Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Protective Circle

It's been a while since I offered an essay. This is a work in progress, concerning how far off the mark the popular conception of child protection is. It has been postulated that more injustice against young people is done on the basis of this principle of "protection" than from any other force.


For children, there is no objective good. Often when people talk about protecting the innocence of children they assume there is one measurable standard of care that necessarily benefits them. This is in terms of popular consciousness, because any professional will attest to the fact that for children there are possibly endless forms of adult intervention that serve to benefit the individual child. Popular consciousness tends to deride certain interventions with children as necessarily harmful or helpful regardless of their observable effects. Acts that are considered helpful and those that are considered harmful are only schematic categories. The only undeniable proof of their categorical representation ought to be externally visible on real life children—not phantoms.

The child is nothing but a representation. If I were to say that children are harmed by sex, for instance, there is no specification of what children I am referring to, what type of harm is inflicted, to what degree the harm is inflicted, to what degree the harm can be reversed, and what type of sexual advance was administered. If these questions can not be answered, then what we are dealing with is a phantom child, a non-living spirit, a representation with no presence anywhere outside the mind, and an activity that also could be considered representational. What popular consciousness does is it replaces the real living and breathing child with a phantom representation, and asserts that some acts are necessarily harmful to it and that others are not. How can harm be inflicted on a phantom child? When we consider such statements as necessary truths, we show a great care for phantom children that we are depriving real living breathing children.

Killing Statements

The insertion of “perhaps” or “can” into our objective statements defang the beasts, but they still remain just as ravenous. The statement that children can be harmed by sex allows us to assert that some unjustifiable act, still of unknown specificity, has the potential to cause harm, still of unknown quantity, on phantom children. That is all well and good, but since real children are nowhere included in the statement, at the preference for phantoms, we are still forced to regard the objectivity of the statement as pertaining to phantoms rather than real children. Real children exist in the world of the living, not in the world of the imagination, or in the popular consciousness. One can not talk about what harms and what doesn’t harm, what threatens or doesn’t threaten children until one addresses specific examples of real children—the ones with names and faces. Otherwise, one is simply referring to phantoms.

To remove the maws and claws from this beast and truly render it limp, we have to strip away our preconceptions further. In other words, to keep statements from being harmful to children (seeing as that has become the justification for all human behavior these days) we have to back track to the foundation upon which it stands and rip the rug out from beneath it—to get it lying on its back. Simply adding in the precautionary clause “some,” as in some children can be harmed by sex, does nothing to slay the implication of the statement. We’re still forced to consider that only some phantom children can be harmed by sex rather than the whole lot of them. This is all well and good to know, but it should be real children we are concerned with, considering it’d be hard to prove a phantom child exists at all, never mind that such a spirit can be “harmed” by something we mortals do.

To fully lay limp this beast, we have to kill the statement. After we do so, we realize that statements can do no harm to phantom children any more than the acts that they imply, but to fully set our public consciousness toward assisting real children, rather than fooling around with these universal platitudes directed more toward spirits—it becomes necessary to kill the statement completely. To kill a statement, you simply propose to who specifically you are referring to. If you are making a statement in regards to a living entity, it ought to have a specific name and a specific face. If the object of the statement does not have either, then we are forced to concede that we have unwittingly created another beast.

Now the statement, for children there is no objective good, might be considered another beast, but it implies that very same source of confusion around marrying our constructions of reality to terms that is the focus of this discourse. It is true that our schematic representation of objective good is also a castle built upon a spider’s web just as much as the phantom children it focuses on, but it is not a beast because it doesn’t reference any supposed objective harm to those phantom children. What we are considering are statements that imply some objective harm to some general conception of children. The statement that statements are harmful to children is an example of a beast. Let's kill it.

