In this day and age

I am so disappointed, and not a little confused. A bunch of students rumble in a high school; 26 suspensions, 2 sent to hospital. It isn’t the first problem this year, or this decade or the previous one come to mention it. Parent, community leaders and even the media are hinting that the solution is to build a new school. Separate the warring factions. That there are long standing issues with two groups, and one parent interviewed on the news even said that sometimes people “just don’t learn to get along”. What?! Am I hearing this correctly? Is this 2008 or 1688? Racism flourishes in a high school and kids are ready to bloody, maim and beat one another, face suspension or even expulsion, arrest and jail; and the community’s answer is to split them up? Surely I am not the only person who is confounded by all of this.

Students that they interviewed for the news even said that yes, the issues are racial. However, those same kids – our future community leaders – also said that the issues are not rational, that it makes no sense to carry on this way, in this day and age.

It appears to me that the students have got the problem figured out. The tensions are racial. They need to be dealt with.

To me, that says that some of these students want help. They don’t know how to solve these problems on their own; the tension builds, tempers flare, text messages start flying and then there is blood, police and mayhem.

Instead of having them traumatized by threats of more violence or idiotic thoughts of superiority, class or intolerance, get some leaders in there! Not the local constabulary, and not the bloody parents or community members ready to build a wall around these kids and isolate them from one another. Real leaders. The kids have leaders among them; involve them and also include people the kids will listen to as well. People that understand the problems, and can help bring real peace and security to that community.

Why are we not raising them to read, write and articulate? Why are we not raising them with a commitment to respect and community. Why are they not, after all this time, coming closer together instead of still feeling divided. Give them a CAUSE WORTH FIGHTING FOR like poverty, racism or unemployment instead of one another. Lead them to healthy ways of expressing their frustration with one another. Bring people in who have seen and survived genocide, war and insurrection. Show them that they are not alone, but that there are ways to survive and thrive. Get this sorted out and help these young people live to be old people.

Blye Frank from Dalhousie University completed an intensive study in 1997 and made a raft of recommendations on how to resolve the problems. Most of the recommendations were never addressed or only partially implemented. Not enough money? Raising kids out of the abyss of racial tension not sexy enough to spend the money that is needed? Not noteworthy enough come election time? Give me a break. You cannot argue that the money isn’t there. I’m sure if you calculated the actual costs of what has happened to that school and the community in the last 11 years or so, it has been staggering compared to what could have been.

It seems as though the board is trying, the principal and staff are doing their best, and the police step in whenever they are called. But it doesn’t get rid of the problems because those responses are not able to really get at what is under the surface. They cannot do enough for what is underneath the surface where we bury racism, illiteracy, poverty and try to hide it under a smoke screen of shame. It really pisses me off that we support kids in foreign countries so that they can eat, go to school and develop skills for the future, but we try to forget that our own kids, and these are our own kids folks, we try to forget that our own kids in our own schools, aren’t worth helping.

Shame on us.

Pam Robertson, Ph.D.


Lynda said...

I think we are quicker to respond to others' devastating circumstances because they are broadcast in the media in such a way that our hearts pour out to them. We feel guilty for living in a country that wastes food and water and where brutality, genocide and running and hiding is far from our way of life.
As a society we are all negligent of seeing the atrocity's that are all around us. People living through a frigid Canadian winter without heat. The foodbanks that struggle to feed our middle and lower class - yes folks we still have a very real class system. And racism that is ravaging a whole high school and all the surrounding areas that feed it. Cultural diversity is wonderful. There is much to learn from each other and about each other. This has been a problem at that school for long enough that the children attending now can only have learned this ignorance and prejudice from their family's. Intervention with professionals working with these kids and THEIR families could do fantastic things.
Look at this situation and tell me WE have moved beyond Hitler and his,near extinction of the Jews. How is this any different? Do you think he started out thinking he would wipe out an entire race?
If our children are our future leaders. It may only take an uneducated yet dynamic personality (psychopath) to get people running in the wrong lemmings .

GeorgeMaciver said...

You've been decorating!!

Gleek said...

The easiest causes to support are always the ones far away.

Additionally, for some reason, your background does not show up on my laptop and I have no idea why.

Sun Singer said...

Great post, Pam. Too many parents are tired and frustrated with the disruptions kids cause in their lives. Better, some say, to keep them out of sight and out of mind.

"How dare they 'practice' racism and intolerance in school," I can hear the parents saying. "It's so out of fashion, we're beyond all that. Aren't we?"

Apparently the veneer of purported diversity in some schools is no more substantial than adult institutions where the ongoing pretense of tolerance keeps anyone from hearing a discourating word.

It's so much easier when the problem is out of sight and out of mind; then, if anything ever happens, we can throw money at it and go back to our TV sets.

Or, we can do as you propose and truly respond to issues that aren't going to go away by themselves.