Honey, I Shrunk The Kids

remakes-Honey-I-Shrunk-The-Kids-590x350No age group has more to gain – or lose – from the forthcoming referendum than the 16 and 17 year-olds who will be voting for the first time. So why are we ignoring them?

As the parent of a young teen who will be able to vote for the first time in the 2014 referendum, I am deeply concerned at the lack of engagement with this generation which, as polls indicate, is the age group most likely to vote “No”.

What is the reason for that?

Could it be that these teenage voters (and I specifically mean the youngsters who will be 16/17 in September) actually feel alienated / excluded from the debate?

Are we leaving them behind when they should be right out there in front?

I have searched online in vain for events / clubs /organisations catering to that age group on this issue.

Fair enough: there is a “Youth and Students” branch of Yes. But lumping high-school kids, young apprentices and unemployed school-leavers in with university students just won’t wash. There may well be exceptions, but many of them would probably find it quite intimidating to turn up at some uni event. Uni is an entirely different planet, even for the “academic types”, let alone for those who are now stacking shelves in your local supermarket or learning to change the tyres on your car, or just lining up at the job centre.

So where can they get information? It’s almost as though we’re telling them “here’s yer vote… now off you go, shut up and let the adults discuss these matters”

Surely this makes them feel ignored, or not taken seriously, or quite simply all at sea about what on earth they’re supposed to do with this unprecedented opportunity. So, of course, cast adrift like this, we should not be at all surprised if they cling to what is familiar, and choose to keep the status quo, no matter how grim.

Yet there is no age group that should be taken more seriously. After all, statistically at least, they are the ones who will have to live with the result of the referendum longer than any of the rest of us. Their voice is absolutely crucial.

We’re letting them down. Badly.

Where are the debates? Where are the information evenings? Where are the lunchtime clubs? Where are the drop-in information points? Is it possible that schools and organisations are reluctant to address this age group directly for fear of being accused of “indoctrinating” or “exploiting” them?

Ironically, they, more than any other generation, may well be the ones best able to discern between propaganda and fact – thanks to the strong focus the SQA curriculum has placed on critical thinking skills, source evaluation and philosophical enquiry in recent years. Yet we’re letting them down terribly by failing to give them credit for that ability, by failing to allow them to use those skills, and by undermining their confidence in the role they can, should, and must play.

While they may possess the analytical skills – they are still at an age where they might need some pointers towards finding the sources to analyse in the first place, and they also need the reassurance/confirmation that they are considered capable of making that analysis. They also need a strong reminder that all sources are “biased”. Nobody’s helping them by planting them down in front of the TV for the evening “news” and hoping for the best. That is not only patronising and dismissive – it could well end in tears.

There’s huge potential in that age group to come to a genuinely informed decision that could radically change their own future – but we just aren’t supporting them.

Parents fret endlessly over which university, which college, which apprenticeship, which job, what kind of accommodation, how to budget etc. once their kids are ready to fly the nest, discussing all these issues at length and in detail… as indeed they should.

And yet here we are, nonchalantly casting them adrift with the massive responsibility of a vote that will shape their future in far bigger ways for years to come, and wondering why they balk at the opportunity and cling to the status quo.

They need more opportunity for participation in the debate.

I would like to see a major drive in organising debates and information sessions specifically aimed at highschool pupils and young school-leavers.

I would like to see them given the recognition they deserve as, arguably, the most important voting group of all.

I would like to see them given the support they need to fulfil their undeniably huge potential.

Right now, many kids in this age group are heading into a stressful time of prelims and exams. But summer is coming, so there is still plenty time to come up with ways of engaging them over the holiday period, and at the start of the new term.

However they end up voting – they deserve to be taken seriously.

Thanks to Ishbel for this article on this issue, and we couldn’t agree with you more. Here’s Saffron Dickson leading the way for Scotland’s young people:

Comments (23)

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  1. mogabee says:

    There is a problem with debates for young people, indeed for all age groups, because there is no-one willing or able to debate Independence from the pro-UK side.

    Without them debates are stifled, as seen in various “uproars” recently when YES campaigners are denied space to leaflet because there are no pro-UK activists for “balance”. Even trying to contact someone from the NO’s is difficult as they do not return calls, emails etc.

    I do not know how to resolve this issue.

    1. Ishbel says:

      Good question m., I’ve noticed that too. But perhaps within schools (given the age group I was thinking of here) it might be possible to organise debates hosted entirely by the pupils themselves without necessarily requiring the input of (official) campaigners from either side. Such a discussion alone would surely be a step in the right direction. But even that doesn’t seem to be happening. Are schools afraid of touching the topic?

