There’s no such thing as a free lunch. And there’s no such thing as a value-free action, though we may not acknowledge this in practice. Then there’s the problem that a particular action can go either way: counter or fulfil the values we claim. Useful, though, to know what our values are before embarking on action; how one may conflict with another; that yours might conflict with mine. Values and attitudes are related, though often they need to be reconciled.
Were we to discuss them, we might find that we have shared values; that the process of finding this out opens up possibility, and also matures us as we come jointly to appreciate the complexity of translating values into action. Values do not direct, they only illuminate potential lines of action.
Odd, then, that when we ‘consult’ we focus most usually on people’s likes and dislikes, things they want or don’t want. Not a value in sight. Though sometimes there is a nod in their direction.
One of the findings of the Scottish Centre for Social Research survey ‘Public attitudes towards young people and youth crime in Scotland’ suggests that those adults with least contact with young people are more likely to have negative views of the young. Interestingly, these negative perceptions are not necessarily held by older adults (65 and over), as perhaps we have come to assume. Deprivation is an even stronger predictor of negative attitudes towards young people. Thus we have this dismal equation: adults living in deprived urban areas having relatively little social contact with local young people are most likely to hold negative views about them.
Step in regeneration schemes, housing renewal and the like. And consult. Not examine, explore, challenge, debate or learn; and do not stray into dangerous, uncharted territory and attempt to tease out beliefs, values, dreams. Keep it simple, just consult. Tell us what you think, perhaps mediated through the latest user friendly technique – nothing too taxing, but good fun to be had by all.
Given the dismal equation, plus a pinch of consultation, it is no surprise that the value children and young people being seen and heard in shared public space is not examined and therefore what might follow from this is left unexplored. When proposed, we have seen it generate a momentum towards what Cabe Space, among others, has called ‘Place Making’. But this requires that children and young people are firmly located from the start within a shared public realm, not simply to be corralled in age-bounded facilities, whether playground or youth shelter, useful though these may sometimes be.