As I have caught snatches of the news over the last few weeks, I have seen numerous short interviews, all in the same vein: a journalist getting the opinion of a student in response to the university fee increases. I am not going to comment on the actual details of the changes the government proposed. There is something else that has caught my attention and got me wondering.
In all fairness I think the word interview, in these cases, is misleading. It is really the opportunity for a one breath (10 second maximum) soundbite on whatever they want to say related to the issue. Given the chance to have a short moment to ‘let their voice be heard’, the vast majority of these students are saying the same thing; “we have been let down: they made a promise and now they have broken it.” It interests me that this seems to be the prevailing point they want to make, and I wonder if it could possibly be the fundamental root of all their anger?
“The promises of yesterday are the taxes of today.”  
 ~ William Lyon MacKenzie ~

It makes me wonder, how much of the current student expression is a logically-based, thought through response to the factual details of the changes, and how much is an emotionally-based response to being let down? It makes me wonder how many times they have been let down before…
I guess I am wondering because daily I am working with children who are trying to come to terms with adults in their life who say one thing and do another. It has a real impact on the child, and the impact lasts.
There are the children who are trying to come to terms with the endless confusion when parents, or other significant adults, promise them something and then don’t deliver. A trip to the park. A special trip. A fun time together. A chance to see them at the weekend. They are let down. They are full of emotions, and get messages through the experience that they are not important, they don’t matter, they are rejected, and that adults don’t mean what they say. It hurts. They don’t like it. They are powerless to change it.

“We must not promise what we ought not,
lest we be called on to perform what we cannot.” 
  ~Abraham Lincoln ~

And then there are the children I have worked with who have been taken into care while there is an investigation into whether their parents are able to provide a safe home for them. Whatever the outcome, during the separation, the child misses their parent, longs to see them, and then is told they will have a visit on Thursday. They wait all week and Thursday comes round. The child is so excited to see their parent again, even for a 2 hour visit under supervision of a social worker…and then it doesn’t happen. Maybe the parent doesn’t turn up, maybe the social worker can’t arrange transport, or maybe there is no one available that day to supervise the meeting. The child is full of emotions and gets messages through the experience that they don’t matter, that they are not important and that adults don’t mean what they say. It really hurts. They don’t like it. They are powerless to change it.
These moments last…. Unhealed, they become part of the emotional and mental make up of that child. They affect who they become, how easily they are able to trust, and how they respond to events in the future that echo these painful memories from early on. They can last a lifetime. Happening over and over, to many, many children these moments can affect a generation.

When emotion rules there is no ability to function with logic and reason at the same time. No ability to hear someone else’s point of view, and no ability to understand the fact that things change. When children have been let down by adults time and again in the past, they carry it with them. While conscious memory may fade, subconsciously, their spirit and their psyche remember the entire collection of moments like this, that caused them the same genre of pain. They find it hard to trust those in authority. They seek the camaraderie of their peers who have been let down the same way, and when they are old enough…and it happens again… it echoes with their pain. Now though, it is different. Now they are older, and louder, and stronger. Maybe now, they seize opportunity to feel powerful – to let the world know that they don’t like it when adults change their tune.
“Promises are like crying babies in a theatre.
 They should be carried out at once.”
 ~ Norman Vincent Peale ~