Radical Youth Work - Developing critical perspectives and professional judgement

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By Brian Belton

Large format paperback, 144 pages

Published 2009

How can youth workers support young people while delivering policy?
What make a 'positive activity' positive?
When is an 'informed choice' truly informed?
Why is politics in education discourages?
How can we make sense of all of this?

Writing from a tradition of information and radical dissent, Belton askes those working with young people to reassess their role and motivation and, on the basis of the radical tradition of youth work, critique the imposed forms of 'protection' (surveillance) 'welfare' (child care) 'management (administrative fire-fighting) and pretty much formalised (didactic) instruction/advice giving. This book has been written to promote challenge and argument in the face of the increasing conformity, homogeneity and predictability with youth work theory.

Belton addresses topics that are ripe for review in this inspiring collection of interrelated discussions, which offers:

  • a foundation of workers, leaders and students to engage in positive analysis of the sift in government focus from individual and groups of young people - and their personal and collective perspectives - to national, functional, economic requirements

ways of putting into perspective this move away from seeing the strength of young people as their relatively unmediated potential to be a fresh and vibrant natural resource to reinvigorate society

  • a launching pad for practitioners to consider how to use their professional judgement to alter perception and routines of service in ways that challenge traditions; but without condemning other academics, thinkers or youth workers
  • Tania do St Croix's consideration of a foundation literature of radical you work, and how new theories could be engendered
  • Zuber Ahmed's concluding chapter that encourages youth workers to:

> constantly question their own actions and interventions
> help young people - through questioning - to forsake ready-made ideas and products and reawaken their own - and our - imaginations, sense of wonder, and faith in dynamic possibilities

The goal is to engender as self- reinforcing cycle, whereby radical theory is enlivened via practice, the critique of which provides the basis and provocation of professional judgement (development or even the rejection of convention) which is the conduit of radical theory (that tested in practice evokes further critique).

Not a formal academic book, it uses logical deconstruction of current paradigms, personal narrative, life story and metaphor as the means for the reader to begin to take a look at the fundamentals of youth work practice and question its taken-for-granted notions. It will enable youth workers to think clearly about the social function and/or political purpose of 'education' in a time when many feel 'community education' to be their role.

As Belton puts it @ I have worked with the contributors to leave as much as possible for the reader to make personal links to practice and to create their own associations between the elements that make up the whole of this book. I hope this will mean that it will be a different book for every individual that reads it, this would be in the best traditions of the making of professional judgement, creating the means for us to generate eclecticism rather conformity and derive comprehension via diversity'>

Youth workers, youth work leaders, youth work students and anyone who works with young people

Brian Belton has been a youth worker in - amongst other places - Bethnal Green, Glasgow and the Falkland islands, has completed a Doctorate on the nature of identity, race and ethnicity, is a senior lecturer at London's YMCA George William College - the biggest trainer of youth workers in the UK - and has taught youth work in several countries. He is the author of over 20 books, as well as sociologist, critical anthropologist and social historian.


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