Yes it has happened again; this time 3 hulking, black 15 year olds beat up a 13 year old, white, 6th grader reportedly after they asked him if he wanted to buy drugs; he said no and reported it to the school. Of course someone videotaped it and posted it, where else, on YouTube causing it to go viral and be a vivid part of the public consciousness leading to the inevitable finger pointing their parents and the public blaming the bus driver, the school, teachers, yet no one blaming the kids for their behavior. Chris Cuomo holding a CNN New Day segment with Loni Coombs, former L.A. prosecutor turned author of a book detailing the ugly truth about spoiling your kids, describing parents as telling them they are perfect, believing they should be entitled, have no consequences for their actions, coupled with reality T.V. culture, wanting/getting attention for bad behavior, along with a desensitization to empathy fueled by texting, Facebook, Instagram rather than face to face communication, no one talking about the golden rule anymore, teaching actions have consequences. Even went as far to say some of the parents will be just as surprised as their kids there are consequences coinciding with their appearance in juvenile court. Other related topics discussed included, where were bullying advocates and why aren’t parents being held accountable for their child’s actions, tone implying when they are the direct cause of it; Mr. Cuomo agreeing whole heartedly with Ms. Coombs, causing analytical minds to wonder did they, we miss something?
Now it isn’t that I or anyone thinks all kids are perfect; it isn’t that obviously some parenting doesn’t leave a lot to be desired sending us, as a nation, into headlines like this one. Nor is it just the concept of in clear cases where a parent’s neglect, lack of teaching has led child, teen perpetrators to do, to commit the crimes they have, parents’ should be held responsible on a case by case basis. It is that once again we, society, they, news media/personalities, some parents themselves like Cuomo, are engaging in stock answers, are once again feeding stereotypes. And worse this time around are harkening back to blissful times in America’s past that shockingly were never actually so blissful. Drastically more important here, critiquing the above situation, is their bringing in irrelevant points, topics, information during the conversation about what happened, what caused it, how it can be prevented. Because, this wasn’t affluent, suburbia kids needing to learn the reality, meaning of consequences, this wasn’t a millennial generation bid for fame in which they seemed to have no idea of the consequences of what they were doing then posting on video, social media sites hoping for their 15 minutes, neither was it a random act of violence, rarely ever truly random, or teen/adolescent violence to be blamed on movies, TV, video games, music and poor supervision, not a hate crime motivated by race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion. The beating was actually motivated by drugs, perhaps the assailants moving toward a gang initiation or as retaliation for the 13 year old student reporting their attempt to sell him drugs to school officials, him thus being seen as a snitch. Kids who at best live in a declining neighborhood where both gangs and drugs are starting to creep in, at worst they live in a bad neighborhood looking at the world through the lens of temptation seeing dealers on every block, knowing they can get more money selling illicit substances than from an after school job, any job they could have in the future even if they go to school, get straight A’s, go to college do the same thing, making the whole dynamic sadly nothing new, nothing we haven’t seen before and exactly the wrong place to talk about spoiled, entitled kids, reality TV bad behavior culture or a lack of empathy on the part of our current generation. Instead here is a story that shouldn’t have gone past local news, been a trending topic on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube only; chiefly owing to it being drug, gang related and we possess strategies to deal with that, diversion programs to help these young people turn their lives around, part of why they were charged in juvenile, not adult, court. And it is in no way a dimension of increased suburban violence laid at the feet of permissive parenting.
