In the age of millennials

Barbara Gloudon

Friday, July 20, 2018

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“Youth comes but once in a lifetime.” So said Henry Longfellow. There is much for this business of youth known as millennials in this lifetime — a matter which seems simple, but there is no joke in it.

The first time I heard the word millennial I was in a meeting discussing an event that was being put on with the intention of attracting the “millennial” crowd right here in Kingston. When I did some further checks I found that the term referred to the last generation born in the 20th century. While some sources state different age spans, the commonly accepted age bracket is those born between 1980 and 2000.

This age group has grown up with technology and all its advantages and disadvantages. They never had to line up at a phone box or beg Miss Mary a call on her house phone. They were born with smartphones in their hands, ready to swipe, click, and send! They have never had to use mortar and pestle like great-grandma — today, there are food processors and blenders.

Millennials will speak their minds when they feel things are not what they should be. Some are bright, driven and focused, while others have yet to see their own possibility.

Many potential employers have shared their concerns that young people who come to them seeking employment don't always present themselves in the best possible light, and yet there are others who will do whatever it takes to put a good foot forward in order to succeed.

Some will say it should be no surprise that this “new generation” doesn't know the value of hard work, and that everything has been made easy for them. All they do is take selfies and post on social media. But I know a number of young people who have been taking the time and effort to get themselves properly educated and certified for the working world. There are those who have been fortunate enough to have the support of family encouraging them to have the responsibility to prepare for their future.

How many of our parents continue to maintain messages of encouragement for their children to see into the future? How many of our young millennial are aware of their potential, and will they step up and grasp the opportunities ahead?

There are many different paths by which we travel, and I was reminded of one just a few days ago. It concerns some of the challenges faced by children in school. The news came recently of a student who drew the disaffection of her school because her hairstyle was not permitted. The parents were told that if the child had her hair in locks it would either have to be removed or she would have to go.

It is not the first time that hairstyles have caused disaffection between school administrators and parents. It is also not specific to Jamaica. In many countries, parents of black children have had to deal with opposition to afros, braids, cane/corn rows and other styles specific to black people and their hair. This argument has occurred over many years, and we still are struggling with the topic.

For some people, rules are rules. If you can't abide by the school's rules, you move along. For others, it is time to stand up for your beliefs.

The father of the student spoke to the media revealing the anguish and disappointment that he and his wife felt over the school's stance. He wanted his child to attend that particular school. The parents feel that they are being forced to choose between their child's education and the values that they, as a family, hold about how they handle their personal appearance.

Discussions with the Minister of Education Senator Ruel Reid pointed out that the ministry doesn't have a standard policy on personal grooming. He recommended consultations with parents, students, and the school board to establish what the rules are. Many schools have adopted a policy that, where a student wears locks as an expression of their religious faith, they must wear a tam or head covering in a style determined by the school.

It has been said that the matter will be addressed at an upcoming meeting of the Jamaica Teachers' Association. In the meantime, Jamaicans for Justice has filed an action in the Constitutional Court asking for a ruling to determine whether a public school can set a “no-locks policy” which could deprive some children of the right to freedom of expression and other constitutional rights. We wait to see what will come out of the legal case.

One time gone this wouldn't reach courthouse, but in the era of millennials wi have to climb 11 step.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or

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