Tuesday, May 03, 2005

On why being an urban youth worker is so different

I had a difficult time explaining why in the world urban youth work is so different - and needs a support structure outside the normal frame of youth work in the Church (read: suburban / sub-rural / middle-class / upper-class churches where everybody has a car and parents aren't burnt-out). Hopefully, this excerpt from the Center for Youth Studies may shed some light on the situation in a way that I'm not sure I could (it's hard to look at such things objectively when you're from and a part of the mechanics at play):

social system centers explained

The important principle that “it takes a village to raise a child” needs to be updated. It takes a family, a community, schools and activities, peers and media to raise today’s child. In many cases, a faith congregation, youth group, or part-time job are also part of the picture. All these social systems function within larger society and the spirit of the times.

The greatest flaw in the way we deal with young people—and especially with their problems—is in acting as if each social system is its own world and that issues can be resolved alone within any one of them. Rather, school problems are related to home and community situations. And media and friends are taking over much of the traditional function of family and schools. And all are affected by economics and governments.

We must commit ourselves to “systems thinking,” a strong recognition that all social systems are interacting and influencing the others, that causes sought in a singular way and solutions proposed from a single perspective may not only fail but be counterproductive.

That is why this Center for Youth Studies web site commits itself to portraying a dynamic interaction of social systems and seeks to explain behavior by taking into account what is happening at home, on the streets or in the mall of a community, in schools and activities, among friends and in the media.

I'm interested to see what all they may have to offer.


  1. Oh yes, I'm used to these rather informative explanations of Youth Centers and they're inner dynamics; my sister is a Worker at youth shelter here called 'Eva's Place'.

    I'm also used to the staff vs. management politics that occur within these Centers and how they're slowly and unfortunately becoming an "industry" (how something that seeks to reinvent and improve on youth behaviour and life skills becomes a 'business' is beyond my comprehension)..but I digress.

    Anyway this excerpt is on point. I should get my sis to read it.

    I know you're a teacher but I never asked where you teach...? Are you a YW as well?

  2. I'm a teacher by trade. Meaning, I don't have a full-time job at any school. Which constantly AMAZES me. Not that I think I'm a great teacher and certainly I don't think I have good classroom management skills (to my utter bane. I'm learning, I'm learning, but honestly... Don't tell anybody!) but would you rather hire a teacher from the inner-city who knows, respects, appreciates and loves these kids as his own because they ARE his gente, his people, his familia, his community, or would you rather hire a suburban kids with a lot of idealism and maybe even a big heart but no experience in this world except maybe weekend visits or an internship here or there?

    And nothing against suburbanites and idealists and whoever, but I believe I have substance in that area. I'm just becoming more and more convinced that I suck at selling my vision and my self. I'm just too self-aware and not self-confident enough *can you hear the violin in the background?* So, for the last year and a half, no full-time teaching. And I HATE HATE HATE subbing. Because there's no ownership.

    However, for most of the last year I've been working at my church as the interim youth ministries director, filling in until we get a full-time youth pastor. I've been learning a LOT. And a lot of the stuff I'd rarely worry about prior to this (incarnational theology, leadership) have become top priorities.


  3. Oh, and

    ANYTHING can become a business, girl.

    you should know that being in college... :}

  4. Oh come on, who learns anything in college!

    but yes, life morphs into business, gotcha. I know. ICK! Ever read anything by Horkheimer and Adorno? They spew their venom on that subject quite well. Same with John Baudrillard.

    And it looks like we're commenting back and forth on each other's comments at the same time, right now, in the comments section(s)!

    Now that's something to comment about.

    LOL @ 'suburbanites and idealists' oh boy...if those we two words used to describe me before THEY DEFINITELY ARENT NOW. *giggles*

    My sister and I often have the 'authenticity' argument, and she usually ends up being right.

  5. "Ever read anything by Horkheimer and Adorno? They spew their venom on that subject quite well. Same with John Baudrillard."

    huh? are you writing in hebrew again?

    i learned stuff in college. i also learned outside of college. that doesn't preclude it from becoming a business. same with the cps (the Chicago Public School system that i'm trying to work with here).

    and not that "life morphs into business." but in order to make things run smoothly, we often make organizations out of clusters of previously organic things. sometimes to make it easier and smoother and functional, sometimes just for the money. it's then that business / or beurocracy (sp.) takes over. corporations are now complete individuals with people-rights. we don't give people-rights to our domesticated pets (not that we should) or to the unborn or imprisoned, why should we give it to a company. but that company, that business and certainly that beurocracy now live solely for themselves, not for the people who run it or the people who operate it or the people who are supposed to benefit from it. the business serves the business.

    not that i'm a commie or anything. i'm just sayin'

  6. sunil,

    hey, i really appreciate you leaving a comment and all. it seems that you re-read what i stated and retracted your statement. i also appreciate that.

    but i DON'T appreciate being called a mis. JasDye. :P tell you what, you can simply call me Jason.

    Don't be a stranger.



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