Facts surrounding the perpetrators plausible home life, community elements and mind set ultimately placing more responsibility on the school, because A- if the offer to buy drugs was made on school grounds and the 3 were slated to be punished under school guidelines, what were they doing on the bus; if the offer was made in their mutual neighborhood and the eventual victim reported them to a crisis counselor, school resource officer, why weren’t they aware of and steps taken to protect the student giving information preventing forgone concluded violence, retribution? If they could still be disciplined under school guidelines for something that happened off school grounds, again they had no place on that bus, because while it is possible they beat him for refusing to buy drugs from them; it is infinitely more likely the beat him for tattling about their attempt to do so. Adjacently all 4 students already attend an alternative, dropout prevention school presenting the logical assumption shouldn’t they be properly prepared to handle a situation so common in mainstream schools, never mind a reform school? They are also dealing with 15 year old boys brimming with hormones, testosterone, learning how to process their emotions, effectively handle conflict, confrontation vs. 40 year olds who beyond know better. Translation the incident never should have happened because the adults should have had enough forethought, standard procedures in place to keep them apart in unmonitored places like the bus. Hints public comment blaming the school on behalf of both the victim they failed to protect and the assailants their ignorance placed in an entrapment type situation, a technique police are not even allowed to use on criminals, instead of punishing them for the initial wrong doing and having their eye on turning these young people around. Bringing us to another issue, we, the public, don’t know histories on any of the embroiled students, why they were enrolled in such a school, parts of their pasts that could have brought them to where they were on that bus that day, maybe the victim isn’t as innocent as he seems; we just don’t know. Avid Google-rs can find no record demonstrating a parent said, in regards to what transpired, kids will be kids, as Cuomo said in the piece however, giving the veteran news anchor credit where credit is due, him having done more research than the average citizen, assuming his statement is therefore correct; the problem is less that one parent is clearly in denial about the seriousness of what went on, what their child is guilty of doing to another human being, and more about the golden rule, 1950’s era both want to take us back to. An era coincidentally where that was the attitude when kids got into fights; kids got roughed up, got hurt over similar stuff and we didn’t charge them with assault and battery, sue the pants off people, for better or worse, right or wrong, that’s how it was.
Simultaneously addressing the blame, vitriol aimed at the bus driver, accountability starts here for the public based on what people first saw, a video depicting 3 larger kids beating up 1 smaller kid during which the bus driver simply stays in his seat franticly calling into his radio he has a fight on his bus and they’d better get someone there quick. People brought up on that golden rule both news anchor and guest were so quick to remind viewers of couldn’t understand how a grown man could just sit there and let it play out before his eyes, explaining why so much of, at least online, contrary was in the form of a question, a series of them. Though a consensus can be reached when onlookers are reminded concerning rules set forth for drivers, lawsuits handed down when they did try to intervene. Also to be taken to task are both persons appearing in this segment chastising how this was handled at the beginning; oh god forbid opinion, perception change as details emerge, more is found out. God forbid the school “hide” long enough to review solid facts as opposed to news headlines, caving to public pressure as opposed to doing what’s best for the offending students and the rest of the school. Anti-bullying advocates really have no place in this particular incident, because it wasn’t mean girls attacking each other, simple fights over a girl turning into something horrific, life threatening, provoking a suicide. Despite headlines asking where black leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson where now that a black kid was in the wrong, this wasn’t, at the risk of becoming repetitive, about race.; it wasn’t about a young boy in middle school, high school seen as weak, effeminate, called gay because of how he looks, his physique. It was about being reported for trying to sell drugs. Still we, Google-rs, net surfers, news watchers do find these kids in court, facing charges, not just getting away with it, and one parent saying “consequences, consequences that’s all I can say.” Not good enough for either person at CNN, Cuomo who openly stated he thought we were headed for months of anti-bullying rhetoric, calls for new policies; tone even mocking that. Instead they should have been talking about drugs/gangs infiltrating neighborhoods, our prisons stacked to the gills with minor drug offenders and how we more effectively deal with that, keep young people out of gangs, get them safely out of gangs if they choose to leave.
