I have just made the mistake of switching on the radio and finding it tuned into Radio 4’s Any Answers, which consisted of a succession of ‘young people’ anguishing about being sent home from school, cut off from their friends (as if online social networking was not already their prime form of socialising), and deprived of the chance to take exams in the summer.
Whatever is the matter with them? What a wonderful opportunity to engage in some real study – the sort that requires patiently, painstakingly, working one’s way through a textbook, and then, ideally, sampling the original texts. What a marvellous opportunity for the biology student to read Darwin’s Origin of Species, the economics student to read Adam Smith and Keynes, the politics student to read J S Mill and Karl Marx. What treasures lie in wait for language and literature students – indeed, anybody who has the remotest interest in cultivating and educating themselves. What an opportunity to learn a new skill, to practise an instrument, to draw, to paint, to make things, to solve puzzles.
What an opportunity to cultivate the virtues of a responsible citizen, to queue up for food for neighbours who are elderly or working ‘on the front line’ – even undertaking the family shop would be a valuable service rendered. What an opportunity to help others in all sorts of ways – even to do odd jobs around the house.
What an opportunity, if there is countryside nearby, to go on walks and open one’s eyes to the treasures of nature. And what an opportunity to learn the creative value of solitude.
I would recommend Anne Frank’s diary as an initial eye-opener.
If only they knew it, today’s young have never had it so good.