Redefining Threat

The reason such statements can be considered “beasts” is an example of a human fallibility in preconception. In early human history, it became important to protect our specific offspring from creatures—real beasts, which could do real or objective harm to them. The savanna was a dangerous environment for the young of our species, as is nature—we didn’t need to have to state it to make it so. When the leopards were out prowling, it was understood what danger was actually there, it didn’t need to be conceptualized. Even if no harm resulted from a close encounter, it wasn’t a metaphorical representation of harm. It was a leopard. And when the young were placed in the center of the circle of armed guards, they were real live children, not a popular conception of children or phantoms. Somewhere in our history the popular values concerning “threats” to our children grew to become, on the whole, phantom beasts on the prowl for phantom children. One can easily picture a circle of armed humans in the modern world, protecting a pillar that is the universal representation of “children” (something faceless and formless—in the realm of ideas) from giant “pillars of evil” standing all around, also as formless and motionless.

While we arm the battalions to defend a formless entity from a formless evil (which has become the standard model of reasoning in this world of terror), one question I think crucial remains—where are the actual children and the actual evils? Over time in our history, as our civilization grew so did our awareness of harms to children, some which aren’t even physical, such as the leopard example. We have to realize that when research is done that connects a harm in the world to children, it is actually referencing a specific harm to a specific group or “sample” of children, and on those grounds, is actually a far more useful tool in discovering what is harmful from what isn’t than popular conception. It is by no means truly objective, but at least it recognizes its own fallibilities.

To Be Continued.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Best Gift this Year

Once again the holidays are here and parents are wondering if saying no to kids the best gift you can give them. If you are one of them, consider this:

“According to the Center for a New American Dream…two thirds of parents say their kids define their self worth in terms of possessions, half say their kids prefer to go to a shopping mall than to go hiking or on a family outing; and a majority admit to buying their children products they disapprove of—products that may even be bad for them—because the kids said they needed’ the items to fit in with their friends (Gibbs par. 11).” --TIME Magazine
Your child is not a prince or a princess, regardless of what time of year it is. If they were, then they'd probably be able to vote. If you want children to learn to be themselves, they're going to have to undergo some civil disobedience. The holidays present an opportunity to either give in and go after the high ticket items or restrain and use it as a lesson in gratitude.

But think about it. What sense does it make to once a year during the holidays all of a sudden decide to "listen" to the youth when they say they want something and then deprive them that respect every other time? All year long they've been repressed, how is buying them the latest high ticket item going to make it all better?

The fact is, you can't uplift youth by selling your better wisdom out to commercialism. No other time of year better represents how repressed kids are than the holidays. The repression they've endured throughout the year suddenly turns into rampant spoiling, simply because that has become the modality of profit exploitation. "So long as they get what they want, no harm..."

I believe this is the time of year to teach children a thing or two about civil disobedience. The choice this year is not between saying yes and giving in to their desires or saying no and choosing not to spoil them only because you'd rather not foot the bill. Kids are far more intelligent than that. The best gift you could give your kids this year is to teach them about the commercial exploitation itself. They will begin (as anyone would) at pulling apart every choice they can't choose to make, especially around this time of year.

Once you have them questioning, then you have them exploring. Of course it is human for them to want the material possessions that crowd the aisles, and no doubt they'll use the teachings of civil disobedience in order to resist their parent's supposed "better interests" and get the gifts they desire. However, just as anyone when given the power, they need to be told how to control it so that it doesn't lead to their misfortune or unhappiness. This has nothing to do with "child" and has everything to do with giving a person power, and teaching them how best to maintain it.
That is crutial to our resolve.

Give your kids the power this year. Make your presence be the "present."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bad Rap for Boys Looses them Adoptive Homes

The negative portrayals of boys in the media has a role in lessening the chances of getting adopted. Especially startling are the statistics from The British Association for Adoption and Fostering that at one of its "hard to place" agencies, boys accounted for 63 percent of the cases.

According to this story by the BBC, the BAAF is concerned that because of all the negative portrayals of boys in the media--violence, hyperactivity, behavioral and learning disorder rates, gangs...etc.--that some parents have been effectively put off from adopting them.

David Holmes, chief executive of BAAF, said: "We all need to remember that boys are children and young people first. The findings of this research concerns us as we are worried that some prospective adopters might be put off adopting boys because of negative perceptions.

"In reality there is little evidence to show that boys really are more difficult. We would urge people to remember that boys need adopting too."
Here are a few statistics out of the UK:

Of two national services run by the BAAF that attempt to find homes for hard-to-place children, in 2005 to 2006, one had 63% referrals who were boys and 37% who were girls; and the other had 56% referrals who were boys compared to 44% girls.

