Today, in the British society young people are the next generation of our civil servants, managers, and entrepreneurs all the way down to factory machine operators on the production line and job seekers allowance beneficiaries. Society puts people in categories through class, race, religion, culture, sex, age, job, community, fashion and many more dividing factors. This can lead to discrimination or marginalisation of certain groups of people. Young people in society today, are considered as a problem in many respects. Some people take the view that they are responsible for crime, drugs and alcohol abuse, anti social behaviour and generally irresponsible behaviour and action within society. Why is this focus on some groups of youngsters and some groups of adults are involved in the same cultures and behaviours?
All three levels of Neil Thompson’s “personal cultural structural” model (PCS model) state the influences may cause youth to fall victim to self-fulfilling prophecy and end up becoming the discriminative stereotypes they are labelled with. On a personal level, youngsters might act this way due to the influences of the other two levels. On a cultural level, there might be people of the same culture in and around their community such as friends, family and peers influencing them to go down the same negative path. On a structural level, media plays a vital role such as the Hip Hop culture, films, and negative government and law enforcement labelling and stereotyping, can be all influencing factors which are internalized and institutionalised oppression which can drive a person from a lower socioeconomic background to self-fulfilling prophecy.
As these groups and communities are being discriminated against, they inevitably have less power in the social structure, among the unstable crisis of the economical state of the country. Young people are definitely in a worse place, which could only be worst for their well-being and happiness in comparison to earlier generations. Youngsters face a major reduction in affordable housing and higher deposits on buying houses and less qualified and unqualified jobs. Moreover, the educational university fees have as much as tripled and the education maintenance allowance (EMA) scheme scrapped, later retirement ages implemented and Pension pots are developing an uncertainty. It is almost like they are paying for the sins of their parental generations' financial and political mismanagement. Services that were an aid to the most vulnerable young populace in socio-economically disadvantaged areas and were benefiting the most from support such as welfare benefits, subsidised tuition fees, EMA and youth provisions have been taken away and other measure now still being eroded. The future for the younger groups is going to be challenging at the least and could have a harmful effect on the way they are perceived by society for being responsible for crime elevation.
The media plays a big part in stigmatizing young people and creating a situation where older people are scared of the young as they feel they do not understand them. Also, they can become marginalised and can be classed as “deficit” by society. This is where the government see young groups as a problem that needs to be fixed and they are not treated as equal citizens, because it is the view that their upbringing, family and community influence has caused them to under do which puts them in boxes with labels like socially excluded or Not in education, employment or training (NEET). An example of marginalisation for youth is the young people and employment. Young people generation go to the universities and step in the market as inexperienced graduates, hence, leads to some getting temporary jobs which inevitably leads to the rest having periods of unemployment, which then employers look at as a weakness and reason not to pick these applications above others. This also widens the gap between generations within communities where older people feel it necessary to have legislation in place such as Anti Social Behaviour Orders, Dispersal Orders, Curfews and there has been talk around having generalized curfews in certain areas, safer community initiatives, and more surveillance. which are all methods of control to discuss the products of society and further marginalizing young people.
The use of surveillance has been a visual change noticeable in society to the perception of the threat of young generations, you can see this, were closed circuit surveillance is being used in shopping centres to housing estates, to parks and even schools. Young people are not welcome on public spaces any more where they are being called a nuisance or begin anti social. Some companies have started making a profit from mosquito noise deterrent devices that give out a high pitch noise that can only be heard by young people. These companies say the police have agreed it is a good method against our fight against anti social behaviour.
Society has taken a new authoritarian approach to dealing with the youth, we can see this through the rising levels of incarceration. Even schools and college are becoming like prisons surrounded by gates. One school in London spent around £300, 000 to keep students in. Furthermore, some institutes install more control by putting in electric gates and swipe card machines that monitor arrival and departure to and from lessons and in and out of the premises. Some marginalised young people in society can be portrayed and stigmatised as anti social behaving hoodlums by the media. These opinions can and do come from institutes of power such as churches, government and news editors what Cohen refers to as the 'moral barricade'.
This could escalate into what Cohen defines as a moral panic, where ‘a condition, episode, person or group of persons [who] become defined as a threat to societal values and interests.’ [Cohen, 1987 cited in Burns,2000 [Online]). A current example of this can be seen with the West's portrayal of some parts of the middle East. Another example of this portrayed by the media is the rising level of knife crime across the country. This portrayal of young groups could easily lead to a situation where people nationwide are afraid to leave their homes in fear of being robbed by a gang of hooded youngsters with knives. The media portrays young people as negative when they are put in the spot light, they focus considerably less on all the good things that young people do like volunteering in communities and other community initiatives. For the media, this has become a social norm from a functionalist point of view because of social order or what Gramsci calls hegemony, the media can make opinions of groups for the consumer to buy in to and take on board as their own opinion. An academic called Eldridge notes, ‘In the process and as part of the dramatic element, scapegoats and folk devils are located and are woven into the narrative.’ My understanding of this is when society does not work out the way they want it to they find a scapegoat to blame instead of excepting responsibility for their own mismanagement.
The functionalist model or functionalism comes from theorist such as Emile Durkheim also known as structural functionalism. It outlines that every part of society has a function like organs in a body all working together playing their role to make the overall system work. It is called this because it is seen as giving society structure and function so those inter-dependant institutes such as government, religion and education will be effective with all the other parts of society. An example of this would be government promoting good education, which is the most beneficial starting point to get a well paid job and security in life, which leads to paying taxes for there to be a health care system in place for our families without all these it would be impossible. This is what is expected of young people who they fulfil this function to be known as a good citizen and an asset to society otherwise they are seen as a deficit. Also hegemony makes Inequality inevitable widening, the gap between those of power and wealth and those members of society who live in socio-economically disadvantaged environments, which contributes to the drop out rates in education , and increasing imprisonments and teenage pregnancies. Although, young people might be classed as a deficit to society, they are still an asset as they are part of the consumer market buying some products that only appeal to particular class of young people such as certain types of fashion or certain confectionaries.
On a whole, young people do give much to the society as they are the next generation of adults and they are the consumers as much as any other generation if not more in certain areas of the consumer market. The consumer market is a powerful market as companies would not be able to run at all without response from the young people. Even those who are on punishment, give and payback to society through community service - contribute even though it is through the legitimate power of the government. Looking back historically on the young generations, they have had always been seen as a problem by society from the "mods" and the skin heads to modern-day young people that get labelled as "hoodies" or "suicide bombers" in the Asian community. The reason young people go through these different sub-cultural issues in the society is a matter of recognition with an effort to be considered as a productive part of the society.
This is where our role as informal educators comes in and we use concepts like Poalo Frerian thinking around conscientisation, which make people more aware of themselves through dialogue, which hopefully will allow them to make informed decisions about their future and their place in society. In terms of power, young people have less as they are confined by more rules and regulation in today’s society. For it to be a real, youth work situation can be enhanced as three rules have to be present; the relationship between the service consumers and workers remains voluntary, the work that goes ahead has to be of an educational benefit in some aspect and the focus of the work needs to be beneficial to the young generation, hence, encouraging them to excel. Upholding these rules have always proven to be problematic as if you try to enforce your services on young people it can have a harmful effect to your relationship with them.