|Frankly, I can't be one to join the growing ranks of psycho-babbling
therapists, head-pickers, brain-teasers and psychic hot line gurus who charge
you arm and leg to tell you what's up with your kids. After that, you get an
unlimited supply of Ritalin, since all kids nowadays are afflicted by some
mysterious form of knuckle-headed-it is called ADHD (Attention Deficit
Hyperactive Disorder). Moving on, I'm not about to do that because parenting
by itself is difficult enough. Why swallow some columnist's self-righteous
tirade about how you should raise your kids?
However, I'm fairly rigid when social reflection arrives at the point of
cultural refinement through government intrusion and the destruction of
individual liberty as we know it. What you do in your home is your business..
Yet, politicians find interesting cracks in the Constitutional wall to
impose legislative will and moral values, partly blaming the accumulation of
social ills on the kids. Soon, the rest of us get agitated when every
popular cable show or network T.V. phenom is ruined by impressionable,
unsupervised and insane kids. Short of making recommendations by way of
disparaging (but constructive) social critique, I'm drawing my own unique
conclusions based on the evidence before me.
America can't stand its kids. It despises it children with every ounce of
law making, pop-culture smashing energy it can muster. America loves it kids
to showcase, but pushes them to the curb of disdain when dysfunctional
tendencies become acutely clear. What ultimately results from deeply involved
kid-hating is a fall into the adversarial mud wrestle match-up between "US &
The District of Columbia - including a recent unholy union between school
system and corrections department - actively purges a salient and nauseating
point. I have struggled in a mind numbing evacuation of common sense in
search of why an embattled city institution would want to expose its equally
embattled children to the seediest elements found in the criminal
Granted there are some knuckle-headed, bad ass juvenile deviants terrorizing
public school hallways on a daily basis. As nerve-wracked parents, we must
watch in disbelief and desperation as the youthful innocence is shattered day
in, day-after-day out: violence, drugs, sex … even poor health and obesity.
But, in an effort to offset or eliminate rampant negativity, do you employ
the negative vibe to such daring extremes?
True: exposure to a city correctional facility overflowing with
disproportionate numbers of Black men can have an enormous impact on the mind
of 14 year-old thug imitators. Yet, the question lies in the meaning behind
organized mass strip searches and the shackling of students whom (save the
blatant school yard infractions deserving the back handed slap of
administrative punishment) never before stepped foot in a jail cell.
The motives of predominantly Black Evans Middle School in-house suspension
coordinator Dorothy Simpkins are suspect: "I just wanted to keep them out of
trouble -- let them know this is where you're going to wind up if you don't
behave … I wanted some of the kids to experience the jail -- you know, the
clink-clink, the bars."
"Clink, clink?" What about the vast urban wasteland of prison-like, asbestos
ridden compounds the students must settle into each day? What turns the
stomach slightly is a subtle, post-slave Jim Crow era, Chain Gang reference
reminiscent of a time when many Black parents imposed severe corporal
punishment on their kids in an effort to deter disrespect of "the law," "the
Man," and "Massah."
I'm not blindly siding with the kids. Parents and other involved adults
aren't expected to befriend the youth - but we are expected to properly guide
them. It's a different day and age, folks. And perhaps that's why I'm
disturbed by the stubborn insistence of institutions and individuals in our
communities who feel overwhelmingly compelled to utilize hard line discipline
at the expense of mental health and stability. In a time of need and
uncertainty, I agree that efficient and swift discipline is warranted.
However: is it discipline instituted to reinforce order and keep kids on the
right path or is it imposed for the sake of simply making a point? From
school office to church pulpit to home kitchen, the reprimands and parental
bully tactics are constant, and the emphasis on the eventual destruction of
youth is pervasive to the degree where kids as a whole are rarely
complimented - hence, many begin to believe in the ridiculous notion of
irreversibly unfortunate circumstances.
Personally, the jailhouse field trip to Lucifer's Underworld was as tacky,
ill advised and uncreative as it was inappropriate (Not to mention the D.C.
Department of Corrections lack of written tour policies and Simpkins', as
well as school Principal Diane Brown's decision to send female students the
day after the horrific first visit by males). Why not integrate criminal
justice and policy lessons into the general curriculum, ordering violating
students to conduct vigorous research on crime and law in D.C. Certainly, a
well-SUPERVISED tour of jail facilities and courtrooms is essential, as is a
careful study of violent crime and drug activity in Metropolitan Washington,
D.C. Just because some kids stray to the wild side, doesn't mean all kids
are hopeless. Why not encourage intellectual awareness of the problem and
recognize these "troubled Black youth" as, in reality, intelligent human
They didn't have time for all that, though. I guess it's much easier to
throw them all in jail and then toss the key.
C.D. Ellison is Contributing Writer to Metro Connection. He can be reached