In polls, the majority of people agree that more often boys get negatively portrayed. This is unfortunate, but shouldn't be a shocker to all these media outlets who've worked their viewership over the years telling people that youth--and particularly boys--are "liars, cheaters, and thieves," as well as the pedophobic mindset where all youth are seen only as "potential criminals."

This kind of publicity doesn't help, and can be dangerous when it's taken to the extreme it has been. Particularly when a lot of the negative media boys get regards such frivolous charges of criminality, and many normal behaviors are being inflated to get as many parental customers as possible in the medicinal industrial complex.

What society sees as a problem have nothing to do with boys any more than any stereotype has to do with any group of people. Unfortunately, social norms that are keeping these boys out of caring homes don'y help any behavioral issues they may have either. If boys aren't in vougue these days, it's not they who have the problem.

Friday, December 5, 2008

New Jersey Raising Drop-Out Age

Here's an email I received from the National Youth Rights Association concerning youth in New Jersey. It's considered a step backwards for youth rights because it's another move to further prolong "adolescence" at the expense of youth, simply because shortening adolescence (such as has been suggested by prominent individuals like Robert Epstein and more recently Newt Gingrich) is neither culturally acceptable or marketable to people who can vote (the parents of these kids who push educational conformity for the sake of "success") and ultimately who foot the bill for their education. This is all the more reason for lowering the voting age as well.

They want what's best for New Jersey youth, but only if they can force them to accept no other alternatives than what they feel is best. They could be embracing New Hampshire's proposed model--speeding up the process of graduating gifted students--instead of forcing them to be held back where they're rendered useless...but that's a choice the New Jersey people are going to have to live with should they adopt it.

Here's an opportunity to make a difference for youth rights, especially for those of you who live in New Jersey.

The New Jersey state legislature is considering a bill to increase the compulsory schooling age from 16 to 18. This bill would mandate that 16- and 17-year-olds remain in school even if they don't want to be there and have nothing to gain from it. It is a step backwards for youth rights in New Jersey, and we should loudly and clearly oppose it.

To read the bill, go to this website and look for bill 375:

or go here to read the full text:

Here is another site with useful information about the bill:

If you live in New Jersey, please contact your state legislator and ask him or her to oppose this anti-youth bill. Talk about it with your friends and family, and write letters to the newspaper in opposition. If you don't live in New Jersey, encourage everyone you know who does to oppose this bill and contact their legislators about it. This is major anti-youth legislation, and we need to work to oppose it.

Justin Graham
Board of Directors
National Youth Rights Association

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Consequences of Feminism

Gender equality is an honorable thing, but unfortunately it just seems to be about the most unreachable thing out there. Reading through the scores of literature on the global gender performance gap (with boys behind across the board) might just make you forget about the fact that relatively no one is concerned with the much larger and statistically significant gaps between races and classes. That's an unforeseen legacy of feminism in and of itself, but as vigilant as education has been in the past in "evening out" the gaps, they can never seem to "manufacture" equality just right.

Back in the early 1990's, it was assumed that if they simply curved testing methodologies and teaching to include more contextual, cooperative, and figurative thinking exercises that they'd eliminate gender inequity by intentionally designing a system that favored girls. Over a decade later, after they've ridden high on the great success that was this flawed educational experiment-turned-political-weapon, now the feminists want to unfortunately derail progress toward gender equity by failing to realize what this unforeseen legacy of theirs is producing. After creating a system that favors girls, they boast great success at causing girls to close and reverse the gender gap but don't want to take any responsibility for at who's expense it was achieved (as does anyone); the other half.

Now it is these very groups who, now in the upper hand, cry out from their pulpits to defame the calls for equality in the system. It was the AAUW who put the call out originally to make the case for better equality control for girls, and now it is the AAUW making the case that no gender gap these days is a result of a girl-advantageous system they helped advocate for decades back. Their current point is very simple and not so surprising giving this turn of events: There is nothing wrong, we're making progress.

