The Fear Factory

This article by Helen McNutt acts as an excellent foil to the vitriolic lynch (media) mob that re-grouped to to preach hatred, judgment and demonisation, given that the Bulger case is back in the spotlight.
fear factory.jpg
I’m grateful to Chris for the pointer to this article which also put me in contact with a film called The Fear Factory, a film which aims to raise the debate about crime and young people out of the realms of rabble-rousing ill informed soundbites.
“The self-fulfilling prophesy that’s doubled our prison population,
demonised our young and costs us billions…
Welcome to the Fear Factory”

The coalition behind the film have a blog here.
More info when I have found an opportunity to watch the film

Young People

I loved this quote from a great youth worker about the challenges of working with the marginalised young people they serve:
“Some people say they are horrible,
but they are not. They are beautiful young people!
But their behaviour sucks”

I’m not sure if I’ve missed the deadline for the Grove booklet on “things I wish I’d known” but the piece I wanted to write was going to be “There is ALWAYS a reason for the behaviour”

Lost Boys

I was sent this article from the Times entitled, “Who’s to blame for our last boys?”
It’s a compressed version of a forthcoming book but is well worth a read. Sue Plamer argues that Masculinity, in it’s role and values, has been ‘neutered’ by cultural shifts during the last century and particularly by the rise of feminism. She argues that boys need the company, influence and role-modelling of other men, but more than that, male led activity that can usefull harness and develop teenage boys’ adolescent energy. She sees this as something that has been lost and calls for the importance of the male parent but more than that, male role-models, mentors and friends.
palmer book 21c boys.jpgThe article in my opinion was a bit too scathing of feminism, when its’ thesis is actually only critiquing one unfortunate bi-product, but as a cultural reflection it is well worth a read. For me, the author has identified a lot of issues that we observe as youth workers (in fact It acts as an involuntary endorsment of youth work but then I would say that). The article is a rallying cry for time and energy investment in the lives of young men. Palmer argues that even for young people that are fortunate to have a committed and involved father, that friends and mentors outside of the family are key. However for young people who lack a father, this piece is a very hard hitting (and rightly so) call that the community needs to offer male led opportunity, challenge and risk to our adolescent boys.
Reading only a vignette is always going to leave some questions hanging in the air so I’m going to get the book I reckon, review to follow.
ht to Yellow Braces uber techy Chris

Who are we talking about?

When is a child, a child and when is a youth, a youth?
I believe that one of the challenges to serious debate about societal attitudes to young people is the numerous and sometimes contradictory way these terms are used.
For example, yesterdays press release from Barnados caused some confusion it seems because of it’s use of the word ‘child!’ Their assertion that society “casually condemns” children was rejected by a few of the people I spoke with (two of whom cited the vast amount donated to ‘Children in need’ two days before as proof we (as a society) do like children). Barnados though meant, pre 18’s (or maybe pre 19’s)
In general parlance ‘child’ means pre-adolescent or maybe pre-secondary school. In terms of political speak though and Children’s services et al, ‘Child’ means pre-adult (up to the age of 18). Big confusion. If I do a word association game with adults, the word child normally elicits positive responses and the word ‘teenager’ or ‘youth’ is massively more likely to garner some negativity.
Now the word ‘youth,’ what does that mean? Again there is some confusion. The word is often taken to mean ‘teenagers,’ but when the media reports on any incident that involves a group of people who have some overlap with youth culture, e.g wearing hoodies, being in a group etc, it gets reported as ‘Youth!’ I believe this further compounds the fear of teenagers rather than realising we are often talking in actuality about people in their 20’s. In one sense the media are correct here, ‘Youth’ can legitimately defined (Dictionary wise) as ‘the period between childhood and maturity’ but I am convinced that to the hearers ‘youth’ can have a number of different connotations.
For further confusion add in the term ‘young people!’

In conclusion and by way of illustration of potential confusion:

The current Youth strategy is called “Aiming high for young people!” and would be part of what the local Children’s Services are delivering on! This strategy flows from ‘Every Child Matters’ which is the underpinning approach for ‘children and young people‘ from birth to age 19.
(And not only is there a confusing overlap and duplication here, the words convey a number of different meanings when received by society as a whole)

Uk society ‘condemning’ children

“More than half the population believe UK children are “feral” and behave like animals, a survey has suggested.
Half of the 2,021 adults interviewed by YouGov for the poll also felt children should be regarded as “dangerous”.
Children’s charity Barnardo’s, which commissioned the study, said society “casually condemned” children.”

The BBC article is here and it’s depressing reading.
It will be interesting to see how this Barnados campaign will be received and whether it will fuel some healthy debate about societal attitudes.

