Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Results of Results

Having spent the last two years getting to know some pretty inspiring teenagers, I have discovered that the world they live in is so very different to the one I grew up in (some would wonder if I have, actually, grown up yet...).  

Believe it or not, we didn't have the Internet, mobile phones or tablets.  Information had to be found in dusty old books instead of Wikipedia.  Bullying was to our face not over a social networking site.  We loved New Kids on the Block and Wet Wet Wet (and in my case, Philip Schofield - yes, go on, have a good chuckle and get it all out of your system) instead of One Direction.  We weren't bombarded with images of the 'perfect body' although there was still some pressure to look the part.  We didn't suspect that every older man was a paedophile and being gay was not commonplace.  Boys were fascinating, but we didn't want to have sex with them all and the phrase 'friends with benefits' was non-existent.

It's into this new world that our teens receive their results today.  This world where they must be, say and do the right thing or they will not be accepted.  Their identities are so bound up with whether they fit the mould or not that, results included, they must not fail.  'Failure', in the eyes of the world around them, leads to rejection and a doomed life.  Their GCSE results define their identities - they are an 'A student' or not.  

And so they battle against one of the biggest lies in our culture.  The lie that, if they do not succeed in exams at the ages of 16 or 18, their life is already one big failure and they are placed in the compost bin (not a landfill - that's not pc).

What exams don't take into account is the character of the young person.  They may be the kindest, most caring, passionate and determined people.  They might have ideas and inventions that cannot be tested by exams.  They might be selfless and sacrificially servant-hearted.  The person whose friends approach them for a listening ear might not get an 'A' in Maths but would definitely achieve one in being a good friend.

If we sell identity to our kids based on their exam successes or failures, we sell them a lie.  In a society where our young people are constantly under pressure to be someone they may struggle to be, we need to accept them for who they are and encourage them in the gifts and skills they already have.  
Let's be proud of who they are, and not what they achieve.

Of course, being in love with Philip Schofield isn't something to be proud of....

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