Defining ‘youth’

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Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

On the surface, it might appear that defining the term youth is a very straight straightforward endeavour.

A youth is a young person, right?

A while back, I had the opportunity to attend a Critical Youth Work course, a professional development certificate offered to Ontario youth workers with the space to engage in critical dialogue and learn about the political, social and economic realities that characterize youth work.

When the topic of defining youth and what age group youth constituted came up, there were varying opinions and some uncertainty amongst the participants. In a room full of about twenty youth workers, we could not come up with, or agree on, a concise definition of youth.

A term that often appears to be straightforward, and a label we frequently use carelessly, left us puzzled when it was presented to us through a critical lens. Continue reading “Defining ‘youth’”

Youth citizenship: An intersectional analysis

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Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Given the nature of citizenship, and its historical, social and political contentions, there remains a lack of consensus on what constitutes citizenship. The legal definition of citizenship defines the term as “the position or status of being a citizen of a particular country, with elements such as a passport, or a national identity.”

Citizenship can also be conceptualized as a process that gives ways to relations of power and inequality within a given society that is “contingent upon the subordination of specific bonds of gender, race, class,” and plays an important role in shaping the experience of the individual citizen [1]. 

Citizenship is the individual’s relationship with the wider society; it claims who belongs where, who has obligations, who benefits from rights, and who is entitled to services [3].

Continue reading “Youth citizenship: An intersectional analysis”

Critical youth work

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Photo by Frank Vessia on Unsplash

Historically, the primary focus of youth work has been on risk prevention and rehabilitation to keep young people off the streets, an approach known as a person-centered approach [3].

The person-centered approach has led to service providers regarding young people as problems requiring a solution or intervention. 

More recently, however, youth programs and initiatives have shifted their focus towards fostering positive youth development via empowerment strategies. The positive youth development approach views youth as active agents in changing their lives through active community participation.

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This shift in youth work has been supported by the recognition that a person-centered approach is only one part of the equation and we must not ignore the intersecting systems of power, privilege, and oppression that influence the daily lives of young people. Continue reading “Critical youth work”