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, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-11012369)

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.

Second star to the right, and straight on ’til morning

So it’s done. After three years of hard work, the like of which I never visualised before I started, my law degree is finished.

Even writing those words feels odd. The law and studying it has taken over my life so completely that I feel lost without it. And scared at having to make my way out into the big wide world. I hadn’t realised just how integral university was to my day-to-day existence. Now I only have to wait for my results, and go to graduation, and I’m done with it forever.

It’s interesting trying to think how my university experiences have changed me. I’m certainly a different person. I feel more confident in who I am, and I think I’ve grown up a lot too. My writing has come on massively, to the extent that I had my first paid publications last year. And I’ve awoken politically too. I’ve always been a Labour man, but I grew up largely under a Labour government, and had rather taken it for granted. Now I’m living under a Tory government, and I know it’s because I’d taken Labour for granted.

So what am I going to do now? I’m not sure really. I’ve started by redesigning (and retitling) my blog. Do you like it? Beyond that, I’m going to spend a good deal of time writing and reading. I haven’t written for pleasure since Christmas, and I have a to-read pile taller than I am. I do have some other plans which are coalescing, but I’ll blog about those at a later date, when there’s more to tell.

And before you know it, I’ll be Matthew S. Dent LLB. Isn’t that the most terrifying part of all?

The End is Nigh

Almost there...

And, like a cat in a box, as soon as there’s concrete evidence as to their status my exams suddenly feel very real. And very close.

After nearly three years of study, endgame is almost upon me. I’m on the cusp of making the transition from Law student to Law graduate, which actually sounds grander than it is, and a lot less scary than it is. I started university in the full knowledge that at the end of the third year I’d take exams which would count for the vast majority of my final grade, so why does it feel like they’ve snuck up on me?

I think part of it is just how quickly the time has gone. It still feels like the other week that I pitched up on the South Downs, fresh faced (and clean shaven) and eager to get started learning the law. And now I’m twenty, and about to finish this stage of my life. An in between has been a whole lot of reading textbooks and articles, writing essays, listening to lectures and debating the finer points of the law.

It’s not so much the exams that are terrifying, but the sheer concept of graduation. No longer is life going to be laid out before me, neatly mapped like an ordinance survey. I hadn’t really appreciated how simple it makes life, having a set plan before me. Being about to finish that plan feels like standing on the edge of an unknown void.

Still, it’s not over yet. In just over three months it will be, but I have to get their first. Wish me luck