Of course, there's no reason to be "blaming" girls for their sucesses. A success in an educational policy is rare, but it depends on what your original goal was. If the original goal was the eliminated the gender gap, it's a failure, but if it was to improve the academic respect, motivation, and test scores of girls, then it was a success--a success with an inevitable downside that seems all too clear now in hindsight.

Recently, an Equal Opportunities Commission has made the argument that we ought to ignore the new gender gap, the new inequity, simply because they too fail to acknowledge the existence of it. They then carry on with vain statements about "increasing the performance of all children," but don't take any time to put any meat on those flimsy bones:

“The strategies recommended have been divisive and often counter-productive in terms of their emphasis on gender differences and give the impression that all that was needed was to treat the two sexes as separate, homogenous groups.”
First of all, the newsmedia never misses a beat pepping up this story to make it seem like this commission is saying "Stop Helping Boys," which of course is not what they're saying at all, but it's not the first time the media has reported on its own shameful page-turner practices.

Secondly, one commentor elloquently points out this obvious double-standard: "If girls underperform the system gets changed. If boys underperform they are told that they must change." The strategies to decrease gender inequality for school children seem to only apply when girls are being shortchanged, it seems. It's then easy for them to avoid this double-standard by not saying otherwise, but by simply not acknowledging the problem. Out of sight, out of mind, as far as feminist "progressive" politics is concerned.

The other side has their say as well:

Nick Gibb, the Tory schools spokesman, blamed 40 years of “progressive” teaching methods for the underachievement of boys, disadvantaged children and certain ethnic groups.
And the lesson learned today, class? This is what happens when education is used as a political weapon. We get back and forth bickering and tampering that serves no one any good in the long or short run, and unfortunately does nothing to decrease the size of the new gender gap. Hopefully these kids can stop this back and forth nonsence their parents were so entranced with provoking and get to actually working on "improving the education of ALL, at the expense of NONE" once and for all.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Kid Arrested for Farting

Here's a story you can't help but have a little fun with--farting in school. Kids fart a lot, and boys and guys especially seem to enjoy the disruption it can cause. But adults are just as capable of causing an even bigger disruption, because sometimes the illegality imposed onto even natural behaviors of youth is not so much an issue of fining the average chalk drawing on the driveway or upholding a strict 6pm curfew. Sometimes it comes through with just the right mixture of incompetence and abuse of law enforcement.

There's a law saying kids can't have sex or drink, so one can see how such things can be enforced. There's no law against causing a disruption in a school unless you're talking about delinquency. Discipline is normally enforced by the school for minor behavior problems. But what happens when incompetent school authorities, unquestioning coppers, and substandard school lunches collide? Something asinine:

NOVEMBER 21--A 12-year-old Florida student was arrested earlier this month after he deliberately passed gas to disrupt the class," according to police. The child, who was also accused of shutting off the computers of classmates at Stuart's Spectrum Jr./Sr. High School, was busted November 4 for disruption of a school function.

A Martin County Sheriff's Office report, a copy of which you'll find linked, notes that the 4' 11" offender admitted that he "continually disrupted his classroom environment by breaking wind and shutting off several computers." The boy, whose name was redacted from the police report released today, was turned over to his mother following the arrest. The young perp turned 13 on November 15.

Bottom line, this is school misbehavior, no need to call the cops in. Just another example of the school to prison pipeline in action in the age of Zero-Tolerance. The disturbing new way to eat up our law enforcement officers' resources and time in the effort to assume behavioral responsibility for kids who fart too loudly during school. Next time he'll just have to be quieter, seeing as kids currently have no rights to free speech, what other way does he have to voice his dissent?

Too funny, but true.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

8-Year-Old Confession, Will it Hold Up?

If you haven't heard this story regarding an Arizona boy's double murder of two adults, including his father, the details of the event are provided here. The issue that seems to have caused the controversy regarding this incident centers around the confession he gave while he was being interrogated by police officers as a witness. He began saying that he didn't know who could have shot his father, pointing out possible neighbor involvement, but as the interogation wore on, he slowly began saying "I think I shot him," and eventually admitted to shooting his father, saying he reloaded and shot again to put him out of his pain. The interrogator then went looking for a motive, getting from the boy that he was often disciplined for lying, and for not returning some paperwork from school one day.

