own particular problems.

Young people suffer from the attempts to resolve the crisis at the people’s expense in a number of ways. They are hit by unemployment as youngsters cannot find skilled work in an ailing economy. Today economic questions are increasingly becoming political, a question of peoples’ rights. Recently the YCL launched a campaign for a Youth Charter of Democracy. The Young Communists propose action on three main areas of this attack:

1. Against the menace of racism and the fascist groups, particularly the National Front.”

2. Against police harassment of young people and for a curtailment of police authority.

3. To extend the democratic rights of speech, assembly, to strike and to organise — including in the armed forces.

A broad youth campaign, involving many shades of political opinion can be developed around the Charter.

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