Give them a break
In tomorrow’s newspapers, I expect to see the usual foaming at the mouth that accompanies the Leaving Certificate results celebrations. This year, at least, we are spared the annual gnashing of teeth at the maths results, even if there are some concerns that the higher pass rate is due to dumbing-down in the marking system.
Pictures of ‘shameless young wans’ with 97 per cent of their skin bared to the expected storm; finger-wagging politicians; and the usual round-up of anti-social behaviour reports about the youth of today.
Please, please, let this year be different.
Think about it for a minute. For the past 24 hours, thousands of bewildered 17 and 18 year olds have been given madly conflicting messages varying from ‘Einstein would have failed his Leaving Cert’ to (not in so many words, but implied in most media reports) ‘the only ones who matter are the ones with nine A1s’.
Would you blame them for being tired and emotional?
Because, after two years - often more – of their schools, parents, peers, and the media, telling them this is the biggest thing they will ever do in their lives, we have all just turned around and told them it’s not important any more.
Obviously, the Leaving Certificate means different things to different people, but, really, it is important.
It’s a stage in life that you have now reached, it’s the end of one era and the beginning of a new one. It’s a measure of how academic you are and how good your teachers, school and support systems were.
And it’s a good indication of how – or if – you are poised and ready to embark on the next stage in life. Some people are academic and others aren’t. Some people are ready and others aren’t.
I heard one guidance counsellor saying on radio the other day that it was most important for students to choose a college course they will enjoy, blithely ignoring the economic crisis and the realities of the working world.
Of course it's important to choose something that doesn't bore you to tears. But it might be more important to choose something that will mean you won't be bored to tears on the dole queue for the rest of your life. This year's Leaving Certs are well aware of the economic circumstances and many of them will already have been seriously affected by them. They know they need to work hard and they know they need to be practical.
The Leaving Cert is stressful, and in the current circumstances probably more so. Veterans of it are entitled to celebrate.
It’s not a measure of you as a human being – and neither is the way you choose to celebrate. Obviously, having your own and other peoples' safety in mind is advisable.
The combination of meaningless advice, and the mean-spirited judgment that infests the media after Leaving Cert results day is something to behold.
Adults should know better than to blatantly condescend to teenagers, and then to point and tut at how they choose to mark the occasion. Some will be celebrating and others will be busy trying to fit their heads around the fact that their lives are changing. They may not be happy with what they got, and even if they are, they may be worried and anxious about what the next step brings.
They are young. They have done something difficult that they will always remember, and some of them will make mistakes celebrating it. Let them have their rite of passage. Give them a break.