Unemployed and in debt: young, white, working class and ambivalent.

When the next sulky teenager asks you why he has to go to school, and what the point of it at all is, you will have a daunting reply. Tell him that if he does not finish High School and if he does not pass his exams and get qualified, he will be twice as likely to remain unemployed as the rest of his class, who passed their exams. Tell him that living on benefits and grants is not only extremely uncomfortable but next to impossible. Tell him that debt is a downwards spiral that it is very difficult to recover from. But the shocking reality is that the children of white working class families in Britain don’t seem to care.

The chief inspector at Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, points to the white working class children as currently being the largest demographic for under achievement at primary and high school levels. This brings up the interesting comparison that children from Indian, African, Pakistani and Caribbean families who find themselves in the same category of poverty achieve much better results.

Ofsted’s chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw maintains that, “If we don’t crack the problem of low achievement by poor white British boys and girls, then we don’t solve the problem overall.” He also goes on to explain that since 2007 achievement levels in this sector have stumbled along behind all other ethnic groups in the country.

What is causing the problem of ambivalence amongst young whites in Britain?

Some blame is heaped on the parents. Many white working class parents did not enjoy school so have little to no interest in their child’s education. The working class culture built in the 60’s and the 70’s embodied a lively and vital era influenced by fashion, art and music. The Beatles after all, were four young men from the working class stratum. In those days being working class was something to be proud of. However, those young people are the working class parents of today and most have become disillusioned with jobs that have become unstable, and wages that are not adequate. These families live in debt, earning minimal incomes and are saddled with continual concern for their future. Not only that, but they also have to wrestle with the determined one-track mind of the immigrant neighbor who has come to seek his fortune and will fight for it tooth and nail. This is where the children are growing up, and they are coming in last behind all the other ethnic groups in their economic sector. Last in school results, and last in ambition it seems.

Another reason that these youngsters are failing is that the traditional values of the job market have completely changed. Industrial and manufacturing corporations don’t look after the ‘little guy’ anymore. Where once a company would set up social events, clubs, and try to create a cohesive community, these days jobs in the working class sector come with no frills.

The social events, sports clubs, public libraries, even churches have lost their luster. Pubs have been shut down as business fails. The one thing that you find alive and well on the high street are the payday lenders, pawn brokers, and other short term loan services. Why should that teenager pay attention at school? What is it going to do for him? Will he just end up like his mother and father trying to pay back loans and debt because the job market is just not enticing enough? Who cares, right?