Arizona law says that even individuals as young as eight can be tried for murder, but the circumstances by which the confession was made make it seem as though it may have been coerced. He had no parent present, and no legal representation, because he wasn't considered a suspect when they brought him in, and such is only necessary when interrogating a suspect of any age. He was being questioned as a witness. It is questionable whether his confession will hold up under the circumstances, but if it does, it's very likely he'll be convicted of double murder.

By every account, this was a good boy. He had no delinquency issues, no major psychological disturbances, his family had never had any problems with the Child Protective Services, and his father, being from a traditional hunting family, even sought religious guidance on whether or not to teach his son about shooting a gun. People who knew the boy and knew the family report there were never any major problems in the past and that they are "shocked" to hear this happened.

So many things don't add up about his confession, or exactly what version of his testimony is correct. In one version, the boy said he only shot the gun at the shooter's car as they sped away from the crime scene, in another he admitted to shooting his father to relieve his suffering, and in another he said firing the gun was accidental, because he was shaking too much when holding it, and then after much questioning, admitted to shooting both men himself, reloading as necessary. All these hint at coercion, as he may have simply been trying to please the interrogators at any particular moment.

One thing is clear though, there did come a point when the boy ceased to be a 'witness' and became a 'suspect'. At that point, the police investigators would have established 'probable cause' the boy committed the crimes they were investigating. Once probable cause was established that the boy committed the homicides, then the questioning should have ceased and the boy advised of his Miranda Rights. Also at that point, a parent/legal guardian would need to be present during any further questioning of the boy now a suspect and no longer a witness.

It is not clear from the video tape alone when the boy ceased to be a witness and became a suspect. The questioning technique of the police officers and the boy's answers to their questions have raised concerns by legal analysts who have viewed the video tape provided to the media. All this may see the case against him dismissed.

Another hearing in the case is scheduled next Wednesday.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Graduate at 16

Should teenagers be able to graduate at the age of 16? In what would seem to be a vindication of Robert Epstein's suggestions toward the abolition of adolescence, comes news from New Hampshire's education officials who have announced a plan to proctor a state-wide examination in the tenth grade. Those who pass the exam can graduate early and be prepared to enter the state's community or technical college.

The news of such a shift in educational policy comes at a time when America's educational standing in the world has been falling behind other countries who already consider youth to be ready for college by the age of 16. The idea of shortening the length of time a student spends in public school has been kicked around for a while and is not considered so radical or revolutionary in these other countries. The 12 year schooling system was established during the Industrial Revlotion where it was necessary for the various socio-economic considerations of the time.

In the present service-based economy, keeping a youth in school is no longer necessitated. Few youth go on to work in factories right out of High School and the majority are being funneled into institutions of higher learning. At a psychological level, it has been argued that keeping a young person in the school system stiffles students who are motivated and innovative enough to start on their career. Allowing them into an institution of higher learning at this critical time could only be beneficial to their self actualization and motivation.

However, the move is not without its critics, who bring up a very valid consideration:

"One key concern is whether test results, at age 16, are really valid enough to indicate if a child should go to university or instead head to a technical school - with the latter almost certainly guaranteeing lower future earning potential. "You know that the kids sent in that direction are going to be from low-income, less-educated families while wealthy parents won't permit it," says Iris Rotberg, a George Washington University education policy professor, who notes similar results in Europe and Asia. She predicts, in turn, that disparity will mean "an even more polarized higher education structure - and ultimately society - than we already have.""
The problem with this is the assumption that a technical school guarantees a lower earning potential, and that students who pass the test will inevitably end up in a technical school. Neither of these are hard and fast rules. However, it is clear one thing that is to be avoided if this plan is put in motion (in all the states that are considering it) is that the socio-economic background of the student doesn't place the student before they've even placed themselves academically. A student who is able to graduate ahead of their peers should be at an advantage, rather than a disadvantage, regardless of their socio-economic status.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Win is a Youth Victory

By almost every poll and estimate, the youth of the United States, those voters between 18 and 30, were one of the key demographics behind Obama's winning of the presidency.