    2. SquareHaggis says:

      Y in The Park would probably do it.

      1. Ishbel says:

        Nice one!

  2. Graeme West says:

    “I have searched online in vain for events / clubs /organisations catering to that age group on this issue.

    Fair enough: there is a “Youth and Students” branch of Yes. But lumping high-school kids, young apprentices and unemployed school-leavers in with university students just won’t wash. There may well be exceptions, but many of them would probably find it quite intimidating to turn up at some uni event. ”

    Not that I would know, or anything, but this may change quite soon… 😉

    1. Ishbel says:

      Well, that last sentence is a comforting thought, Graeme. I’ll keep it with mine… 😉

  3. andygm1 says:

    Something to think about is that teenagers are pretty conservative. They are still living at home, going though a stressful period in their lives (hormones, exams, boys/girls) and inclined to value structure, security and stability. This makes them naturally tend towards the status quo and this is seen in the debates which are taking place in schools where, whatever the final outcome, the initial vote is always strongly in favour of No.

    If they are left to their own devices that will suit Better Together nicely.

    1. Ishbel says:

      “If they are left to their own devices…” Yes, that’s certainly one of the problems. And, of course they do have other distractions, as you describe. But we owe them them the effort.

    2. Gordon says:

      These young people have only consciously been aware of less than 10 years of the status quo. The surest compass to show them where to go is the past under Westminster rule, which we more mature citizens remember well.
      In our youth, we were subjected to low living standards, the trashing of our industry and the need to emigrate to London, Canada or America in order to earn enough to keep a roof over our heads and raise a family in decent conditions. Those that left were the cream, the tertiary educated, the highly skilled and the ambitious. Stolen from Scotland were the very people who could have been an economic advantage to us. Instead, they gave their talents to other places.
      The surest course is to avoid the status quo. It is likely to stay the same (or get worse).

      1. Ishbel says:

        Gordon, you say “The surest compass to show them where to go is the past under Westminster rule, which we more mature citizens remember well.” That’s true. But the old “I remember when…” line tends to elicit only yawns. Or maybe it’s just the way I tell ‘em 🙁

        You’re right, though, that there was a real brain-drain / skills-drain in the past… and we really do want to be able to build a society in which the brightest and the best will be motivated to stay and contribute. They need to know that they themselves can build that society. And that we trust them to do it.

  4. ianfoulds says:

    At present this appears a serious oversight in our campaign, as it is imperative this new generation with such vibrant potential to take control of their future and the way their Country is to be run for the benefit of its people are given the opportunity to understand the truth and and make a balanced judgement and vote accordingly.

    I hope all the intelligent and committed adults interested in this issue, can get together and set-up briefing/discussion centres.

    Before anyone says why am I not doing something – I work overseas!

    1. Ishbel says:

      I hope so too, ian. But even if all they do is broach the issue with their kids at the kitchen table, and take their views seriously, and discuss them openly, it’s already a step in the right direction.

  5. bringiton says:

    Teenagers,in fact anyone looking for information,could start by reading Scotland’s Future and then refer to information supplied by the UK government (they have issued a number of white papers on the subject).
    Anyone who expects an even handed debate from our so called Scottish media is going to be disappointed.
    The printed matter from both governments should form the basis for any debate.

    1. Ishbel says:

      Agree: read both sides. Weigh it up. Not all teens currently in the midst of their standard grades / highers will right now have time to fully digest the gov info you suggest, but browsing different news sites with opposing views would already be a good start.

  6. Great to have a focus on this, and the conservatism of teenagers is in deed true although it is sometimes in the most unilkely places ie among the stroppier ones and those disengaged from education and the ‘system’ that you find some space for creative thought. I realise I am sounding dreadfully patronising so I do apologise to teenages reading this – please shoot back at me…School has a lot to answer for in ‘tunneling’ teenagers into compliance. Teenagers are also highly delineated by their cliques and group identities – if someone’s cool in one group everyone wants their approval and will do as they say (vote even as they say maybe) to mirror the status of the top dog- however ‘leader’ teenagers in this sort of scenario are not always benevolent to the outgroups or others that dont come up to scratch in looks, sporting prowess or intelligence… My experience as a youth worker in school was that although all the skills of the capitalist system (young enterprise in particular) were to the fore including perpetuating the idea that having charity as a legitimate way to fund the needy through bake sales and raffles, completely blanked fundamental issues about why we nave charities in the first place. There appeared to be no meaningful ‘education’ on how if you could, if you might want to,change the world like get on your local community council even… other than through a jumble sale. But to try and look at solutions, i am guessing that we need to look at money which is what all teenagers want ( i know that you teenagers can be idealisitc too so sorry again) and the minimum wage seems to me a good start. The first wage packet of anyone is a thrilling time in life – and it strikes right at the heart of the equality debate..is there a reason why 16- 21 year olds should be discriminated against even if they do the same work as a 25 year old. Why should they be held in a state of false dependence if at that age they want to be financially independent?

