The emoji exams

The emoji exams

Ever underestimated the tweenters (teenagers and twenty somethings)?

Have you ever tried fitting an iPhone screen protector? I have, ok, so the sticky plastic went on eventually, but not without a cack-handed fight and loads of unsightly and annoying bubbles. So I re-camped and studied some Youtube videos of (young) experts from all around the world telling me about the cleaning prep, tools and techniques I needed for a proper fit. The thing is the tweenters already know this, they’re doing this fine and more, blinged up, accessorised smartphones is their thing. I need to be learning more from them.

So why are we judging and testing the tweenters with our standards and knowledge? Get this straight, they are the ones that will live in the future not us. Sure we may be undertaking some impressively destructive endeavours, like finishing off fossil fuels (who likes a plate with a few scraps left on it?), and generally trying to wipe each other out, but young people are busy creating the technology and culture that will define our future. Who needs to know how to spell or count anymore? Everyone has access to a calculator or spell checker, and language isn’t even the same. Wud u care? The tweenters r creating the language and we’re going to have to learn it to keep up. Its going to be more important to know how to install and use an emoji app on your smartphone than know how to spell rythmn in 10 years. In fact, it already is more useful. Who needs correctly spelled words? If you were one of the people (like me) who for 5 years thought lol meant lots of love, that would have more impact on your life than a mispelt ‘rithem’.

So why are we testing young people on our knowledge? Old people sitting down and writing exams for young people who will just tear up the rules and create their own and our future regardless? I propose a new set of exams for all middle-aged and upwards citizens to take, all set by savvy teenagers. Some of the questions could be:

– How do you successfully fit a bubble-free smartphone screen protector?
– How do you find and install the best and latest smartphone apps?
– What do the following emojis mean?
– How do you create a million followers on your Youtube channel recorded in your bedroom?
– Please outline how you’d create a movement based on values rather than bureaucratic project management.
– How can we live in a borderless, interconnected, globalised planet with a common language of emojis, likes and shares?

This is my stab at the questions, but probably I’m not the right person to set them. The point is it needs to be written by a young person. Just as much as our time-worn institutions and rules are going to shape the future, the future generations’ tearing up of the rules will too. So if we don’t want to be left behind its time to start revising for some new exams set by a 14 year old. We spend so much time trying to get young people to understand history and the ways of the world as it is now, shouldn’t we spend a bit of time learning about the future?

Ok, so I’m exaggerating a bit to illustrate a point, and of course some knowledge is timeless and of enduring value, think e=mc2, and driving tests. But my point is about balance. If we want a compassionate society, one where young and old co-exist collaboratively, isn’t it right that understanding goes both ways? If you’re puzzled or shocked by how the older generation becomes isolated and side-lined, this is also part of the answer. Young people are expected to educate themselves to be engaged, involved and relevant, the same expectation should be true for older people. Wisdom and knowledge doesn’t have an ageist issue, it will latch onto whoever is willing to embrace it.


Earlier this year the Royal Voluntary Service organised GrandFest in London, a craft festival celebrating the skills that older people possess. You could take workshops in things like wood turning, preserve making and knitting. Wouldn’t it be great to see more inter-generational workshops like this, but also ones where young people are the teachers too?

This is my first ‘words’ blog, and please feel free to comment, as for me now, I’m off to revise for my emoji of the times tables

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