19 March 2008

The Ministry of Teenage Kicks

The government’s attempt to deflect attention from the recent budget took the form of a curious story about getting British teenagers to swear allegiance to the state. Given the staggering stupidity of such a proposal, it was obviously not a real story, any more than Alastair Darling is the real Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it was a curious piece of kite-flying even by New Labour standards.

At no point amid all the huffing and puffing did anyone mention what the object of such a policy would be. Arguments were advanced on either side (well, mostly against) about the practical challenges, and whom or what would be sworn to or at – but no-one seemed to come out with a straight answer about what the scheme was for. A cure for binge drinking, teenage pregnancies or happy slapping? Like ID Cards, it was a solution in search of a problem.

I think the answer was the first attempt to standardise the Traditional Teenage Rebellion. If we recognise youthful contrariness as a necessary developmental stage between acne and employment, it would be much more efficient if it were channelled into specific forms at predictable times. Giving school-leavers the chance to tilt at the establishment through provocative but harmless decrees would give them a focus for their angst, to slot alongside the other parts of the National Curriculum. Whatever form their protest took, they could then get an official certificate to put on their UCAS form.

Look out for the setting up of a new government Task Force on Buying Halves Of Cider In Pubs or the launch of a Certificate For Navel Piercing.

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