This Demonic Youth

Maybe A-Level results getting better year on year is a sign of young people working harder, rather than of academic decline? (Graph from BBC News website,

Young people today really are little shits, aren’t they?

I mean, if they aren’t lingering on street corners and mugging old ladies, then they are rioting and looting across the country. And then they all take easy exams and get qualifications which aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, because A-Levels have gotten much easier, and swan off to university to do “non-degrees”.

Surely these little bastards are the sole reason why the country is going downhill, right?

Today is, of course, A-Level results day, which means that all across the country 17-19 year olds have been tearing open brown enveloped and gazing upon the results breakdowns therewithin with either glee or devastation, and crashing the UCAS site with judicious mashing of their F5 keys. And the pundits have probably already begun rolling out the tired, annual accusations that A-Levels are a walk in the park nowadays, not like twenty/thirty/forty/etc years ago when you had to wrestle bears just to come out with a pass, or whatever.

It’s the same story every year, and it gets horrendously tiresome.

And on top of that, it’s not a fun time to be a young person at the moment. If you’re not being blamed for rampant civil unrest and the breakdown of society (when it’s actually more likely that you were involved in the clean-up than the destruction), then you’re a feckless waste of space whose achievements are denigrated, and whose very existence is considered a burden.

The fact is, the government makes a palpable show of not caring about the youth- but to be fair, whilst the Lib Dems courted young people at the General Election and then deserted them, the Tories never really seemed to promise them anything at all (leaving aside Cameron’s ridiculous “hug-a-hoodie” PR moment. Tuition fees have been trebled, education budgets have been cut, youth services are being shut down across the country, and even the EMA which would allow less priviliged children continue their education is being heavily curtailed.

But take a look at our society today. This isn’t the Britain of the fifties, where the majority of kids went to work (mostly in industry) at 16, and only the very gifted few went to¬†university. Today we are a post-industrial, largely service economy, and increasingly an undergraduate degree is essential to get anything more than a menial, minimum-wage job. And this is the message that is sent to young people, that if they don’t go to university then they have failed.

With that in mind, is it any surprise that A-Level results would improve year on year? Young people are put under tremendous pressure, because A-Levels are their gateway to higher education. They are forced by their circumstances to work incredibly hard, and the results (I feel) show that.

So here’s to all those who got their results today. Ignore the media, the pundits, and (occasionally, and embarrassingly) the government, saying that you’re some sort of demonic horde, to whom qualifications have come too easy. You’ve worked damn hard, and done damn well, whether or not you met your university offers (or indeed, whether or not you’re going to go to university). The day will come when we’ll be running the country, and I’m not despairing quite yet.


  1. I have no problem with students achievements. The problem is that you cannot differentiate between the excellent students and those of a slightly lower quality, because they get the same result. This makes it difficult for the correct people to go to the correct universities (from the perspective of the universities). Therefore, would it not be better if students yearnings for higher grades were no pandered to. Instead that results were plotted against a bell curve so that everyone knew who was at what level (instead of a scramble). Does it not show that in the way some universities have decided they wish to set their own entry exams (if allowed).


    1. Hi Nick, thanks for reading (and for commenting), and sorry for taking so long to reply.

      The main problem, I feel, with grading A-Levels on a curve is that it would inflate minor differences between grades, in order to (unjustly, in my opinion) condemn some students who would on an objective scale be worthy.

      The thing I liked about studying at university was that it was an absolute scale: in order to get a first, you had to reach a certain percentage. You were marked, fundamentally, against an objective scale, rather against your peers. Theoretically, it was possible for the whole class of 2011 to achieve a first.

      I’m not keen on the idea of marking A-Level students against each other. I think it would discourage the idea of education for self-betterment, which really is something which the increases in tuition fees are driving away anyway. Society as a whole benefits from a better educated populace.

      As for universities setting their own entry tests, I presume you mean examples such as the LNAT and BMAT tests? My understanding was that they were introduced as a result of increased applications and competition for places, as a way of oversubscribed universities to make a decision as to which students to take on a limited quota of students. The interesting thing is that a removal of the quota SHOULD have been the counterpoint of the tuition fee increase (note the introduction of tuition fees to permit the expansion of university places). As it is, the whole higher education policy seems an utter mess.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s