Education Quandary: 'Why should we fund public youth projects that teach youngsters things such as how to record violent rap songs?'

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Hilary's advice

This reader has been angered by a recent court case. Doesn't doing this sort of thing, he asks, simply encourage bad behaviour?

I think it does. It at least condones it, so that young people aren't made to face questions of morality and consequences. Taking part in community youth projects hasn't steered some youngsters away from violence or extremism.

But it's a difficult balancing act. Open up a youth project with a programme of "dig our allotment" or "tuba classes for beginners" and no one will want to come. You have to start from where the youngsters are, which means offering things such as music, football, fashion and beauty.

The difficulty comes once you've enticed them there. Any worthwhile youth project presumably aims to give its youngsters solid help as they navigate adolescence, particularly if they are street youths who lack tethering at home.

In such cases, youth workers can be crucial friends, encouraging youngsters to build their skills and confidence.

But you need so many skills to do this work. If you are going to challenge the behaviour of chippy youngsters and confront them with big questions of right and wrong, then you are going to need to be a counsellor, tutor, social worker and friend, all rolled into one. Not all poorly paid and often poorly trained youth workers are such paragons, which is why muddled thinking can bedevil the best-intentioned public-funded youth projects.

Readers' advice

I have been a qualified youth worker for many years and have often put together music projects. We encourage young people to write lyrics and produce CDs, but I've never been involved with the making of violent rap songs and would make it clear what was acceptable material. I would be surprised if any bona-fide organisation and its staff would not do the same. But, in my experience, young people usually write anti-violence and anti-drugs songs. We do not condone young people's bad behaviour; we listen to their problems and offer informed choices. Many young people are more than capable of making decisions, so I feel our taxes are going towards many positive projects to help young people and give them a sense of purpose. If anything, there are not enough of them, as central funding is always being cut.

Jo Perrin, Hertfordshire

I totally agree with you that a lot of youth work does not help youngsters. In our village, for example, a new youth group had to be stopped after it led to the children's playground was damaged and other petty crimes were committed.

Jean Marshall, East Sussex

All young people like to try out pushing the boundaries, so it is better if they do it in the safe space of a youth club with youth workers rather than running with a violent gang on the streets.

De-Ann Montague, Manchester

Next Week's Quandary

Dear Hilary, Our daughter wants to sign up for the new diploma in IT that her school is offering after GCSEs. We feel positive about her decision, because she is so keen to do it, but we worry that her year will be the guinea pigs, and a lot could go wrong. Also, she is bright enough to go on to university. Is this qualification as good as A-levels?

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed in this column, to h.wilce@btinternet.com. Please include your postal address on your message. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries can be found on www.hilarywilce.com, where they can be searched by topic.

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