If every grant writer, article author and researcher could commit to one simple action that would create a new perception about youth programs in our field, perhaps it would be to put the "if" to bed. By "if" of course, I mean the question of whether or not youth programs make a difference in the lives of young people. Today I firmly and proudly declare that they do and that I am done stating why I know this to be true. I hope this declarative choice of language will spread across our youth development conversations like the tea party in the November elections.
Here is what got me thinking - in the last few months, I have been immersed in another round of literature reviews for the article that I never quite seem to finish when suddenly -- the "if" became visible to me. Pull out two or three articles from writers and researchers in our field and you will see what I mean. Each article takes up precious column space going through the litany of research that shows youth programs can have positive effect on young people and their development. Why do we feel the need to keep saying it?
And perhaps because we are constantly restating the evidence in the literature, it may be easy to for those outside program settings to assume that the findings are new, still unclear, or divergent. But as I have stated already, youth programs do make a difference in the lives of young people. Does every article about K-12 education begin by reminding readers that schools can help youth learn, even if in many cases students are failing? They do not.
If we can move forward in agreement and declare that youth programs positively affect development, then we can move to another set of discoveries and questions. No ifs ands or buts about it.
So I want to ask -- How can this be done? How could you put the "if" to bed on behalf of youth programs? Any ideas and action would be welcome.