Understanding Youth Culture (page 3)

By — Online Journal of Urban Youth Culture
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

The philosophy of Positive Youth Development

Positive Youth Development, in concept and execution, embraces the principle that youth are still developing druing adolescence. Advocates of this approach recognize the potential for shaping the citizens of the future. In the case of urban youth, there is a great challenge to treat them fairly. Because of factors that are not of their own making, many urban youth are often not viewed as children or young people but rather as criminals. It is critical to the future of not only all children and young people but society that this tendency to categorize our youth based on preconceived notions be eliminated. In the words of the philanthropist Floyd Starr, "There are no bad children, just children that have suffered from bad examples or conditions".

Americans can no longer naively assume that suburban or rural communities are "different" and that the children that inhabit those communities are not at-risk. Children and young people are the products of their environment. In the year 2003 the entire world is one environment and, as with global warming and the ill effects of neglect and abuse to our ecosystems, our youth the world over are at risk.

In closing I will quote an elderly gentleman I spoke with in Detroit during a recent research project, Mr. Charlie Williams, a citizen of Detroit for more than 60 years. As we discussed how things once were and how they are now in the city, Mr. Williams smiled and said, "Doc, the good kids ain't all that good, and the bad kids ain't really that bad."

How true, I thought to myself as I laughed and shook this elder citizen's hand. I recalled my own youth in Detroit and how I was neither as good as some adults liked to believe nor as bad as some people in the community would have believed me to be, though they didn't even know me.

In teaching classes now I always ask my students at the beginning of the term whether or not any of them have ever been delinquents. The response is always the same… of course not, after all, they are college students, the future of our society, the crème de la crème… how could any of them be anything other than the best of the best?

A few weeks into the term (after they've gotten to know me better) I ask the question again… I'd say it's about fifty/fifty by then.

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