I live in a wonderful country, yet over recent years it’s turned into an environment where bullies in the boardroom are richly rewarded; mass entertainment is replete with taunting and sarcasm in the guise of humour; children’s games revolve around violent, explicit killing and carnage; a craving for ‘stuff’ is fed by thousands of messages a day; “being famous” is the most common goal for young people; talent is shallow; many in power are overtly greedy and self-serving; instant gratification and short termism are the accepted norms; and so on and so on. Why do we wonder that youth then acts in a way that’s in accordance with these lessons we’ve provided them with? We’re teaching them, en masse, how to behave, and then we’re surprised that they produce evidence of lessons well learnt.
Yes, those out on the streets of England need to be called to account for their crimes. But there are plenty more ‘good students’ waiting in the wings. If we want to change their destiny and ours, we need to look honestly at the environment we’re providing for the next generation to grow up in, and the lessons we’re teaching them through our behaviour.
Our changing world demands increased soft skills abilities, period. That these skills are crucial is supported by a plethora of research, but still they’re side-lined by education and government. This affects us all – as individuals, in organisations, as a society; but it’s particularly damaging to young people, who are not only being denied the opportunity to develop this newly relevant skill set through their education, but are also having them stripped away by the way they now live. So while the need for soft skills is growing, they’re simultaneously in decline.
The government must take this issue on, produce a clear strategy, and create serious opportunities through which everyone, particularly the young, can develop the soft skills to counteract the negative influences that surround them, and to thrive in this rapidly changing world.
If not, the good students will simply keep on showing us – their teachers – how well they’ve learnt their lessons.