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developing youth work - preface

developing youth workThis book began life in 1982 as an attempt to construct a coherent and distinctive understanding of youth work. While it would be nice to claim that the thinking reported in these pages has matured and developed through constant reflection over the intervening years, the truth is that it has had a stuttering existence, competing with all sorts of other demands. What follows, therefore, has to be seen as ‘work-in-progress’ and is offered in the hope that it may further stimulate thinking about the practice of youth work and informal education.

Much of the thinking represented here has been greatly enhanced as a result of collaborating with Tony Jeffs in the editing of a series of books about discrete aspects of youth work. One book sought to encourage practitioner theorizing about practice (1987a), another explored youth work’s place in welfare (1988a), and the third examined practice which addressed social division and inequality (1988b). The process of editing these collections confirmed the need for a text which attempted to provide a rationale and method for youth work.

The long time span involved in the writing of this book has meant that ideas have been tried out on a large number of people. Among the principal sufferers have been my colleagues and students at the YMCA National College - to them my thanks. Again, very special thanks are due to Tony Jeffs - while what follows is ‘all my own work’, elements of the book, and in particular Chapter 4, could not have been written without those joint efforts. Chris, Alex and Christopher Rogers have given great support. In addition, the questions ‘when’s tea?’, ‘what’s for tea?’ and ‘why don’t you write a real book like Len Deighton?’ have helped to keep the project in proportion. Thanks are also due to Youth and Policy for allowing me to use a small amount of material which originally appeared in one of their occasional papers (M. Smith, 1987).

Finally, I would like to dedicate this book to Dorothy and Harry Smith. Much of the subject matter relates to their history. They first met nearly 50 years ago as members in a youth club, later ran one as volunteers, and still later sat on the management committees of various youth organizations. In them, and many thousands like them, lies youth work’s strength and future.

Mark Smith

Note on Quotations

Readers may notice that I have left quotations in their original gendered state. It is not always clear what the writers implied by their use of ‘he’ and ‘his’!

All emphases in quotations are as in the original.