But if we want to talk about what’s happening to well off, otherwise well cared for children, suddenly behaving badly, suddenly littering the news-sphere with their antics resulting in destruction of property, totaling of cars, death via drunk driving, being careless with illicit, prescription substances, then let’s actually have the conversation; let’s actually put the true cards on the table. Fortunately for society and unfortunately for headline skimming American populous, nearly all of these eye popping, jaw dropping how vile are young people today stories contain more substance and rational than we bother to notice; we all heard the story about the girl lured to a classmates home only to be savagely beaten then the beating be posted on YouTube. After that we stopped listening, say to their explanation they wanted to humiliate her the way they felt they had been humiliated by one of her online posts, clear indicators they had no idea of the damage they had done to her physically. But none of that matters because they are still doing something horrific over a minor insult, none of that matters because they are spoiled entitled, girl thugs playing bad ass; hardly. Or the group of third graders who according to headlines created an elaborate plot to kill their teacher, assigning tasks bringing gloves, toy handcuffs, a paperweight, tape; public comment calling American psychologists idiots when they tell news reports kids under 12 are usually more spontaneous in their anger and do not sustain it in a way to form such a plot; turns out according to the girl who sparked the whole thing, the plot was to tie her up and throw pies at her. Public comment again scoffing as to the truth of that considering evidence collected including a knife, the flimsy kitchen variety; worse psychiatrists like Keith Ablow attributing such a heinous plot to video games a-la grand theft auto and children not being able to distinguish the difference between real life situations and a video game. Forget which one sounds more like a kid’s idea of revenge, payback for being placed in classroom timeout over misbehavior. Further let’s closely examine who the worst offenders are in terms of generation overshare, who is indeed posting the most outrageous things online; at least one adult charged in a teen suicide after a mother posed as a teen boy to get back at victim for allegedly bullying her daughter, while Coombs would call this a perfect example of what she’s talking about, there are the adults who will get in online fights with teens over respect, cursing and on and on and on. A man was just arrested for posting a picture and announcing he murdered his wife; people are online right now calling for gruesome, unholy punishments for these young men, things from beatings to castration, mutilation, maiming, to lifelong imprisonment any of the above should they actually follow through on, they would go to jail. None of the prescribed punishments remotely close to justice, yet they are seen as morally superior, because they didn’t do, insert headline here, and we seem to be in constant state of wonder as to how these things come to be. It couldn’t be young people’s exposure to that, and as a moral high ground on top of it?
Subsequently who do we marginalize as a society, homeless people, developmentally delayed people, disabled people, mentally ill people, transgender individuals, homosexual individuals; we classify homeless people as degenerates, we characterize people as too stupid or too lazy to earn a paycheck; in church that’s supposed to be about being good to people, loving one another likewise preachers preach the the wrongness of homosexuality to the point of making their congregations think it is perfectly acceptable to treat them like a plague, beat them senseless, same pulpit lumping transgender people into that category despite medical evidence, the chance for their to be a medical malfunction, disorder nevertheless making them subject to identical treatment. Then we are utterly flabbergasted when the news reads teens beat up homeless person, attacked a mentally handicapped woman, bullied someone who is transgender. The same pockets of people fully knowledgeable about the droves locked up in prison directly reflected back to their abusive childhoods social services never caught, coming to the growing realization many in prison for poor impulse control manifested in criminality have undiagnosed, under diagnosed neurological issues never dealt with because their parents, pediatricians, school staff did not have access to resources like the Lawlis Peavey neurological center, made known by the Dr. Phil show, cognizant that prisons too house psych wards; still managing to champion spanking as a way to get society back under control from undisciplined hooligans. Independent of how many dead kids that leads to, how ineffective it truly is and always was, in the 1950’s, ‘60’s when teen boys still got girls pregnant, girls still came home pregnant, one current generation young father talking about his own history with spanking still brought home by police for joyriding, vandalism just like they did back then and starkly reminiscent of a scathing critique of one psychologist, who believes like Coombs, reading as follows. “If youth were so perfect back then, who the heck was devouring “Catcher In the Rye”? Or, by the by, if parents were so capable and kids so compliant, why does he describe how he was “grounded for the entire summer between high school graduation and going off to college” because he’d “been arrested for disturbing the public peace”? And if children were so untroubled, then why does he remember spending “my first through twelfth grades in a state of almost perpetual test anxiety, grade anxiety, flunking anxiety, parent anxiety, teacher anxiety and principal anxiety… I was in grade school during the 1960s, too, and I lost a classmate to suicide. I knew students who, in retrospect, abused alcohol and had incapacitating emotional problems, though he is right, they were not “removed from school and placed in a treatment center” because parents were still looking the other way then and good programs did not yet exist. No, I don’t have personal memories of anorexia or cutting among my friends, at least not until college, but I certainly remember classrooms being disrupted by students who were then taken off and paddled — which didn’t work, because they came back and did it again. I’m betting one or two of them are among the wave of adults who are diagnosed with ADHD each year — and who wonder how life could have been different for them had they gotten that news years ago.”
