Professor Wu's Rulebook

Who needs “Millennial Advice” columns when you’ve got a long-lost 350 year old book about young people?

‘A Guide To The Childe And Youth’. 

Everywhere you look these days, people seem to be talking about the youth. The youth have it pretty bad. They have sky high rents and miniscule wages because young people don’t vote for neoliberal capitalists, but neoliberal capitalists have all the power. They have to work harder than any previous generation because all the older generations left them so much stuff to do. They have a dying planet they have to work out how to save, because all the older generations loved fossil fuels too much and didn’t like the thought of doing anything differently. So, they’ve got a lot on their plate.

But of course we also know that young people – “Generation Y” or “Millennials” – are self-entitled, arrogant, lazy and prone to whining about the fact that they have no jobs, no prospects, nowhere to live, etc. etc.

And we also know that the youth “are the future” (to quote every school head teacher). And millennials are being more than a little disruptive to the way businesses and government try to deal with everything.

Because of this, there are more than a few columns printed at an increasing rate across the interwebs. They range from giving Millennials “twenty things to do in their twenties” (did you see what they did there?), to telling them where to live, through to telling them not to be single if they want any chance of not dying in poverty.

All of which is good advice probably/possibly/maybe not/definitely not/what are you talking about that’s not good advice? (delete as appropriate to your world view and current living circumstances).

Yet when there is such a plethora of advice out there, it can be hard to work out exactly what to do, especially for aspiring creatives. Which articles should writers, artists, photographers, illustrators, comedians and just normal members of Gen Y pay attention to? Which should they ignore?

Our advice? Ignore all of them. None of them say anything that hasn’t been said before (even this hasn’t been said before; Thucydides beat us to that almost 2.5 thousand years ago).

More importantly, none of them say anything better than a recently unearthed 350 year old book in North Staffordshire.

Photograph via Keele University Library

The leather-bound book, currently held at Keele University Library, was first published in 1667 – one year after the Great Fire of London. Titled A Guide for the Childe and Youth, it’s target demographic is perhaps a little younger than the twenty-somethings currently stepping out blinking into a world spiralling toward economic, humanitarian and environmental disaster. Yet the book still teaches valuable life skills that the cash-strapped, asset-poor Millennial could do with knowing.

Indeed, the book’s several chapters on “How to work out a sum of money and count up the pence” are probably of far more practical use to the youth of today than Guardian advice columns telling them to “fall in love 10 times a day, or at least have sex”.

Fortunately, Millennials won’t have to travel to Keele University Library to check out the sole existing copy of this marvellous little book. The university is planning to make A Guide for the Childe and Youth digitally accessible, so Millennials can read advice on how to prepare for “a life of trade-based work” on their smartphones as they commute to their unpaid internships.

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