A couple of weeks ago in one of my first semester courses as a Master’s student in Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria, my teacher had a classmate read aloud an article written by Heather Modlin, a Ph.D. student in the same department, and published in the online journal of the International Child and Youth Care Network (CYC-Net). Two things happened for me as I listened to Heather’s words being read: 1) I related immensely, finding myself nodding along like a happy pony; and, 2) I started to gain a vocabulary for a tension I myself had felt, but was yet unaware existed elsewhere and for others in the field.
Under the title and umbrella of understanding the agenda of Child and Youth Care as predominantly political or individual, Heather explains a division she has seen in the field of Child and Youth Care between those who see their work as following an agenda that “challenge[s] the societal status quo,” and others who believe it is our role to “provide direct assistance to young people and their families who are struggling.” These two conflicting agendas, she posits, have created cliques within the field; the cliques further generate general animosity between the two; and all this contributes to feelings that the one is “lesser than,” while the other is left out of a conversation to which they don’t have the tools to join.
How do we bridge the gap, then, and make these conversations existing within the halls and classrooms of Child and Youth Care relevant to the average youth worker? Even the word “practitioner,” to a practitioner, may seem unnecessarily heavy. Why not just worker? Why not someone who works with kids? But, of course, it’s the same thing. And so we enter headlong into a conversation that has as much to do with the words used as it does with the actual content of discourse.
If our agenda is to examine the philosophies of power to better understand the contexts of power through which we work with youth, well. Let us do that, then, and also take the next step of implementing how this is relatable and useful for those in contact with young people. Let us write our words and share our thoughts in a way that is understandable to, and helpful for, those furthering the practice.
I begin to address a real-life example of this in my last post on beauty and how we define girlhood; even in recent media attempts to change the status quo of Beauty, the conversation exists within and because of capitalism. Throughout the post, I hint towards Foucault’s idea of power, and how we can never separate ourselves from the layers of power that have made us–we cannot ourselves separate from the context in which we live. I appreciate the words of a colleague of mine, who made the easy-to-understand comparison of this and The Truman Show, a 1998 film in which Jim Carrey’s character lives in a contrived world, but it is the only world he knows. His reality exists within this created reality, just as ours exists within the decades–no, centuries–of layer upon layer of social, political, and economic power plays.
At the end of her article, Heather asks us as Child and Youth Care scholars and workers to reexamine our agendas. For anyone, in any profession, I think this is wise advice. Why are we doing what we do, what is our agenda to be here, doing this thing? This becomes even more important when it has to do with the real lives of real people.
I understand what it is to be a youth worker. Currently, I am learning to understand what it is to be a Child and Youth Care student. My hope is that as I continue my practice (in the truest sense of the word – think yoga or piano) in both, I may find that they do not have to be mutually exclusive. I would hope that my learnings will affect my teachings, and positively. Too, that my lived experiences will give guidance to what and how my potential future research adds to conversations in the field.
What do you think? Are these concepts mutually exclusive? Can we have a field of study wherein more pragmatic workers feel supported by the research being conducted by theoretically-prone scholars, and those in academia feel their research is utilized and appreciated by those providing the day-in, day-out care of youth and their families?