TED Conversations

James McNaughton

Project Manager/Founder, Homelessness And The Arts

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Do we invest in the youth of this World enough?

This is my first conversation so apologies if this is kinda "all over the place."

Something that has been on my mind and something I'm hoping to incorporate in some work I'm doing;

Particularly in the UK, Youth Homelessness is an issue, as well as drug and alcohol dependancy within youths under 21 years of age, teenage pregnancy is continuing to rise, British Teenagers are constantly slammed in the media for "Gang-land crimes" and other offences, and when someone performs well in their SAT's, or A Levels (College Qualification) They are met by a stream of complaints that tests are getting easier to pass...

So my question is; "Do you think the Worlds current generation are investing enough in the Worlds younger generations"
After all, the youth of today will be the leaders of tomorrow, are we preparing them for this?


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  • Mar 2 2011: No, I think we don't.

    But to take the question further, how are the youth being supported? How are they supporting themselves? Where are the changes happening? I think it is - and if it's not visible, well at least it's happening around the people I know. It might be a very small drop, but it'll get somewhere some day. It might happen with an educational overhaul. But I find governments slow, so I'd much prefer the education movement/revolution at the grassroots level - TEDx's, youth groups, Ashoka...these will create the alternative spaces for youth.

    Here's another question: How can we learn to invest in our youth - not in the monetary sense.
    I think there's a huge poverty in investing in educating youth in values - and I don't mean indoctrination. You meantioned A-levels and SAT's. That starts at HK at the age of 18 months - when kids are thrown into English immersion play-groups. So in other words - to invest in our youth, we have to reinvest into the parents who have them. We have to support the parents in realizing that there are alternatives. It's not enough to tell parents that marks aren't everything - they want the best for their kids, and they're not shown the examples of those who have made it without 100%'s and scholarships. We need to offer an alternative way of helping parents help their kids too.

    Here's another thought: I would love to see youth as the leaders of tomorrow. But I also wonder - can't we just start at a very basic level - supporting them to be happy individuals? I really hope we're not procreating for the sake of leader-production. I would like to think we have kids because we want to, and we want them to be happy first and foremost. Yes, there are lots of problems in the world to solve, but I think happy people might be a bit better off than someone who's overpressured and unhappy. :P

    James - I'd love to know more about your project as well. :-)
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      Mar 2 2011: I have to say, your answer is simply brilliant! I whole-heartedly agree with you! I'm only 19, so speaking as part of the generation in question, I definately agree that parents need more support, regardless of age, as well as in the youth themselves,
      When I say "The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow" I mean in the sense that they are our future Lorry Drivers, Policemen and women, our future armed forces, our future bakers, every job in the World essentially, and I don't think that, in education anyway, we're not providing students with the necessary life skills needed, I mean, sure, everyone will learn at some point, but shouldn't life skills be incorporated into education?

      With regards to my Project, I work with young people under the age of 25, and host events that show a range of artwork (paintings, photography, poetry, documentaries, film, acting, drama etc.) aimed at breaking the negative stereotypes of not only Youth Homelessness, but Youth Culture in general. and I try whenever possible, to include as many "Success Stories" in my events as well, for example, a young girl who became homeless at 16 years old, and had a cocaine dependancy, now holding down a part time job and studying a Degree at University.

      If you would like any other information, I have a blog I need to update to keep to the funders conditions at

      Or alternately, you can message me on here with anything you want to talk about, I'm always willing to have in-depth conversations and learn from others :) So I'm never fussy about the conversation subject!
      • Mar 3 2011: I checked out the link and the video! It's really well done and actually I learned a lot too. :-)

        And I agree with your definitions of leaders of tomorrow - the bakers part really swung my view. :P Just joking. But for sure, I think life skills should be incorporated into education. And as a teacher (for young kids, I'm only 21), I think that teaching follows the order of importance of 1) attitudes, 2) skills, 3) knowledge. Attitudes because - like in your video at the end, the people said that if they hadn't had the experience that they did, they wouldn't be where they are now - so it's not impossible to climb out of something, and if you have the motivation, you're way ahead of those who "have it all". Skills help people to teach themselves - and practical skills, or life skills are so important. For example, how to communicate, how to do research, how to do the technical stuff (make bread, be a mechanic). Knowledge is a huge one as well - I think it's true, people can learn knowledge on their own, but being a setting that is filled with the pursuit of knowledge adds to the experience itself. And honestly, school forces us to learn a lot of things we wouldn't otherwise bother to look at so I think that's good (it's really the teachers who need to notch it up in making it good).

        I really really like your project - I'm all about connecting communities, and giving a voice to those whom are neglected, underepresented, stigmatized, and I think a lot of that oppression (if I may use the word) is in what is left unsaid (in our stereotypes to be perpetuated, and our attitudes implicitly justified). I'm curious to know how you got it off, because you've had participants in more than one city. I'm actually going to LSE in October, so I'd love to really see the project in action once I'm in the UK.
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          Mar 3 2011: The Project sort of happened by sheer coincidence to be honest, I used to be homeless myself and was volunteering with a Charity to gain some work experience, and I came across o2's website (Funders) and everything sort of, rapidly grew from there, we're waiting for a little while to recieve more funding that we've been accepted for before we start working on it, but I can definately keep you updated if you'd like?

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