Next under intellectual scrutiny, who really is playing the blame game; clueless parents or supposed experts? We blame everything on permissive parenting yet nothing on utilitarian, authoritarian parenting gone several steps too far, take zero note of the anger and rage created for misapplied spanking in every breach of discipline, sexual dysfunction stemming from the overbearing dad, domineering woman who spanked their opposite sex child, the humiliation added to 21st century spanking that takes away all privileges for mouthing off, making children, even teens, stand bare bottomed in a public corner of the house after spanking, deliberately removing clothing to spank older children in front of others to embarrass them, sexual abuse perpetrated under the guise of opposite sex parents, guardians, relatives spanking a child/teen. As a society we blame the high degree of violence from domestic disputes to parking lot confrontations over loud music ending in death, to mass shootings on easy access to guns, not older people with an exaggerated sense of self-importance infringing on the rights of others do to what they wish providing they don’t break the law, including play their music at a volume you don’t like. Mass shooters and domestic disturbance couldn’t possibly be traced to mental health problems largely ignored, ex parte, restraining orders being worthless pieces of paper leaving women to fend for themselves, botched procedures by police, school officials the likes of which would have hospitalized Seung Cho and Jared Loughner before they happened. No; just guns. Continuing “bad parenting” is linked to substandard moral character as opposed to working 50-80 hours a week to raise 1-2 kids in a neighborhood without bullets, attending a school without metal detectors, hyper overprotectiveness, not a knowledge of both my child and the world we live in, while people want us to take sole responsibility for teaching manners and civility like dad only works 40 hours and mom stays home, sans all other influences society is responsible for, if only in the form of the grouchy neighbor across the street, mean person at the grocery store. Things logged under teen violence not already discussed couldn’t be born out of their own bullying experience, their own negative experience with so called authority figures, injustice, no just movies, music and videogames. Ironically the golden rule was loosely followed at best and routinely thrown out at worse, once only applying to white men who owned property until theemancipation proclamation, excluding women until they won suffrage in 1920; rights for blacks/minorities and women not fully actualized until the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and the women’s movement of the 1970’s, is a rule still not extended to some aspects of society based on sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, but we need to reinstate the golden rule.
Interestingly enough, parents becoming, concurrently being such staunch advocates for their kids does not exist, was not created in a vacuum; they started aggressively advocating for their children when adults became the threat. Beyond predators, child abductors, pedophiles, it began when adults started making headlines for horrible crimes over inconsequential things; road rage soccer mom shoots person who cuts her off on the highway, grouchy old people taking a shotgun to someone who dared step on their lawn, 40+ individuals flinging obscenities at store customers and they are the clerks or vise-versa, when teachers, coaches started becoming the bullies themselves. It originated in a parent’s own childhood, pre-parenting adulthood revealing older people than themselves, persons classified as elders, weren’t upstanding pillars of their community, fountains of wisdom, rather parties guilty of actions the younger wouldn’t dream of. It started when eagle eyed parents noticed something off, something changed about their child installing a nanny cam only to find the nanny they were paying, who probably came with sterling references, eating their infants food, smacking them, tossing them around, being cruel to their toddler, leaving bruises on their special needs child. And by now we’ve all read at least one headline involving the death of a child in daycare, one worker arrested drugging pre-school kids in her care, teachers berating, bullying students like one lecturing a 5 year old in front of his entire class or the teacher who wrote looser on a 6th graders assignments, another who wrote derogatory comments on 4th grader’s faces for not meeting reading goals, the deplorable number of kids who have been injured, abused even died thanks to restraining holds in special needs schools, classrooms, hidden cameras catching staff slamming a non-verbal student’s finger in a door after dragging him down the hall, shock therapy utilized at one school. A school in California had to replace its entire staff after a store photographer alerted police to a teachers pictures showing his 3rd grade students blind folded, mouths taped shut, some with cockroaches on their faces, he even allegedly fed the students his own semen. Too many of these despicable specimens of supposed humanity coming out of the era of the golden rule, where it was talked about at the dinner table, a perceived integral part of society. Here is the crux of why parents believe their kid over all else, ask their child if the negative report is true, act like prosecutors not partners, because for every 1, perhaps even 5, on the outskirts 10, good teachers fed up with helicopter parents interrogating teachers, unwilling to hear anything bad about their child, haggling over grades, there are twice as many teachers doing the above. Speaking of the golden rule, that era too was one of children should be seen and not heard; maybe we should go back to that as well? Paving the way for when they not engaging in the criminal, or nearly so, they are following in the footsteps of infamous blogger Natalie Munroe telling the world what she would like to put in student report cards, proving their ineptitude, who should be treated as one commenter suggested for Munroe: instead of completing the grade cards appropriately- with fair grades and fair and realistic comments, she was making up this list and posting it on her blog…This shows at best, poor judgment and lack of capacity to do required work. At worst it shows someone who dislikes the students that almost anyone could do a better job coming in with a fair and open attitude.” Continuing on the retro jag, go all out and bring back the dunce cap, if these teachers are always right? Thus helicopter parenting was born, fueled all the more by an evolving cut throat competition in our society to get our kids into the right preschool, kindergarten, elementary, middle, junior high and high schools as a fast track to a prestigious college, seen as their only shot to a decent career. Returning us to the question of who really is to blame, parents repeatedly sent the message to be increasingly involved in their kid’s lives, parents who struggle financially regardless of being middle class, wanting better for their kids, or a society disseminating the idea your nothing without a college degree, but pointedly saying just any college isn’t good enough, requiring training, classes, certificates for any job not medial labor, yet minimizing student vehicles to them?
