Thursday, 31 January 2013

Young people are like Elephants

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A recent survey* suggested that almost half of all adults thought young people were “angry, violent and abusive”

This reminded me of old indian story. It’s a story of three blind men coming across an elephant. One – touching its leg – declared the elephant to be a pillar. One – touching the tail – was convinced it was a rope. The one who touched the trunk, disagreed, “It’s like a tree branch”, he said. None of the men could agree until a passing wise man came to their aid, “”All of you are right. And all of you are wrong. The elephant has many sides. Each of you has just seen a part. The Elephant is all of what you say and more.”

In one way at least, young people are like elephants – they have different sides.

How many sides do you get to see?

For most of us, the side we see is the group of young people on a bus leaving school. And in that snapshot of 20 young people hyped up, crowded in, and excited to see each other – we base our judgement. And we conclude – like one of the blind men – that young people are loud, intimidating and thoughtless.

It is as if, you had to judge what 20 year olds were like on only seeing them leaving a pub on a Saturday night, what 40 year olds were like solely based on seeing them in the morning when one of their children wakes up too early or 60 year olds on a late night beer out with old school friends.

In a society that makes so little space for seeing the other sides of elephants, how do we avoid rushing to judgement?

* Barnados research, 2011 

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