Wasted by Georgia Gould, book review: In praise of the blanked generation

The Labour councillor presents a compelling case for convincing the reader that a great number of young people are, in fact, pretty switched on

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The Independent Culture

Everyone knows that today's youth are a bunch of uncultured, ill-mannered wasters who don't vote and can't hold a real conversation, right? Well, surely not everyone, but that is certainly the unfair generalisation that so-called Millennials are faced with thanks to the media (sorry) and a lack of effort from political parties to engage with them.

Wasted is Labour councillor Georgia Gould's attempt to dispel such myths. A Millennial herself (Gould was elected into Kentish Town ward when she was just 24), she presents a compelling case for convincing the reader that a great number of young people are, in fact, pretty switched on.

A headache of statistics thrown in to illustrate every point confirms that those under the age of 26 are more likely to share (experiences, knowledge and possessions), more likely to volunteer and more likely to give back to their community than their elders. We are, to quote SB.TV entrepreneur Jamal Edwards, the "self-made generation".

It is true that Gould says in 40 words what could be said in four and I, for one, am not overly moved by her extensive fact-checking – but then what do I know? I, too, am an impatient youth and Wasted is not aimed at me. It is a book which should really be picked up by Gould's ageing peers who are, seemingly, all too happy to shirk the responsibility of engaging young people in politics and winning their votes.

Much of what Gould has to say seems fairly obvious but she is right to highlight the good qualities and insight that young people can bring to the table. The case studies make for the best reading: teenage coders, entrepreneurs who create their own empires online and school students angered enough by crime within their own community to launch campaigns, support groups and charities. These real-life examples, along with Gould's admirable enthusiasm, are uplifting and should absolutely succeed in convincing the reader that we youngsters really do have drive and ambition, and are not merely "feral animals" lost in tech.

But with her shining examples of teenagers helping grannies cross the road safely out of the way, Gould's final chapters dwindle into just what I really hoped they wouldn't: a shameless PR stunt.

While it would be too much to expect a Labour councillor to offer a politically balanced argument, Gould's unsubtle Tory digs are tiresome and self-serving. As the daughter of the late New Labour VIP Philip Gould, Gould admits she had a fairly privileged upbringing, which makes it all the more petty to attack middle class parents for "driving the rise in private tuition".

Similarly, I'm not convinced by the fiercely bullet-pointed suggestions for an alternative education policy that follow soon after. These, and her nostalgic anecdotes from the good old days of 1997, will surely achieve nothing, apart from maybe a high-five from Tony Blair.

Maybe some will read Wasted and offer Labour their vote in May. Surely most will see through Gould's effort. But hopefully some will take Wasted into account and be a little easier on young people, who do deserve more respect from an older generation who have had many things handed to them.