In the wake of yet another flurry of criticism surrounding the ‘Snowflake Generation’, the past weeks have seen media opinion polarised between those who think the label has merit, and those who argue it is misplaced.

Originating in Chuck Palahniuk’s cult classic ‘Fight Club’ and popularised by Claire Fox in her short polemic ‘I Find That Offensive!’, The ‘Generation Snowflake’ label denotes those young adults of the 2010s, branding them as overly sensitive, entitled and less resilient than their predecessors. Like snowflakes, the implication is that these are delicate individuals, liable to melt at the slightest increase in temperature.

As Head of a School charged with developing this generation, and mother of a daughter born in 2000, I have watched this criticism of today’s young people with growing interest and wish to offer the following:

The world of today is a very different one, full of different pressures and requiring different responses. This is a generation that has grown up online in a digital world where no action or thought is private; where each day must be lived as if someone is always watching, waiting and commenting. Far from being so sheltered that they have never heard opposing points of view, the overabundance of commentary available online means they are constantly encountering violently different opinions. Perhaps this generation do not possess the resilience gained from doing the paper round, but they have, I think, developed a different type of resilience far more appropriate to the vastly different world they inhabit.

Indeed, it seems to me that if there is a new sort of person emerging, this is not such a bad thing at all. The 21st century requires a different type of leader with a different skill-set and today’s young people should be commended, not criticised, for their empathy, sensitivity and awareness of others. A knowledge of the globe and global issues by the average 16 year old far surpasses my generation at a similar age, and I think it is incredibly positive that we are now having conversations reflective of the many challenges that every teenage generation faces (after all, there has not suddenly been a change in the evolutionary state of a teenager - it has always been a mix of confused hormones racing to the touchline of 21!)

Our girls demonstrate remarkable emotional and intellectual intelligence and we as parents and teachers should continue to encourage this. Their aspiration does not equal a sense of entitlement, nor should their political activism be condemned as narcissism or ungratefulness. To draw an interesting parallel, I wonder if the suffragists, now celebrated for changing the status quo, were also in their own time cried off as ungrateful for their aspirations and ridiculed for pursuing equality...

Today’s young people are no snowflakes; they will not melt and I am not concerned about the hailstorms that may rain down around them. This generation will change lives and will do so with a combination of integrity, courage and determination, continuing the fight for the unfinished business of equality.

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