Engaging teens in discussion

teenchatoutsidegroup.jpgJacob and Brian over at Re-thinking Youth Ministry have posted a list of 10 ways they use to enable discussion with teenagers. They are:
1) The Continuum
2) Hypotheticals
3) Graffiti wall
4) Fishbowl
5) Vote
7) Images
8) Talk Partners
9) Role Play
10) Talk Tokens

If you want the fuller explantations then click through to their post, or I have included them in the extended entry on ‘continue reading.’
I use lots of the above strategies but thought I’d try and throw some additional thoughts, ideas and suggestions into the mix!
11) Build Trust: Remember you can’t instantly have deep discussion. Use a ‘Throw and Tell Ball‘ or the like, start with discussions that are low key and non threatening but demonstrate you are interested and listening. Know if you are working with teens there will be off-the-wall mad questions … and how you handle these is a test of whether discussion really is safe or not. (see also the Bosworth Googly)
12) Stick it notes: I’m a big fan of stick-it-notes and find that teenagers are very happy to scribble individually or in groups on stick it notes. The notes mean that young people who don’t like speaking out in a group feel more comfortable and/or there can be a degree of anonymity. You can also divide up a response really easily by say people sticking their responses/questions/thoughts to either the ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’ sides of something.
13) The neutralised Question: How might ‘someone in your class’ at school or ‘someone in church’ answer that.
14) Making Stuff: Asking for a creative response, give out pipe-cleaners or plasticine and invite teens to make something that represents how they feel about the given issue!
15) Their questions driving the discussion: Build trust, introduce the topic and ask them to write the questions that will form the discussion (let them do this anonymously …. oh and you may want to encourage them to write ‘open’ questions not ‘closed’)
16) Overturn Fear of getting it wrong: You have to work hard at creating the idea that discussion is cool, that you are not using questions to arrive at the ‘right’ answer. That the discussion is genuinely important in and of itself.
17) You don’t have all the answers: When teens know that you don’t have all the answers and there are questions you are wrestling with it can be really freeing
18) Environment: Think about the environment in which you are discussing. If it feels like school they’ll respond acordingly. Work hard too at taking out the power dynamics (eg not sitting higher than the group, being part of the group not removed from it etc)
19). The debate: Randomly divide the teenagers up into, for example, ‘support’ and ‘Oppose’ groups on a particular issue. They have to argue their position regardless of their personal conviction on the issue. This can be quite liberating and lead to a great discussion of the issue without anyone feeling vulnerable about their own position or thoughts.
Please add your thoughts/ideas via the comments!

Continue reading “Engaging teens in discussion”

Listening to Young people

Long term readers of youthblog know that “Listen to young people” is one of my oft repeated mantras. You’ll also know that a failure to listen to young people is one of my regular rants! Here’s a great (true) story that I was told by a sixth former recently:
A School had a day put aside to work with the pupils on creative ways of thinking. They received a whole bunch of input based around Edward de Bono’s “Six thinking hats” All well and good so far. In the afternoon there was a chance to put theory into practice. In groups the pupils were given the question, “How could this school be improved?” The group flexed their newly enhanced thought processes and recorded their insights on pieces of paper.
Here’s the funny/sad bit (delete as applicable)
The pupils then received a summary of the day and the hope that the theory and practice had been helpful. As the pupils left, the staff cleared up the pieces of paper on which the pupils had recorded their insights and put them in the bin!
Arrrrrggghhghhghh! True Story!

The Hoody and Radio 4’s thought for the day

?Ever since Adam and Eve pulled on breeches there’s been a connection between wrongdoing and covering up; hoods keep your ears warm but they can also preserve your identity if you want to engage in criminal activity?But as my hoody-wearing son would tell you: good guys and bad guys wear hoods. For every Sith Lord about to destroy the universe there’s an Obi-Wan Kenobi battling to save it.
The most evil regimes in history have worn the smartest uniforms. Indeed, you could make a strong case for the most criminal group of people in this country being suit wearers: isn’t it people in suits who are largely responsible for robbing pension schemes, selling arms to countries that can’t afford them, and starting wars??

I’m grateful to Roy putting a link to this in the comments and to Barky for unearthing it. The full “Thought” on the BBC web site can be found here. I am not sure who Rhidian Brook is (anyone know?) but he is a pithy, challenging writer …. It’s an awesome thought for the day!
“The intimidating behaviour of kids in shopping centres is not to be defended; but instead of threatening to exchange their hoods for orange penal suits, maybe we should be asking why they behave the way they do. Is all the anger, boredom and frustration that roams the nation remedied by a change of clothes?
In some ways, I suspect that these kids are not so different to us. They’re probably even asking the same questions – How can I enjoy myself? What’s it all for? What is real? Maybe the people who are abusing shoppers are not so different to those shoppers, harming themselves buying things they don’t need and can’t afford. Are they just medicating the emptiness in a different way?”

Negative Images of Young People

Yob.jpg Even by usual media standards there has been a staggeringly large amount of negative press about young people recently. Susan Rauprich from NCVYS has drafted a response that will be going to the press after close of business today. (You can read the letter by clicking on “Continue reading”)
If you would like to endorse this letter, please email Ellie Rose at NCVYS directly ([email protected] ). You should state your name, position and organisation, and respond by 4 oclock today.

Continue reading “Negative Images of Young People”