Wednesday, January 18, 2012


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The media imparts to the people of Canada an image of a youth misdirected in its intentions. This faux representation is one of an adolescent populace unaware, uncaring, and ungrateful towards the powers that be. Traditionally, my age demographic has been synonymous with irresponsible drug and alcohol use, promiscuous sex, and violence. These, we have been led to believe, are the chief problems faced by the youth of today. What they (and I use “they” in an intentionally ambiguous sense) seem not to comprehend is that we are part of a life singularly different from that of times past; those old stereotypes, although still with some basis, divert eyes from the real struggles teen life is laced with. We live an excruciatingly fast paced existence; one that seldom leaves time for contemplation or reflection. No longer are we afforded the time to delve into important questions about our morality, our existence or ourselves; instead, society encourages us to push forward as fast as possible, and never look back.

Progress is the name of the game now. To achieve progress we need order. “Step in line, please.” And how arduous an expedition is it to find a meaningful existence in this wash-rinse-repeat lifestyle? Just ask all those punching the clock at the same job for twenty years; ask those who have snuggled comfortably into complacency, unable to break out of the mold that has set in all around them. Undeniably, the impossibility of change becomes clear, since change is synonymous with rebirth � a rebirth that carries with it in its hip-sack none of the pleasantries we have been conditioned to need. When we leave that high paid accounting job, we also leave 00 channels of ecstasy, $150 bottles of wine, and calamari. Oh, how I will miss the calamari. With this we see the true challenge for today’s youth � the challenge of defining yourself in a reality where every house looks the same, and every man wears the same half-moons on his double- windsor knotted ties.

With increasing frequency, stories are told of high school and university kids who, unable to deal with the stress associated with their education, end their lives. What a sad state of affairs it is when, believing they no longer live up to society’s expectations, intelligent (and idealistic) people take the easy way out. These kids are not, however, part of the minority, but rather part of a steadily growing population who finds modem life harder and harder to live within. The focus of our education now seems to be centered on performance rather than exploration, and under this system failure has ceased to be an option. Perform and succeed in grade , because your placement in high school depends on it. It’s the most important year of your life. Perform and succeed in grade 10, 11, and 1 because your placement in university depends on it. These are the most important years of your life. Perform and succeed in university, because your placement in a satisfactory career depends on it. These are the most important years of your life. We have become a student body petrified of failure. Because of this, our creativity suffers, as does our enjoyment of life. Ever since we began to measure our success with dollar signs and Rolls-Royces, our aim as a society has shifted from one of success in life and self, to success in material and status. The challenge for my generation is to recreate the definition of success; we need to create for ourselves a life where we are less concerned with our material worth, and more concerned with our happiness.

Involved in both creating our identity and recreating what success means to us is finding a definition � a definition of ourselves and of what we want in life (what will make us happy). Facing these challenges is most definitely a demanding task, as it deals with overcoming hurdles not immediately apparent. Because we can easily point to drug and alcohol use as the cause of teen violence and insolence, these are the problems society haphazardly tries to address. However, combating such problems has the effect of merely mowing the weeds down, and as even the most amateur gardener knows, simply mowing weeds is not enough to keep them at bay � the roots must be taken as well. In order to combat the supposedly out�of--control problem of youth drug abuse, should we not attack the roots of the problem? The first step in this battle is, of course, to identify the source.

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First, we must endeavor to avoid entrenchment within our own social circumstances. Undeniably, it is essential for people from all castes to compete on a level playing field, to allow all teens to realize their potential. This is where education � more specifically, public education � plays its most significant role; it is the great equalizer. All citizens must be afforded the same opportunity to improve their lives through education, regardless of social standing. A child from a low-income family must receive the same level of instruction as the child of a high paid accountant. Education is the single most important factor when it comes to re-creating our definition of success.

In addition, the youth of today must be encouraged to step out and take a look around, to ask questions of society, and inquire why things are done one way and not another. If we are to create for ourselves a satisfying life, we cannot afford to slip into complacency, because if we blink life may pass us by. Simply marching to the beat of a disillusioned society is not the answer; instead, we should explore life and attempt to understand it. If we take an active stance toward all we do, we become more able to make significant contributions to humankind. Significant does not, however, necessarily mean becoming an astronaut or inventing time travel. It means playing a part in society where we contribute to the best of our abilities.

Again, all of this begins with our education. To succeed we require an education with emphasis placed on the acquisition of wisdom as opposed to merely knowledge. By this I mean spending time searching for the meaning behind the knowledge and looking for what this knowledge represents to us as individuals. Students should not be afraid to fail, as the wisdom gained by one’s failure is worth infinitely more than the knowledge gained by simply satisfying the standard. In this, our school community plays a crucial part, with teachers supporting our efforts at understanding, Student Resource Officers keeping the environment safe, and fellow students working together to pursue a common goal. Once we wake from our slumber and begin to exercise our minds again, life will take on new meaning.

The Little Prince (in the story of the same name), while voyaging from world to world, happens upon planet Earth. Here he meets a fox. This fox tells The Little Prince “men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men has no friends anymore.” As the fox so poignantly illustrates, with the pace at which our lives move, today’s modem citizen has lost the ability to gain understanding. It is the Challenge of Today’s Youth to regain this understanding in our lives � to rediscover where we may find friendship. Achieving this requires harnessing that desire which drives us to keep on striving for the best. This desire is what our school needs to nurture, apart from simply encouraging us to strive for academic excellence. Life, contrary to what society would have you believe, is long � at least long enough to allow those unsure about their paths in life to take a few years and explore. We must explore the world and explore various areas of interest until we find what we are really looking for. Ultimately, the time “wasted” actually cultivates our future happiness.

The beginning of this pseudo- revolution rests on the shoulders of no particular group, but rather, our entire school community. The administration and Student Resources Officers, in creating the most conducive learning environment, are the foundation of the system. In such an environment our teachers can really shine, for they are allowed the freedom with which to encourage the student body in the right direction. Finally, when all the parts fall into place, students can face their challenges head-on, and begin to achieve in the true sense of word. We will, like The Little Prince, notice the doves on the roof.

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