7
Things that worry grown-ups: politics, religion, Morality, sex

The vexed question of teenagers' morality confronts us. There is hardly any direct, researched evidence on the content of the youngs' right and wrong. Here more than anywhere else one runs the danger of reading qualities into their actions that are not there at all. The problem is made more difficult by the intangible nature of morality. As far as one can generalise, the basis of all teenage moral thinking is the individual. The young do not feel that abstractions like God and Justice, or the Team Spirit have much relevance to their lives. When they arrive at a generalisation about conduct it seems to be on a basis of 'do as you would be done by'. A survey of 250 London working teenagers, day-release students, aged between fifteen and eighteen, found that the great majority mentioned, as 'things considered wrong': 'unfairness to people, violence and law-breaking.' But disobeying the authority of elders, premarital sex, drinking, smoking, lazing, were not much condemned. Neither were dishonesty and lack of integrity, but perhaps the apparent contradiction between this and the bulk of things they thought to be wrong is to be explained by the distinction between 'people', that is one's equals and 'elders' in authority with whom these last questions are more likely to be raised. The importance of the individual applies equally to oneself, you have a right to organise your life in your own best interests. Quite naturally in a Welfare State there is little stress on duties to others.

There is little general interest in religion, and though nearly two-thirds of English babies are still christened, and a third confirmed at fifteen, neither of these ceremonies can be considered truly voluntary from the teenagers' point of view.

Although the Church of England runs the largest youth service in the country, and through it brings its members into contact with the Christian ethic, it by no means has the attention of the majority of

-109-

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