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History Table of Contents
1991 Summer Conference
Summer Conference 1991
Growing up on the Edge: The Emerging Generation and Canada's Future


Student, University of Toronto Schools

What I am finding, in terms of youth having a sense of responsibility, a sense of direction about what they want to accomplish and how they are going to go about it, is an increasing sense of the environment.

As Brock said, it is not that we are 20 and we are going to inherit the environment. It is not whether we are 13, or 15, or 20, — age doesn't matter.

We are living in the environment; we are a part of it and it is not that we are the leaders of tomorrow. We can be leaders now, because we have the capability to lead.

We have a responsibility to act as early as we can, because as soon as you are born onto this planet, you become a part of it and you share the responsibility for it.

But, if we are going to make things better I think that we have to go about it without too much competition.

There is too much competition among us I think, for everything. It is not even just the peer group competition for popularity. It is competition in everything. I see struggles among us, like things for the environment, or human rights issues, becoming competitions in themselves. And if that happens, we are going to lose sight of what it is that we are going for.

This competition is not even a sense of, I am doing something to help the environment, what are you doing? It is not blatant or smug: I am going shove my accomplishments in your face. It is something that is more subtle. It is a smugness that lies beneath the surface and that makes people a bit complacent.

I think we have to watch out for that, because it is too easy to fall prey an attitude where you say, you've got to do something, I am.

That is something we all risk falling prey to. I see it a lot in people that I come into contact with and I think it is something that we should all watch out for.

I also find there is too much of an us and them.

Why can't we just be an us and co-operate, maintaining our individuality but concentrating on the things that make us similar and the ways in which we can help each other.

I believe it is more beneficial if you think of someone — not in terms of how they are different from you and what alienates you from them — but the ways in which they are similar to you.

One problem confronting youth today is wondering how we are going to be able to effect change and what sort of change are we trying to effect?

There are so many things that young people want do, but there is some confusion about where to begin; who is going to help you, or must you jump in and sink or swim?

Some people suggest that if you want to change things you have to get into the system and change it from there. Others say that if you try and do that you are going to become a part of the system that you are trying to change and you are going to lose sight of your objectives.

What I am finding among a lot of my peers is that they would rather join the system and change it from within, because that is what you do when you become of age.

I don't think it's necessary to go along with what is going on. It is perfectly acceptable to co-exist and try to effect your own kind of change. I think maybe a co-existence of both attitudes might be more beneficial than one or the other extreme.

What's important, is having a vision of your objective and making sure you don't let it die.

You can adopt an attitude or an opinion or a catch phrase, but it is not going to do you much good if it hasn't got something a little more lasting behind it.

Most teenagers have the attitude of, "you know, where is the party?

We are teenagers, this is not a serious thing, we are young, we have time." And it is not that we don't, and it is not that we are not looking for a party — because I am — but the immediacy to that is going to die out, if you don't couple that with some sort of vision that is going to last you a little bit longer.