This collection of papers from a two year German-Israeli project offers an insight into the development of social pedagogy and a variety of ways of working with children and young people which will repay study by those seeking to take child care forward. Some of the papers were clearly written for the exchange and a couple are developments of papers that appeared in Peters (2008) but most offer new material for a UK reader. The page count is misleadingly low because the book has been very cleverly typeset to minimise the page count while remaining attractively presented and readable.
Michael Winkler opens the collection with a provocatively titled paper Why modern societies need social pedagogy more than social work in which he starts from the failure in the UK and other European countries to achieve better outcomes using social work and suggests that this is in part down to the emphasis on the individual without any concern for social relationships. He argues that social pedagogy promotes individual development within a personal framework in which, as Makarenko (1936) argued, the focus is not on the young person’s past but on their future.
He argues that social pedagogy became involved in addressing social problems by the end of the nineteenth century and quotes Nohl’s 80 year old analogy of railway wagons coming off the tracks; social workers regard the wagons as ‘moral defectives’ and send them away for treatment whereas social pedagogues repair the tracks so that the wagons can stay on them.
Unfortunately, residential child care became contaminated by the authoritarian ideas of the Nazis and, with the discrediting of social pedagogy, social work took its place. However, the 1990 Child and Youth Welfare Act reinstated the principles of social pedagogy and the idea that the child is an active participant in their development.
Social pedagogues face several challenges: to continue to treat people with respect whatever they may have done, to bridge the gap between an individual and society, to create boundaries within which people feel secure, to intervene in people’s lives without creating rigid structures around them, to create relationships with those in the community and to reflect on their practice.
Only social pedagogues can genuinely deal with the complexities of modern society because social workers lack the broader picture and the future orientation which is needed to live in a modern society.
Friedhelm Peters argues that modern welfare management techniques have reduced the time available for client contact and made the relationship a worker has with their manager more important than the ones they have with their clients; he also argues that ‘evidence-based practice’ can only be implemented at a policy level because each client is a unique individual who needs a unique response from the worker based on contextualised rather than generalised knowledge.
Hezi Aharoni and Peter Hansbauer describe the history of child care in their respective countries while Michael Winkler contributes a fascinating chapter on how the absorption of East Germany led to many improvements in child care but also to social problems which created new difficulties for those working with children and young people in the east. Chaim Lahav, Emmanuel Grupper and Stuart Mirkin contribute papers which set out the current situation of residential child care in Israel.
The dozen papers that follow cover a wide range of topics which may be of interest to practitioners, managers or trainers. Hezi Aharoni contributes an excellent summary of international research and practice relating to the use of physical activity and sport with young people; Regina Rätz-Heinisch looks at efforts in Germany to engage those who do not benefit from normal educational processes; Maren Zeller and colleagues from Germany and Israel compare their different approaches to care leavers; Miriam Gilat describes how EFSHAR, the professional organisation for Israeli child care workers, uses publications, seminars, conferences and research to develop practice; Emmanuel Grupper and Nurith Levi describe separate initiatives to tackle racism and integrate particular minority ethnic groups; Schlomo Romi argues for a new curriculum for child care workers based around understanding issues of personal identity, dependence and independence, gender, relationships with parents, social relationships and religious observance; Diana Düring argues that evidence-based practice is a child of the ‘old expertocracy’ and that we should be moving away from it towards more participative approaches to research, built around reflective and qualitative methods; Hezi Josef describes how a youth village began to change its ways of working with young people and the results of those changes; Josef Koch and Friedhelm Peters describe a major German government-funded project to improve child care practice which sought to demonstrate an alternative approach to modern welfare management techniques; Judith Kirschbaum describes a project to develop after-school projects for Bedouin children who were being disadvantaged by social changes in their areas.
Most papers are well-referenced, drawing on English, German and Hebrew sources, with enough English references to enable English-speaking readers to follow up their own lines of enquiry.
Inevitably in a collection such as this there is variability in the quality and content of the papers and some leave one with unanswered questions; but the different perspectives, both on what is happening in the UK and on what is possible in child care, are refreshing and at times challenging, and this is a book which should be in every library frequented by child care workers and read by those who seek to teach them.
Emmanuel Grupper, Josef Koch and Friedhelm Peters (Eds) (2009) Challenges for child and youth care: a German-Israeli dialogue
ISBN : 978-3-925146-72-5
288 pages €19
Makarenko, Anton (1936) Road to life: translated by Stephen Garry London: Stanley Nott
Peters, Friedhelm (Ed.) (2008) Residential child care and its alternatives: international perspectives Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books
Declaration of interest: Robert Shaw copy-edited Challenges for child and youth care: a German-Israeli dialogue for publication.
Challenges can be ordered through your local bookseller, by quoting the ISBN number, from Koch, Neff, Volckmer GmbH, Export Verkehrsnummer: 55040, 70553 Stuttgart, Germany Tel. (export): 0049-711-7860-2293 http://www.knv-export.de/