    The National Minimum Wage rate per hour depends on your age and whether you’re an apprentice – you must be at least school leaving age to get it. Rates at 2013.

    Year 21 and over 18 to 20 Under 18 Apprentice*
    £6.31 £5.03 £3.72 £2.68

    PS Great to see you on here Ishbel

    1. Ishbel says:

      No, it’s not at all “patronising”. You make some pretty thought-provoking points there. Especially the one about charity fundraising, which I totally agree with, and the one about space for “creative thought” among those disengaged from the education system, which I just happen to personally identify with.

      But I don’t necessarily agree that “money…is what all teenagers want”. I think that what they really, really want is independence, autonomy, recognition. Money is just a way of acknowleding/reflecting that in the form of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. But surely not at 2.68 an hour (Saffron Dickson addresses this in the video too). So, point taken re. “false independence”.

  7. yerkitbreeks says:

    They say there’s nothing worse than an ex – smoker, and I would add a ( returned ) ex – pat such as me ! Moved away for a job in London ( as my engineer friends had already done from Aberdeen ) and over 30 years have full experience of what I don’t want for this Country ie the profound social divisions in SE England. These start at nursery school according to parents’ ability to pay, so if the readies are there it’s pre – prep, prep and public. If age 18 and after £650,000 or even more, after tax of course, even though all the public schools have Charity status the kid doesn’t get at least three A grade A levels and an Oxbridge ( or failing that St Andrew’s or Edinburgh ; even Durham is just above English ” red brick ” ) your money’s wasted. If you’ve a bit less you buy a house, at a premium, in the catchment area of the favoured primary and grammar schools and either cut out articles from the Sunday Times magazine each week for your little Johnny or hire a tutor so he / she passes the entrance for the grammar. The rest, as mine did, go to what parents of the above call the dross school and I can tell you it takes a bit of nerve to keep them there if you’re constantly reminded in the subtle southern English way, that you’re the only professional whom they know who hasn’t done right by his / her children. Would you like to guess how the product of the first and second groups who invariable through a well oiled old – boy network form the movers and shakers ( look out for the names Blair, Snow etc in future ) will vote ? !

    Ishbel, you’re absolutely correct in your assertion that the children should be educationally encouraged to vote otherwise what is a Curriculum for Excellence for if not such an extension. A few of course are probably not worth tackling, such as those educated in the Scottish clones of the English school model up here, for they’re already indoctrinated.

    1. Ishbel says:

      In spite of a slew of “independent schools” in some of the bigger cities,I do think that Scotland’s education system is truly “comprehensive” and that it actually works quite well on the whole. Of course some schools do better in the infamous “league tables” than others, but that in itself is not necessarily indicative of the ability of the pupils, or their teachers. A school in a traditional farming or fishing community, for instance, may well have a lower exam pass rate — not because the pupils are less able, but simply because they have other priorities and choose to pursue a less “academic” path. That doesn’t make them less unlkely to engage politically, either.

  8. Leon Trollsky says:

    there’s a school students network of Radical Independence which has been set up very recently by some 16-18 year olds at school
    http://radicalindependence.org/index.php/2013/12/08/introducing-the-ric-school-students-network/

    1. Ishbel says:

      Oh — that’s interesting. Thanks for the link.

  9. Gordon says:

    #Ishbel, in your last answer to me, you indicated that ‘there was a brain/skills drain in the past….’. I invite you to read the headline story in the Independent today. ‘Brain Drain starving UK regions of young talent.’ It’s still going on.
    The problem is not just the loss of the talent that could revitalise our economy, but the loss of the talents inherited by their children and grandchildren. The regions may not be able to do anything about it, but we in Scotland can and the 16 and 17-year-olds better know this.
    I have left two daughters in England in the higher income bracket, having been forced to move there to get decent paid work myself. They now consider themselves English and will never return to Scotland except to visit us. They are contributing to the economy of England, as I did. I’m now retired.

    1. Ishbel says:

      Thanks for pointing that out, Gordon. I just read it. I, too, am guilty as charged… but back in Scotland now. However, the little ray of sunshine in the article is that it names Edinburgh as “the second most successful city in generating private-sector jobs”.

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