Sunday, September 25, 2005

Arts Council England's Response to the Government Green Paper 'Youth Matters'.

Arts Council England are consulting artists in order to respond to a Government Green Paper called Youth Matters. The paper can be downloaded from the link here. It is proposed that ‘Young People’ (also known as teenagers) are to be issued with ‘Opportunity Cards’ in an effort to get them to try a little exercise or culture - an excellent idea.

The Arts Council obviously wants to make sure that the Arts are involved - that these cards also encourage the young to experience the theatre and the studio as well as the sports field and gym - also a very good idea.

Young people will have a card entitling them (and thereby encouraging them) to join clubs and societies of their choice as well as receiving discounts on things like theatre tickets. The card would also serve as means of identification.

However it is also proposed that those young people that misbehave will have their Opportunity Cards withdrawn. Since one of the main objectives is to get the disillusioned youth off the streets and doing something useful this seems to me to be a bit self-defeating and contradictory. I think maybe it would be better if just some activities were withdrawn if the young person is disruptive - with the possibility that credits on the card could be earned back again if behaviour improves.

Also it is proposed that parents will be encouraged to buy top-up credit on the cards. I think this could be divisive. Those young people who are disadvantaged will see themselves as even more so. The points should be awarded for good behaviour, co-operation and improvement - and nothing else.

It is also proposed that young people are ’empowered’ to shape their own local services. In my experience some young people (usually the most vocal and therefore influential) are harsh judges, make rash decisions and are overconfident in their ability. They are, by definition, immature and inexperienced and have a lot to learn. They need guidance. By all means give them a taste of power, but only a taste - save the main meal for adulthood.

But there are lots of good ideas here and I think the scheme could be quite exciting - I particularly like the proposal that young people should be encouraged to volunteer and help the community - I think anything that gets the young active and interested is a good idea. It will set them up for life.


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