Monthly Archives: September 2012

Unhappy Adolescents are Criminals in the Making

That’s an over-generalization of what the blog Youth Happiness Can Deter Crime, Drug Use, seems to be suggesting.  Of course the only thing “studies have shown” and “studies have proven” can confirm is that maybe, probably, plausibly something is true, although there are too many variables to be certain. Certainly I agree that “in general” happy adolescents and teens are less likely to become involved in crime and drugs. That seems reasonable to me but nothing is ever that un-complicated: situational depression may cause a youth to make temporarily unhealthy choices, but because the depression is co-dependent upon an underlying issue, the depression itself is not likely the cause or even contributor, toward criminal behaviour. What’s more, clinical depression can be triggered by environmental factors.

Overall, the hypothesis that a happy teenager is less likely to make poor choices sounds reasonable, but human behaviour is so much more complicated than that.  It’s one of the reasons why the results of “studies” are so ambiguous (at least to my way of thinking). Yes depression and anger can lead to making stupid mistakes. Mind you, where you have drug use, which came first? Happy, positive teenagers also experiment with drugs, and to a degree,  criminal behaviour (petty shoplifting, for instance). They also make unhealthy choices in the way of friends, not because they do not have healthy role models in their lives, but for reasons no one can fully understand, least of all teenagers themselves.

And teenagers who demonstrate rage are among the most perplexing since there are disorders such as ODD (oppositional defiance disorder) and CD (conduct disorder), that result in rage, and they have little to do with rational thinking or behaviour. In this case, trying to ensure your child is happy and has a positive self-image are pretty remote. It’s no one’s fault.  It’s just the way it is. That’s one issue I take with studies and their conclusions.  They cause a sense of failure in people whose children become juveniles, and make poor choices, and display problematic behaviour.  There are great families who raise difficult children and who knows why these things happen?

Put an adult in place of a youth in this study.  Are depressed adults more likely to commit crimes or use drugs?  I doubt the former is true. The jury is out concerning the latter. Do positive, happy adults never make unhealthy choices or display any type of criminal behaviour, no matter how mild? For instance, once I was shopping with a friend and I watched the cashier count back her change. When we left the store, I informed my friend that the cashier had given her $10 too much. She counted her money and realized this was true, but she kept it.  Her rationale was the store made so much money, it wouldn’t be hit by a mere $10.00.  Not only does that not excuse theft, but another issue was whether or not the cashier would have the money docked from her pay cheque.

I like the idea that positive, happy people are less likely to become criminals, but I don’t accept that it’s as simple as that.

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Parental Control Over Education Issues is Becoming a Run-Away Train

Educators recognize the need for parental involvement in their children’s education and not just in signing agendas and ensuring work gets done (although that is a very valuable contribution to a child’s success at school).  We love our parent volunteers and participants in school events.  Such behaviour truly reinforces a good attitude towards learning and self-esteem in kids.

Now, onto the focus of this blog. I remember when my daughter was in grade 4 and I received a form letter from her teacher informing me that the sex education unit was about to be taught in class, and if I didn’t want her to participate, I could have her withdrawn from class during that time.  And you know what?  I actually gave that serious thought.  I thought 9-years-old was a little young for a child to be studying human sexuality and reproduction.  I didn’t want her to lose her childhood innocence.  I look at that perspective differently now. I received the same education starting in grade 5 and it didn’t  forfeit my childhood.

I thought the letter home was sensible and a good preparation for families to be aware that their child would be learning about “where babies come from.” This was the school’s means of communicating with families about curriculum.  In the public school system, however, parent advocates are becoming fanatical about teachers sending letters home to the family whenever certain words, phrases, or perspectives in curriculum will be taught.  For instance, there are certain parent-run advocacy groups, who “appear . . . to be irate about gay students,” and cannot tolerate gay and lesbian clubs in public schools.  They want to know if these words, that is, gay and lesbian (shhhhh!), are being used in class and if so, will the teacher be promoting homosexuality.  Hence, should a lesson be scheduled that includes homosexuality, or the use of the word homosexuality, the classroom teacher must send home a letter to families in advance, giving them the option to pull their children from class.

Heather Mallick, a reporter for the Toronto star, states in her column that sinful issues include “evolution, social acceptance of gays and lesbians, birth control and “environmental worship.” PEACE Hamilton (Public Education Advocates for Christian Equity)  provided a form list of things that angry parents can demand their children not be exposed to in class. The “traditional values letter,” being sent out by some Muslim parents in Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park area, “includes situational ethics, Satanism, new age beliefs, bestiality, homosexuality, birth control, abortion, the encouraging of infanticide and the notion that condoms might help ward off disease”.

After I wiped the tears of laughter out of my eyes, I found myself posing the same question as Mallick, who teaches bestiality?And the ongoing debate between evolution and God (something PEACE has not initiated) is a curious one.  I am a Roman Catholic teacher teaching in an RC school and I fully support the concept of evolution.  There is too much valid scientific evidence proving the existence of Cro-Magnum Man, Neanderthals, and other pre-human species to argue the point. I really like the Lucy story, hypothetically explaining the first semi-humans to begin walking upright.  Cool.

In all seriousness, the angry coalition of parents is demanding that teachers send home  form letters to parents every time the aforementioned subject matter will (or might) be taught to students. Thus, the teacher must advise specific students to leave class for 20 minutes, or go home, and others to put on noise-cancelling headphones (that will work well with the school policy of not using cell phones, iPods and other distracting technology in class). And I love the implication as to using noise-cancelling headphones.  It’s reassuring to know that my teaching is nothing more than noise. Thank you for that.

So far it is only the public schools that are beginning to make noise about these blasphemous issues, but often where you have the origins of a movement in one school system, you end up with some influence over another.  Hopefully this won’t happen in Dufferin-Peel.  I can’t see my board taking up such a foolish and clearly prejudiced movement in its schools.  But should it ever come to that (and that is a long shot, at best), I’d better get my computer updated and the cartridge replaced in my printer.  I’m going to be using a lot of overtime typing form letters about classroom vocabulary, where instead I could have been grading children’s work, or preparing materials for the next day’s lessons.