Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mollycoddling the youth?

Answer to my previous post in the T&G Online:

Smertz wrote:

"Criminal and antisocial behvior continues to go unchecked in many of these families. ...  Love and compassion are needed, I agree. But also discipline and accountability. If they continue to get mollycoddled whenever they break the rules, they are not going to improve. ... I am sure the key is stricter rules that are enforced, and now winked at, as they are here."

Mollycoddled?  As you travel round the world, you'll never see police in the school halls or middle school students in adult criminal courts, except for here! With 2 1/4 million people in prison or jail, five million more on probation or parole, we lead the world in depriving people of their freedom.  If it hasn't worked yet, why would more of the same work?

Agreed, we have a duty as adults to teach children to be responsible members of society, and they need our firmness, strength and leadership.  But how do we do that when society itself is breaking down?

We can blame and punish whoever is below us in the pecking order to keep it under control, or we can stand in solidarity with all who are trapped inside this disaster, working together for new solutions and a new deal of the cards.  This goes also for how we work with the children, who are moving beyond our control.  If we choose the path of standing with each other - for example around the demands for no more foreclosures, good jobs for all, the right to a home and a good education - then perhaps we must also stand with our youth.  Yet somehow, as we stand and work with them, we need also to teach them how to be responsible adults.

I honestly don't know how this will work.  We've never been in a moment like this, with such a profound social and economic breakdown - not even during our Revolution or the Great Depression.  But groups like Worcester Roots, Earn a Bike, Toxic Soil Busters and the Youth Center by Foley Stadium are exploring this new way of relating to and working with our youth.  They have something to teach us all.
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