Australia

Can young people offer perspective on substantive social issues?


Samuel Glen*

Brisbane, 20 March 2015 (Alochonaa.com): A commonly held perception is that young people are like the ‘religion of society’: if they have to be here, they should be seen but not be heard. Although there are a number of beneficial outreach and leadership programs that instill a sense of responsibility in children from a young age, like Scouts and Girl Guides for example, the opportunities for them to contribute to solving substantive societal issues are limited at best. They are in effect denied the opportunity to be ‘part of the solution’ because they are simply not offered the chance to be involved.

There are a lot of reasons why young people should be at the forefront of societal initiatives and policy formulation in a contemporary liberal society, just as there are reasons for some adults to not be included. In this post, I address just three reasons why young people should be included in solving issues of substance that outweighs the present view of societal leadership and change.

1. It sounds cliché, but young people are the leaders of the future. In Australia, some 2.5 million people, over 10% of the population, are aged between 15-29.

In terms of leadership, this is as quantifiable as the group gets.

The way forward, to maximise the potential of the leaders and problem-solvers in the group, is to give youth and young adults the opportunity to engage with issues of substance: real world issues, that need well-thought out decisions and solutions, by testing their problem-solving and initiative from a young age.

Of the 2.5 million 15-29 year olds, many will carve paths in the private sector and be extrinsically rewarded for their effort. Some will champion innovation and be the Bill Gates’ and Steve Jobs’ of our time. However, in very rare circumstances will these people come to the fore without fostering a society that nurtures a group of young people along the path of leadership for reasons of the betterment of society and philanthropy unless guided to do so.

Such an example of issues that young people can contribute to are things like, combatting bullying and trolling on social media, removing racial and other forms of discrimination from the school and work place, and fostering a sense of inclusiveness in the broader population by championing the rights of the excluded.

By including young people in these kinds of issues, and others, from a young age, they will be better positioned to deal with other major issues affecting the nation as they mature, and will already have the cognitive processes required to make tough decisions required of leaders when the time comes, having already learnt from past mistakes and successes while on their journey.

2. Young people do not blindly accept the status quo. Young people are not blemished by a false sense of failure common in adults and do not blindly accept things ‘as they are’, as many of their counterparts do. This is perhaps their most advantageous attribute when contributing to societal change and betterment.

To create social change, there first needs to be a vision of what can be changed. Unfortunately, many adults today are engrossed in, and sometimes the cause of, the issues affecting and disempowering people today.

Young people can offer a unique and fresh perspective not bound by a sense of self-pride and egoism prevalent in the aged because when they see an issue, they see something that can be changed. They can think laterally enough to present real solutions to intractable problems and not be discouraged by their peers to offer a solution if they think it is right.

With the right guidance, young people will be able to solve substantive problems causing real grief in society like curtailing gender inequality and ‘closing the gap’, because young people do not see problems the same way as their entrenched seniors.

Young people have an innate sense of curiosity that can be nurtured and developed in a way that offers a unique perspective which, unfortunately, is not commonly found in today’s leaders for one reason or another.

Enabling young people to translate their thoughts, plans, goals and desires into action will solve some of the deeply embedded issues facing society while instilling a sense of urgency and responsibility in youth who take a stand to care.

3. Young people are energetic and ambitious. Perhaps the most contrasting quality with their aged counterparts, young people are blessed with a zeal often long gone from the ware-worn brows of the aged.

Rightfully so, many of the 30+ baby boomers have paid their dues. They’ve worked hard to get to where they are, and dealt with issues that take their toll.

‘Outsourcing’ some of these challenges that are in limbo because of the inability of current leaders to find solutions, can essentially share the ‘burden of progress’ with the next generation in line to inherit their problems in a way that gives a fresh perspective to those who have already been ‘burnt out’ by the system.

However, it is not all rosy coloured slippers that magically whisks the problems away.

We need to get young people engaged!

Yes, they do get discouraged from time to time. They do falter and get things wrong. They are not up to the task on every issue in every situation, but neither are those we call ‘leaders’ today!

By giving young people the opportunity that they deserve, two purposes are being served. 1) We are training the next generation of problem solvers and thinkers who can go above and beyond present societal expectations to provide solutions to issues of substance currently languishing in ‘limbo’; and 2) it will instill a broader sense of purpose and meaning in society that is often overlooked: we are not living for ourselves, but for our future.

*Samuel Glen is Editor – Religion and Society for Alochonaa.com.

** Alochonaa.com is not responsible for any factual mistakes (if any) of this analysis. This analysis further is not necessarily representative of Alochonaa.com’s view. We’re happy to facilitate further evidence-based submissions on this topic. Please send us your submission at alochonaa@gmail.com  

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