Negative Attitude or Attitude Negated?

Recent news headline:
School closures, ‘He’s not getting up until one o’clock’

The story focussed on the problems of getting students to knuckle down to home learning during Covid-19 lockdown. Two mothers gave their views on the situation for their children.

One of the mothers said her children were “keen to get back to school … back to the usual routine in the company of their friends.” She said she worries “that teenagers aren’t getting the freedom and privacy they need to develop their independence”.

The other mother said that her son had decided not to go to university, adding that he may not have chosen to go anyway, but thought that “if he was at school surrounded by his peers, who are clever boys, he’d be pulled along by them … he’s got clever, motivated friends who’re a good influence, but now he’s not seeing them.” She described her son as “a lazy 17-year-old boy who doesn’t really care much about school in normal times … and frankly, he’s having a nice time, he’s exercising lots, playing video games, so why would he start working again?”
This attitude toward her son raises many questions for me:

  • The young man has said he’s decided not to go to university; but this isn’t necessarily because of not attending school during lockdown.
  • She says he’s “lazy” while his friends are “clever” and “motivated”. Making comparisons using incongruent descriptions says more about the mother’s attitude than his, as she equates “lazy” with “not clever” and “not motivated”. Perhaps he’s not enthused by the teaching he receives, or maybe he’s given up explaining how he feels. Synonyms for “lazy” are idle, lethargic, inactive so someone who “exercises lots” is not lazy in that sense.
  • His mother thought that by being at school with his clever friends he would “be pulled along by them”; from my recollection, education is not a matter of osmosis (unless part of the biology/chemistry curriculum).

Why the need to go to university?

I applaud the young man for making a decision on his future rather than opting for / drifting into university as a way to postpone the big life decisions. Not everyone who appears “motivated” to pass exams in order to get onto a graduate programme is actually looking forward to greater career opportunities. They may not be wanting to look forward at all.

I have two sons: one chose an apprenticeship and gained his degree through work while the other went to university following a gap year. Both are successful, although neither went straight from school to university, preferring to get some life experience first. I went straight to university following ‘A’ levels but had to leave in the second term due to ill-health; I have gained four degrees as a mature student and only the first has helped in my chosen career. I don’t think any of us would have done things differently.

Different realities:

I have a motto of my fridge:
“Measure yourself by your own standards, not someone else’s.”

Please may I also suggest:
“Don’t measure someone else’s standards against your own.”

In a cosmopolitan society there is more harmony achieved by recognising the value of difference within a spectrum of beliefs, attitudes, and understanding.

To return to the news report, the picture caption for the main image of a lad sleeping on a sofa read,
“The lack of routine means many teenagers are sleeping in”.

Scientific studies have shown that, perhaps due to hormonal changes, teenagers develop very different biological sleep patterns. It has even been mooted that radical changes to the school day would result in an improved ability to concentrate and a more positive attitude for secondary students. I would suggest that, given the chance, most teenagers would sleep late.

I would be very interested to learn your views on this matter. In your teens did you stay in bed late if you could? Do you have children who did? Perhaps you’re a teacher and have seen evidence of this. Please share your memories, your thoughts, and your take on this.
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Thank you for reading.

Stay well. Stay safe. Stay apart.