In 2001 I went on a sex education study tour to the United States of America. I met with a range of people working in the USA including Kristin Luker, a researcher from California who has done significant research on teenage pregnancy. Amongst many interesting and helpful points she said 'you get what you expect from young people'.
Expect them to be rude, feckless, 'hoodies', drunken and that is what you get. Expect them to be thoughtful, hopeful, engaged and brilliant and they will be. I was reminded of her point earlier this week when talking to a young person excluded from school and finding life at a Pupil Referral Unit a bit tough. I asked him what he thought his chances of getting back to school this year were . His reply went something like, 'i have been written off. School doesn't want me, here they don't expect me to turn up very often, and my mum has given up.'
He went on to say that even if he tried to sort things out now he won't get the chance - he is labelled. I wonder how the conversation would have gone if through effective relationship somebody had touched the imagination of this nice young man - helped him to believe in himself and found something he was brilliant at and interested in.
Only if we expect the best for young people, and let them(and all the people who are cynical and suspicious of them) know we want and expect the best for them and from them, only then we will our young dream of a world they want. And when people dream we know brilliant things happen.