As a personal experience adolescence is probably the most disquieting, uncomfortable, angry, uncertain and yet often ecstatically joyful period in anyone’s life. As with the experience of childbirth however, the passage of time often subsequently removes the personal memory of this period and then sympathy for those undergoing it is often replaced by antipathy as their demands intrude on the comfort and ordered life of people safely ensconced in adulthood. Nevertheless, adolescence involves the explosive increase of awareness of one’s own self and the outside world and the beginning of the struggle to relate to adult life and experience while cutting the ties which harness one to the comparative safety of the family. The main aim of a community in relation to its adolescents must clearly be to allow the enormous mental and physical energy of its teenager population to find expression in as wide a range of experiences and activities as possible. It should try to provide conditions in which the adolescents themselves can widen the horizons of their experience and enhance their personal development into mature adults. It is very important that this should not be interpreted as trying to do it for them. The drive and energy must be theirs, the unseen guidance and permissive attitude the community’s. This does not imply that we should relinquish the use of ordinary discipline when it is needed.
The relevance of this to Chinnor’s teenage population both now and in the future is obvious but in addition to this more positive aim there is the more negative one of trying to create conditions for our adolescents which will minimise their exposure to the main social evils of violence, drug-taking, suicide and sexual promiscuity, particularly where this involves perversions. On the other hand normal sexual activity is an integral part of adolescence and for this reason we would be strongly against any attempt on grounds of expediency to create anything other than fully mixed facilities for Chinnor youth.
Thirdly, we should bear in mind that our adolescents will need to escape from the close proximity to their families which our open-plan housing will force on them. They are entitled to time and space to themselves (and their families also to relief from their more intrusive activities) and this may be just as much in order to do their school ‘prep’ as for playing ‘pop’ records.
The role of the Chinnor community in the immediate future, as we see it, is to delineate a space which is peculiar to the teenagers and in which they are free to create their own institutions and activities supervised by leaders who are trusted by both adults and the teenagers themselves. For reasons which we have given in he first part of the report the existing spaces (the village hall etc.) are either inadequate now or will shortly become so as the teenage and general population grows. While we must beware of providing too much so that it is taken for granted, a basic building which contains this space seems to us to be the fundamental requirement. Suitably sited and designed this already ensures that the adult community has been able to structure the future surroundings for its teenagers’ activities in a comparatively non-interfering way. It implies the community’s support and backing and allows the Parish Council (as the representatives of the community) an entrepreneurial role which still permits the teenagers to create their own institutions within this physical framework.
Unfortunately it is a fact that the common experience is that a formal Youth Club is only likely to attract about 40% of the teenage population, the remainder being full-time students or else capable of entertaining themselves independently. Among this 60% are also to be found the bulk of the juvenile offenders and recidivists and one job of a youth club is to attract these by providing the sort of activities (judo and boxing for instance) which might appeal to them. Nevertheless, to attract even 40% of the teenagers ‘at risk’ is worth doing and we suggest ways of catering for the remainder later on.
Thus we are recommending primarily that a purpose-built youth club is the most important provision to be made in the village during the next five or six years for our expanding teenage population and we next examine the practical implications of this in more detail.