when experts come together to discuss the aims and needs of a particular section of society, it must surely occur to them that the needs of that section must be seen in relation to those of society as a whole. Most Government Commissions fail to face up to this fundamental dilemma. It is not surprising then, that there is little discussion on this point. What indeed are the fundamental values of our society that will help us to legislate for the welfare of young people?
If we live in an “I’m all right, Jack” society, we have to face the social conflict that is the natural consequence of living in such a society. The Albemarle Report observes this conflict, but falls short of recognising it for what it is.
The Youth Service attempts to provide activities for the ‘out of work’ and ‘out of school’ leisure periods. Like other Government branches of the Welfare State, it began as a charitable organisation provided for and serviced by the better-off classes for the working-class children in urban areas. Even though it is now a recognised Government service within the Ministry of Education, it is still to a large extent administered on the same lines. The Local Government sub-committee which is representative of all the local youth organisations, advises on the expenditure of public money. This body, the Youth Committee, makes recommendations to the Local Education committee as to which organisation is worthy of financial assistance. It should come as no surprise, therefore that the old established charities are the ones which get the lion’s share. When the Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides, the National Association of Mixed Clubs and Girls’ Clubs, the National Association of Boys’ Clubs, the Church Lads’ Brigade, and the Army Cadets’ representatives have had their pickings from a very meagre fund, little is left for the newcomer who thinks in unorthodox ways about the Youth Service. The paternalistic approach which these established organisations have towards youth today, is one of the most detrimental legacies the Youth Service inherited.
These established organisations, then, comprise the main body of the existing Youth Service. They are no longer self-supporting, but receive direct aid grants from the Ministry of Education, as well as from Local Government. The policies these organisations pursue are never questioned. For the visiting Ministry of Education Inspector there are always activities such as basket-ball, woodwork, metal-work, model-making classes, etc., that can be measured statistically, so the Inspector has no difficulty in assessing their “worth.” The need these organisations fulfil, is always spoken of as, ‘mental’, ‘spiritual’, and ‘recreational’. The success they have in answering this triple need, has
The Albemarle Report, would have done a very useful job had it produced some badly needed objective data on which one could base some aims of the Service, and measure some needs. I did not expect that it would make any radical recommendations and, unfortunately, it does not. In fact, the Report offers no new facts or figures about young people today, and the recommendations are often conservative and inadequate. Indeed, anyone who has kept up with the various relevant reports on young people in society, will find little excitement in this new addition. However, some insight is shown, in the Chapter on Aims and Principles, and the description of the World of Young People shows a remarkable freshness and sympathy. It is a pity that the spirit in which these chapters were written was not maintained throughout. These chapters attempt to describe the type of society in which young people find themselves today. It is full of the problems of status, the deadening routines of work, the dissatisfactions which young people feel as they mature in a changing society, and the problems associated with an emerging but separate culture of youth.
How does the Albemarle Committee propose to approach these problems? One of their most important recommendations is for the setting up of a Council. This Council is to consist of amateurs with special qualities and experience, and it is they who will be advising the Ministry of Education as to how to carry through the Albemarle recommendations. This is clearly a direct attempt to break away from—or contain—the influence of the old, established, national voluntary youth organisations. How successful can this breakaway be? Among those who are to serve on the Development Council, are an ex-commando, an educationalist, who is keen on walking and sailing, an Olympic gold medallist, the secretary of the Central Council for Physical Recreation, two senior school mistresses, the editor of Crossbow, a trade union official, a sociologist who likes boxing, a broadcaster, Richard Hoggart, and Lady Albemarle. This looks, on the face of it, a compromise body, and we are going to need a tougher solution than that, if the voluntary organisations are ever to be pulled into the twentieth century.
For it is the large voluntary organisations that have determined the standards until now, and their influences will remain for some time to come. An amateur body, such as the Development Council, could help enormously, even if its task was simply to assess the work of the voluntary associations from a new standpoint. But even for so modest a task, the Council should have included, for the first five years at least, representatives of groups who are doing experimental work in the field. These groups have had a working success and are acquainted with the shortcomings of the traditional approach. But so far little or no attempt has been made to reshape the approach of the Youth Service to its problems in the light of experimental work being done in the field. Thus the experience gained in the ‘teencanteen’ kind of experiment—an officially-sponsored coffee bar with a trained leader in charge—is there, waiting to be drawn on and used by the voluntary organisations, which are now themselves searching for ways in which they can make an informal approach to the more difficult youngsters: but no facilities exist for using such experiments as the basis of officiallysponsored projects by the Service on a wide scale.