Preceding paragraph proving too, there aren’t consequences for adults; we scream about consequences for violent, out of control kids, or kids in general, as it relates to a better society, but there aren’t consequences for adults. No, not necessarily in known court cases where there were blatant mitigating circumstances, not drug rehab programs for drug addicts who committed other offenses solely to feed their habit instead of prison, which won’t fix the problem. Rather try our sick pedophile teacher, teaching in the same location 30 years before he was caught, the fact it took 10 years to catch Ariel Castro and only after one of the women broke free and was able to phone 911 giving her name, the reality Phillip Garrido, a known sex offender, was able to kidnap Jaycee Dugard and father 2 children with her over 18 years, even while being monitored by local law enforcement, because every procedure to safeguard the public was improperly executed. In the years during and post-recession we have hammered the idea of personal responsibility, absent any professional responsibility, in the wake of Bernie Madoff’s 20 years’ operating a Ponzi scheme, in the wake of Wall Street, in the wake of AIG falsifying loan documents, banks carrying out mortgage foreclosures. Ineptitude is the rule not the exception in the employment world from fast food worker to social services, from cable installation to computer tech unsuspecting citizens all potential victims. There are no consequences for adults unless you are black/brown and live in a city like New York utilizing stop and frisk; then you are apt to be thrown up against the side of a building. There are no consequences unless you are a black/brown male teen, who looks like an adult walking at night in your new neighborhood; then you might get shot. There are no consequences for adults unless you are brown and your children could afford years of red tape, legal wrangling we laughingly call an immigration system; then, when you cross the border you are a vilified illegal immigrant, no matter if it’s the only law you’ve ever broken.
And our kids are paying attention; they are paying attention to what doesn’t happen to adults as much as what doesn’t happen to their age group. Their memories are cataloging experiences with adults where the adult was wrong, where the adult was just as vicious as we claim they are. Our kids are watching the news alongside us; what mom and dad say, demonstrate matters little when their experience, the experience of their friends doesn’t match up, when teachers, coaches, mentors are showing them something else, when adult behavior is anything but something to emulate. The ugly truth about spoiling our kids is we will end up with we’ll end up with someone like Paris Hilton, Nichole Richie, Ashton Kutcher; however, the ugly truth about societies mischaracterization, misclassification of instances like this, a fundamental misunderstanding of our historical past and it’s implications goes so much farther than never solving the problem. The ugly truth about the larger societal elements is, if we were, morally, character speaking, more superior there wouldn’t be calls for maiming and death to be visited on these young men, punishments called for would line up with the justice system. The ugly truth is the golden rule is a mythological ideal, rather like the Greek representations of the human body; it doesn’t exist in any practical manner and is far from complete when it does manage to manifest in some small way. And until abusive homes are all but eliminated, criminal behavior stops paying more than lawful work 99% of the time, until adults again begin to earn respect in the way the comport themselves, how they live their lives, start attempting to live up to the example they are supposed to set, until we wake up and recognize what kind of world we live in and put our critical thinking skills into dealing with it, we are going to see more things like this.