“When is it a young person’s time?” asks youth co-ordinator Phil Colvin.
I’m glad that Colin McComb’s letter [Dress codes a good way to start] gets beyond the T-shirt discussion because it exposes a much deeper, more dangerous mindset. The author writes: “The classroom should first and foremost be a place of learning: not a forum in which to exercise one’s freedom of expression. Children need to learn how to think before they learn how to bellow out whatever it is they’re thinking.”
Welcome to the history of childhood for the past century or so. An environment which has been built on the foundation that ‘we, the adults know things and you, the children, do not. Our job is to fill you with information and prepare you for the world when it’s your time.’
Except, when is it a young person’s time? When they leave school? These days, there are practically no entry level jobs in any industry for someone with a high school diploma. And while a college graduate might be lucky enough to get one the rapidly diminishing entry level jobs, as Colin McComb says, the modern Canadian workplace is no place for self expression. And so the children once again are, figuratively, being told that they are not yet really adults.
Perhaps the shift from childhood to adulthood takes place when a person buys a house or starts a family? But wait: Buying a house generally doesn’t happen without some support and subsidy from family. More waiting for adulthood. And in the meantime, young people become consumers.
Giving young people the means to speak, and allowing ourselves to listen to what they say, does not mean we are endorsing ignorance or narrow minded proselytising. It means we are following the example of Jesus Christ; who developed the gifts of his disciples and allowed them to use them, even when their contributions might have seemed immature or ignorant. He challenged the preconceptions of the institutions around him by calling not for obedience towards God and each other, but for love. And he modelled that love by speaking and listening to those who nobody else wanted to hear from. I suspect he would have failed to reach the standard of “public decorum” which Colin McComb calls for.
So, yes, let’s wipe out self expression in our young people. Let’s re-orient them to be passive consumers until such a time as we (the wiser generations) feel it’s right to gift them a voice. And if they disagree? Let’s stamp on that dissention, make an example of them and make sure the whole world knows that their voice is unacceptable and we’d prefer that they stay silent. And while we’re doing all that; let’s keep calling ourselves Christians and see who’s still listening to us.
Phil Colvin is diocesan youth coordinator for the diocese of New Westminster as well as youth director at St. Francis-in-the-Wood in West Vancouver