Looking At The Issues Of Teenage Identity Speech English Literature Essay

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Good morning/afternoon Prime Minister, distinguished guests and fellow Youth Representatives. My I am here on behalf of my school, Palm Beach-Currumbin SHS, and to give a voice to today's youth. I will discuss some of the issues that face teenagers in today's technological society as well as why and how they came about, although the main issue I will be focussing on is all the different elements that control and manipulate young people from not only today's society but from past generations as well.

I am really surprised by all the cynical and prejudiced assumptions most people make. As a teenager, I (and most of my friends) strive to learn and grow, have proper grammar skills and do not go off partying every night. I hope that you, as open minded, responsible adults are able listen to what I have to say on behalf of my generation and to give us a chance before you write us off as 'stupid punks'. For the most part, if you respect teens, we will respect you in return.

Every older generation makes the claim that teens today are out of control, have no discipline, are into crime, their clothes are weird, their music is noise, etc. It's a subjective illusion that leaves no room for corrections. This is nothing new. Older generations would like to think that they were well-behaved teens and that crime didn't exist in their time, but they're just fooling themselves. Obviously, it can't be true that every generation is getting "worse", because that would mean the world was a utopia just 200 years ago, and history shows that it clearly wasn't. Socrates said that "The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter...," 2400 years ago, so did the world somehow get better and then resorted back to the ways that Socrates has stated? In the 1950's teens defied their parents and society by following the rebellious trend that was Rock 'n' Roll, the 1960's presented the world with the 'Hippy Era' which created an increase in drug use and unintentional pregnancies as a result of the Vietnam war, there was sexual liberation in the 1970's due to the creation of the contraceptive pill, which then led into the 1980's where teens were reckless with their relationships and hence the discovery of AIDS.

The media cannot present the world to us, despite their assertions of truth and reality. The media offer us perspectives or selected views of the world around us. They construct images and behaviours to influence their audience into believing their views of what is "right". So we are aware of what family life is like represented in a range of television soaps such as Neighbours and Home & Away. We have knowledge of sportspeople through sports coverage in the press and on television programmes. We are dependent on the media for our insights into what is happening in today's society and what it was like to live in a time before we were born.

Who writes this stuff? Have these editors talked to a teen lately? They make it sound like we're all ready to blow up our schools with bombs that we built in our bedrooms. They accuse us of having secret lives, but we're not the ones that are going around having affairs with interns so that Time magazine can publish a cover story saying "How the Scandal Was Good For America" (February 22, 1999). That cover seemed to excuse President Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

When a teenager commits a terrible crime, the media connects the crime with the teen's age. They make it sound like all teens are like that. But when an adult commits a horrible crime, the media doesn't try to make it sound like all adults are serial killers.

Adults talk about wanting teens to succeed but often they block the path to success. They won't hire us because we don't have experience. But how do we get experience if we aren't hired for a job and given a fair go?

It is adults who cut the education budget. It is adults who make the decisions that leave us with tattered books, unqualified teachers and chairs that rock back and forth because their legs are uneven. It is also adults who allocate more money to prisoners than to students. So why doesn't the media report how hard it is to get into a decent college or how many hours teens spend a night on homework and assignments?

So next time an adult asks, what's wrong with today's teens ask them, "What's wrong with today's adults?"

This study (shown on powerpoint) by The Australian Leadership Foundation in January 2002 shows that the biggest divide facing our society is not a gender divide, racial divide, income or technology divide but it is the generational divide. For those of you who are involved in engaging young people, like me, you must remember that the gap between us and you is constantly growing, teens today are the technologically savvy and globally connected generation that is remaking the image of the typical consumer.

The media, including television, magazines, radio, internet and billboards surround everyone daily, sending messages about what items to buy as well as how to act and react. While the effect is obvious among the adult population, the effect is even more profound on the teenage population. The present day media has established a target on adolescents, influencing them to smoke, drink, look a certain way and dress a certain way in order to be accepted by society even if you are too young or it is illegal for you to do these things. We are described as 'Generation-me', and the only thing that ever comes out of our mouths is 'I Want'.

Those of you old enough to drive without an ID check might roll your eyes. "I was never that self-centred," you say. "Back in my day, [insert heroic story about walking five miles to school barefoot in a blizzard here]."

Holden Caulfield, born in 1951 at age 16, in the pages of "The Catcher in the Rye," may not have been the 'original' teenager, but he was the one who introduced to the world the concept of teenage angst, which is still strongly in attendance almost 60 years later.

Maybe today there isn't the same thrill in picking up "The Catcher in the Rye" and reading Holden's self-involved take on the world. The idea is hardly radical or extreme anymore, not when most youth publish every moment of their lives on their social networking sites such as Myspace, Twitter and Facebook. "The Catcher in the Rye" still held rebellious traits of some teens today such as drinking, flunking/ditching school and avoiding parents.

Although in a time period not long before this book was written, teenage-hood was much different. A girl was considered marriageable age when her parents said so, this could be as early as 12. Most children only attend school until the 6th grade, and then they were considered old enough to marry and start families. Teens usually worked in whatever type of business their family was in, if your Dad was a storekeeper, you worked in the store. If your Dad was a farmer, you would work on a farm. Usually by the time they were 15 years old, they were starting their families.

Elements such as teens' up-bringing, the media and past events all combine to impact on teens' discovery of their own identity. The main element being the media, as it is such a common part of everyday life. The media has indeed become very controlling and manipulative in this modern world; the media shapes us and we shape it.

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