A Reminder of Students' Humanity

By Stuchbery, Mike | Times Educational Supplement, May 15, 2015 | Go to article overview

A Reminder of Students' Humanity


Stuchbery, Mike, Times Educational Supplement


New book Generation Z reveals the 'raw' voices of young people

More than 300 years ago, the gentleman scholar Robert Russel, deeply despairing of the bands of youth roving the streets of London, wrote: "I find by sad experience how the towns and streets are filled with lewd wicked children [who] curse and swear and call one another nicknames."

More recently, in 1971, the poet Philip Larkin wrote: "They fuck you up, your mum and dad./They may not mean to, but they do."

Somewhere between these two lamentations, we find a tissue of questions that have yet to be satisfactorily answered despite centuries of consternation: what's wrong with young people? And why are they so different?

Citing their words, raw and (mostly) unedited, former TES columnist Chloe Combi's Generation Z: their voices, their lives comes closer than many attempts to offering answers. Presented as a collection of transcripts grouped by themes including crime and technology, the book follows former teacher Combi on a journey around Britain, visiting schools, group homes, prisons and youth clubs to record the authentic voice of youth. After providing context (Rocky is in a wheelchair, Marianne is a victim of rape), she lets each contributor hold forth, interjecting only to draw more out of particular statements.

Over nearly 300 pages, we're led through a series of vignettes. Individually, their directness and honesty is moving. When viewed as a whole, a number of threads emerge: broken homes, social media, bullying. …

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