Perhaps the greatest challenges of our time are to inspire young people to attain status as individuals, and to impress on them their responsibilities, as individuals, to their government and fellow men.
The Winston Dictionary defines an individual as, "existing as a single and distinct personality". In my opinion, this definition does not apply to the average modern adolescent.
The fact alone that a great many false generalizations are made about teenagers, shows that they have little status as individuals. The very word "teenage-girl" conjures, in most minds, the image of a young pony-tailed and knee-socked girl (if these are the current fads), doing a mad shimmy to the latest Beatle album.
Because of the exploits of two large English groups, the Mods, and the Rockers, we begin to picture all the teen-agers in England divided into the two opposing camps, with well-cut, ultra-stylish clothes, or long, greasy hair, and leather jackets.
That is the cause of this uniformity in to-day's youth? There is the obvious psychological motive, the desire to be part of a group. However, I believe that our educational system is partially responsible for this lack of individuality.
Both public school and high school systems to-day lead the student to conformity and a tendency to remain passive and not express his ideas.
High school, especially, seems to be an endless series of cram sessions in which we memorize as many facts as possible each year. In grade thirteen, when everything learned previously should be drawn together in a neatly unified whole, the student is again so busy cramming in little bits of information that the overall outlook is lost, and only seemingly unrelated pieces remain.
Where does the individual fit into this picture? The answer is, he does notl How can we expect to create clear, independent thinkers in a system that leaves little or no room for discussion or self-expression? With schools as crowded as they presently are, the teacher with forty pupils finds it nearly impossible to cover the course, let alone to encourage each student to express his own viewpoint. The only solution that I can see is to build more schools, have smaller classes and more teachers, and to cut the curriculum so that there is time to help each student develop as an individual.
The challenge of impressing on young people their responsibilities as individuals to their government and fellow men is, I believe, extremely important if we want our ideals of democracy to survive.
A very recent example of the astounding apathy of our
generation toward their civic responsibilities occurred in
this month's municipal elections, A grand total of thirty-two
percent of the eligible votes in Toronto turned out to cast
their ballets. Is this what the right to vote by secret ballot,
one of the pillars of democracy, means to the majority of
Similiar examples of mass disinterest in our government can be found right up to the national level. Is this the behavior that we want the voters of tomorrow to follow? The flag debate in the House of Commons has gone on for months now, wasting thousands and thousands of hard-earned dollars, Perhaps if the average citizen expressed more interest in this debate by writing to Parliament, affirming his support or opposition, the government would feel strong enough to take a much firmer stand. Again, I believe that part of the reason for our passiveness is rooted in our educational system. In public school the young student should be encouraged to become aware of Canada as a nation through current events and group discussions. Then, in high school he should be shown the structural organization of our government and the value of his individual role. At present, classes in political economics are being started for students of four-year courses. Why not expand this programme to include those in the general courses as well? Also, I believe there should be more emphasis on modern history, especially that of Canada, before grade thirteen, so that those who drop history in this final year may get the benefit of this knowledge. Films are being used extensively now in high schools. Perhaps the government could sponsor a movie showing the political machinery that our collective votes put into power.
Thus, I do believe that we can produce young individuals, interested in the government of their country , if we teach them to think and work independently, to consider intelligently, and to act responsibly.
Arlene Harris 13
An ugliness of mankind,
Eviscerating the psyche of humanity,
Sundering the reverential regard
Of one man for another.
What consequence has it for the universe?