What Is Youth?

In youth good men often appear to be simple, and are easily practised upon by the dishonest, because they have no examples of what evil is in their own souls.

- Plato, The Republic, 409A

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea of youth. In 1898 Joseph Conrad wrote, “I remember my youth and the feeling that will never come back any more – the feeling that I could last for ever, outlast the sea, the earth, and all men; the deceitful feeling that lures us on to perils, to love, to vain effort – to death…” From antiquity to our own time, the concept of youth, with its promise of possibility and adventure, has been greeted with fascination as well as fear. The ancient Greeks saw the period of youth as dangerous and unpredictable, but how did they seek to control it? How did the Renaissance celebrate the ideals and intellect of youth? Why was 19th century British society so preoccupied with the moral well-being of young people? And does a distinct youth culture still exist?

Listen to Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Youth on the In Our Time podcast

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

For years now, we’ve heard the gripes by and about millennials, the offspring of the Great Recession, caught between childhood and adulthood. Their plight seems so very 21st century: the unstable careers, the confusion of technologies, the delayed romance, parenthood and maturity.

Many of the same concerns and challenges faced the children of the industrial revolution, as the booms and busts of America’s wild 19th century tore apart the accepted order....

The idea that millennials are uniquely “stuck” is nonsense. Young Victorians grasped for maturity as well, embarrassed by the distance between their lives and society’s expectations.

Continue reading Jon Grinspan's short article: Anxious Youth, Then and Now

Further Reading

"Boy!" I said. I also say "Boy!" quite a lot. Partly because I have a lousy vocabulary and partly because I act quite young for my age sometimes. I was sixteen then, and I'm seventeen now, and sometimes I act like I'm about thirteen. It's really ironical, because I'm six foot two and a half and I have gray hair. I really do. The one side of my head – the right side – is full of millions of gray hairs. I've had them ever since I was a kid. And yet I still act sometimes like I was only about twelve. Everybody says that, especially my father. It's partly true, too, but it isn't all true. People always think something's all true. I don't give a damn, except that I get bored sometimes when people tell me to act my age. Sometimes I act a lot older than I am – I really do – but people never notice it. People never notice anything. - Excerpt from The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Related Topics

 Childhood | School

Each day I post short quotes by great thinkers on a particular philosophical, scientific or historical topic, along with videos, interviews and articles by contemporary thinkers that explore each topic in more detail. Find me on Facebook or Twitter or enter your email below to learn about the ideas that helped shape our world.

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