The latest Youth & Policy features Tim Caley’s generous review of Tania de St Croix’s book, ‘Grassroots Youth Work – policy, passion and resistance in practice’
Invoking from the 1960’s the literary critic, Richard Hoggart and the ‘on the side of the underdog’ youth worker, Ray Gosling he argues that ‘the critical achievement of her writing is that it gets to the heart of good youth work practice, it digs deep into how practitioners – especially the part-timers – feel about teenagers, how strongly they love their work and how resilient they are proving in the face of political and financial adversity. Based on three years of research and two years of writing, she weaves together the voices of part-time youth workers and young people with a concise (yet coruscating) analysis of the corrosive impact of government policies on youth work and youth services in the last ten years. What’s more, she does it with an eloquent passion and resistance of her own, reflecting the book’s primary themes’.
Nevertheless, he chides Tania for sometimes being overzealously simplistic in her critique. Somewhat defensively he points out that even in the midst of neoliberal constraint there are empathetic managers. I suppose I’d like to think so too, given I was once mistakenly a Chief Youth Officer. More problematically, in my opinion, he suggests that OFSTED inspections were an accurate arbiter of what constitute the highest standards of youth work practice. He suggests rightly that we should treat seriously the efforts of some charities to chart a positive course through the troubled waters of a shifting economy of youth work. Less persuasively he repeats the tired charge that youth workers fail to provide evidence to funders. From my conversations with workers, they feel they do little else nowadays except furnish data upon data to their bosses. And as for Tania, having devoured its contents, my sense is that her coverage of these issues is nuanced rather than naive.
No matter, books and book reviews, such as Tim’s, ought to stimulate argument and debate. As it is I find myself close to agreeing with the fulsome praise, with which he concludes.
‘Tania de St Croix has written the best book on youth work since Mark K. Smith’s seminal Creators not Consumers, published in 1980′.
Read Tim’s review in full and, do yourself a favour, beg, steal, borrow, even buy the book itself. There are few books in the youth work canon that can be said to be a bloody good read. Tania’s is the exception.