Thursday 3 November 2011

Are young people 'Angry, Violent and Abusive'?

Barnardos research has rekindled the old 'young people are animals' debate again, which hadn't really died down since the riots, and draconian sentences of a month ago or so, and before that, the rolling press coverage of various 'hoodie' related and other generally lazy 'children-are-not-what-they-used-to-be' stories.

In their survey they found that Almost half of Britons think young people are angry violent and abusive, with one in four thinking troubled children are beyond help by the age of 10. there was plenty of other equally scary stats (see Children behaving like animals, Barnardo's survey finds).

So which two thousand people did they ask?  Were any of them under 18?  Constant debate among (only) adults about changes in childhood is really rather dull and a bit meaningless.  It does however, reveal a far more interesting and useful question:

How much (and what quality of) social contact is there between younger and older people?

Going back to the figures, I'd really like to ask the 24% of people who thought those who behaved badly were beyond help by the age of 10.  How many of them have any meaningful relationship with any children?  I find it hard to believe anyone who lives or works with children (angels or bad boys) can possibly imagine any child being beyond help.

Looking to our politicians, have any come from troubled childhoods?  Boris Johnson, Dave Cameron and their Bullingdon Club mates have certainly done quite well despite, in their youth, trashing pubs and restaurants.  Even Cleggy, given his previous arson conviction, has done quite well.

Dave Cameron in his now famous 'hug a hoodie' speach, to the Centre for Social Justice founded by Iain Duncan Smith (not many under 18s there) says:

The first thing is to recognise that we'll never get the answers right unless we understand what's gone wrong...We - the people in suits - often see hoodies as aggressive, the uniform of a rebel army of young gangsters...

The complaints are identical.
Young people are out of control.
There's nothing for them to do.
Why can't their parents do their job properly?

...And if the phrase "social justice" is to be meaningful, it has to be about justice, as well as compassion and kindness.  It has to involve a sense of cause and consequence - of just rewards and just deserts.  One of the most important things we can teach our children is a sense of justice.'

The 'suits' is an interesting stereotype of his audience (their website certainly doesn't suggest that); The 'hoodies' in his speach remain a voiceless stereotype. When he talks of 'justice' all I can see screaming out is the injustice meted out everyday on young people by adults. ASBOs, mosquito alarms, and the recent use of heavy custodial sentences in the riots are obvious recent injustices, but they also model division between young and old, exasperating entrenched attitudes of young and old.

David Cameron goes on:

'Too often, the reality is that for "partnership" you can read "takeover."
If we're serious about the social sector doing more, then government and the public sector has to learn to let go.

There are two values at the heart of modern Conservatism.
Trusting people, and sharing responsibility.'

He was, of course, considering 'state' and 'private' sectors. However, if we make the leap to consider children themselves as part of a 'partnership', a trusting relationship, sharing responsibility, then we can look to real 'justice', and an opportunity for all of us to work together to challenge criminal behaviour and promote 'Big society' values.

Some examples of on-going collaborative work with young people in Birmingham:

 The Future Melting Pot  empower young people to achieve their potential through enterprise

Children's Lives -  Birmingham's Young People's Archive

No Postcode - Young people from the West Midlands has made a video to stop people joining gangs

Please add more you know about in comments.

Other links

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