Old heads on young shoulders

There are many adages from a by-gone era that need to be resurrected for the benefit of today’s youth.

One is that “you cannot put an old head on young shoulders”.

The cult of youth and the pandering to youth and their opinions, on the principle that they are the leaders of tomorrow, has a flaw in it. Truly, they will be the next generation but that does not prove that we should pander to them. Rather we should educate them because, by definition, young people have not yet attained to a balanced view of life in order to suggest solutions. This lack of balance can produce cultural vandals vying for attention.

The young

The youth of today are being short-changed. They are living in fear of climate change and nuclear war. Our educational system fails them, teaching them grievance and fear, while failing to teach them Christian hope and self-worth, leading to mental health issues of anxiety and depression.

Older readers may remember the following adages that we were taught when we were young but I challenge you to find them repeated in public life at present. Since beginning this list, I have added a few useful ones which may occasionally crop up in public discourse.

  1. Look before you leap.
  2. Count to ten.
  3. Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.
  4. Don’t believe everything you read in newspapers (useful for social media).
  5. All that glitters is not gold (useful for our celebrity culture).
  6. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing (particularly relevant to the young).
  7. You are just a poor loser (useful for those who cannot accept the result of electiions).
  8. Let bygones be bygones (could be useful for cancel culture).
  9. Live and let live (useful for woke supporters).
  10. Out of sight, out of mind (could be useful for cancel culture).
  11. You can please some people some of the time but not all the people all of the time.
  12. He is a Jack-of-all-trades and master of none.
  13. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”, is not true but it is useful for introducing perspective to young people’s thinking.
  14. You won’t miss the water till the well runs dry (about lack of foresight, very common in political circles where short-termism prevails Pro 22:3 and Pro 27:12).
  15. There are none so blind as those who will not see (prejudicial closing of one’s mind to unwanted information).
  16. “If the cap fits, then wear it” (useful for those who are easily offended).
  17. “Be thankful for small mercies” (useful for this ‘grievance politics’ era).
  18. “Honour to whom honour is due.”
  19. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” (useful for young people).
  20. “playing the race card” is possibly no longer politically correct and so it has disappeared.
  21. “Jack is as good as his master” (applied to those who think that they are better than they are).
  22. A Jack-of-all-trades but master of none (for those who have not concentrated on anything).
  23. “Count your blessings” (useful for greivance politics), and “be thankful for small mercies”.
  24. A just war (ever since American interventionism, the ‘just war’ concept has fallen off the agenda, but relearning its principles will be useful for assessing current international conflicts).
  25. “Ban the Bomb” – the young are more worried by climate change than by the dangers of nuclear war.
  26. “A stitch in time saves nine”.
  27. “the tail should not wag the dog” (useful for minorities thinking that they are majorities).
    • Some useful ones that occasionally crop up.
  28. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
  29. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
  30. It is not what you know that matters, but whom you know.
  31. It is not only who you are but what you stand for that counts.
  32. “He/she is playing the race card”; this might now be a non-politically correct statement so that it is no wonder if it is no longer heard in public life.
  33. “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” (useful for ‘virtue signallers‘). 20 Feb 2023: beginning to be applied to Prince Harry and Megan.

Aesop’s Fables are probably not politically correct by today’s opinions, along with multitudes of earlier authors who are cancelled by this ‘woke’ generation, so that the collective wisdom of the ages is not available to our rising generation. A whole generation of youth would do well to learn about The Boy who Cried Wolf, The Hare and the Tortoise, and many other examples of ancient wisdom. “Let not him that puts on his armour boast like he who takes it off” 1K 20:11.

In debate, one should pay attention not only to what a person says but also to what they do not say. However, this requires a broad knowledge of a subject, showing why a young person’s opinion is likely to be unbalanced and why one needs to become a zugologist.

As for decision-makers, whether they are politicians or whatever, newbies need to learn quickly about unintended consequences, the most recent example being Kwazi Kwarteng’s ‘mini’-budget, which had the unintended consequence of his being sacked as the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer for not foreseeing the unintended consequences in the market.


9 Nov 2021: Jordan Peterson blames the Universities for our current wokism.

21 Dec 2022: Nigel Farage in GB News today quoted “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” concerning the hypocritical protests about the Football World Cup in Qatar. It must be over two decades since I heard this quoted.

11 Mar 2023: Neil Oliver on GB News tonight reminded us of the Boy that cried Wolf and discussed truth and lies, and the loss of trust when lies are exposed.

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