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09 May 2022

Pastoral Blog: the snowflake generation?

Pastoral Blog: the snowflake generation?

It has now become a lazy shortcut to describe today’s young people in less than flattering terms. The term “snowflake generation” has now entered the Collins Dictionary, and young people are often all lumped together by uninspired writers into this one category. Is this description really fair though?

One accusation which is often levelled against the young is that they are no longer able to take part in robust debate, and that they require “safe spaces” to ensure that they can remain in their echo chambers and not have to listen to any opinion which opposes theirs. However, this increased sensitivity can be reframed. In my twenty years of teaching, I have never seen so many young people willing to stand up for the rights of others than I see today.

When I was at school myself, it was common for young people to be teased by their peers for things such as national origin (in my racially homogenous rural Scottish school, this took the form of “Scotsman, Englishman and Irishman” jokes), body shape (with “fatty” and “bony” both being liberally used), stature and hair (I was “shorty”, one of my classmates was “ginger”). It was all seen as a rite of passage. Nowadays, any such comments would be seen as unacceptable, not just by teachers, but also by peers. Heterosexual students stick up for those who are LGBT+, students of all races got behind the Black Lives Matter movement, and many young men are proud to be feminist. Today’s young people are courageous and vocal, and not afraid to speak their mind. More than this, they are prepared to speak out on behalf of others in a way which I did not encounter in my earlier days of teaching.

Schools and colleges are filled with young people who are willing to stand up for what is right. As an example, one of our Year 13 students, Avesta, only yesterday stood for election as a Local Councillor for the Labour Party in Ealing. Avesta, while unfortunately not being elected, achieved an impressive 1154 votes. He has a clear sense of civic responsibility, and he already holds the offices of LGBTQ+ Officer and IT Officer for the Ealing Central & Acton Labour Party, and the Membership Secretary for the Hanger Hill ward, as well as being the the Founder and (Interim) Chair of London's rapidly growing Scientists for Labour Branch. Avesta, who also holds an offer from UCL to study Physics, is definitely not a snowflake!

We need to move beyond lazy stereotypes and see young people as individuals in the same way that we would like ourselves to be seen. For some reason, it still seems to be acceptable to be critical of the young as a group in a way that we wouldn’t do with other groups of people.

I have unfortunately been unable to catch up with Avesta after his late night at the count last night, but an interview with him is coming soon!

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