Not only should this be a congratulation to all those who could vote, who got out the vote in this election, but also for the numerous young people not old enough to legally vote, who campaigned for and helped register new voters all across the country. Together these two entities proved the old adage that the youth vote was the only demographic that ought to be ignored summarily false, and have vindicated the power of their voice, hopefully for years to come.

"The Pew Research Center predicted the millennial generation would offer up 58 million eligible voters this year, about one-quarter of the total electorate—this is only second in size to the baby boomer generation that dominated politics during the last century. It has been a steady climb, with voters under 30 making up 14 percent of voters in 2000 and 16 percent in 2004 according to Pew."
Don't ever say that because you can't vote, all those of you under the ridiculously arbitrary line in the sand age limit, that you can't make a difference or be a force to be reckoned with. If you campaign, you are a voice, regardless of whether it's legally represented. You worked hard leading up to this, spreading the word, campaigning for your candidate, keep up the good work hereafter, and we might see some change coming your way soon enough.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Paranoia Ends the Ice Rink

It is a bit of irony that just as YoungerWorld is doing a reasoned post on Questioning Child-Friendly Environments a news story comes out examplifying everything that is wrong with the very supposedly "child-friendly" approach. In a reversal best fitting of Orwell, things that are "well-meaning" become in fact very destructive to communities when they are motivated by paranoia.

One has to wonder if pedophiles are really to blame for dismantling the prospect of this ice rink, or if that was more done on the knee-jerk alarmism of a few preventionists. Paranoia this great can only hope to be stopped with a dose of rational thought and common sense.

Plans for a Christmas outdoor ice rink in Bath have been scuppered over fears it could be used by paedophiles to groom children.
Firstly, the proprietors of the St. Johns Prep school might have something to hide. The charge is so senseless it's hard to take their reasoning seriously, and we're forced to consider if there were other factors at stake in their decision. The threat of child molestation is a common scapegoat these days. Secondly, grooming is not going to happen in a public place out in the open. The only perceivable harm that could come out of allowing an ice rink to be built is the chance of it being a scoping ground. This fear is unjustified though, because any public place is a potential scoping ground, whether it's the surrounding parks or the grocery store.

More disturbingly, seeing as 50 percent of child molestation happens within the home by family members, getting an ice rink pulled isn't going to protect the majority of children from abuse anyways. What is unfortunate is that these things happen at the same time others are complaining children need more outdoor activities and less indoor screen time. So one has to wonder who's interests are really being served here.

Brian Cleary, director of Sygma Events said: "We feel that the child protection issues have been used beyond reason and the location for the rink poses no additional risk to children beyond the already busy Bath Leisure Centre, rugby and cricket clubs which are in close proximity to the school."

"It is more likely that with a well staffed and CCTV controlled rink the area would have been a safer environment than at present.

"It comes as a great shame when something as fun and innocent as an ice rink can be thwarted due to unfounded suggestions by a minority with a misguided agenda."

All this amounts to is another blow against normal childhood environments. Hopefully the generation growing up in these places won't be as ignorant as the older one has become.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Boy Meets Girl, Boy Gets Arrested

A middle school girl takes a naked picture of herself and sends it to a boy as text message on his cell phone. The 13-year-old boy gets caught with the image on his cell phone and is arrested for child pornography possession. The girl does not face any charges for the production and distribution of said "child porn," and it doesn't look like she will.

Here's a news story regarding this injustice.

If anything could represent the injustice of the sheer hypocrisy of the legal definitions regarding youth, this story covers almost all the bases for any rational argument against them in and of itself. First, we realize that child pornography laws do not protect children when they have the pornography in their own possession. Second, we realize that children are not always the victims of child pornography, sometimes they are the photographers themselves.

Thridly, we realize that children can be criminalized and otherwise held responsible for things they are not legally able to comprehend--that they can have these ridiculous laws out to protect them against being the victims of child pornography on the basis that they can't comprehend sexuality, but they can be held responsible for being sexual if it is convenient for arrest and conviction. Lastly, we realize that justice is not fairly executed in the state of Texas (not a shocker), that girls are not given the same treatment as boys, and that one boy can be targetted when it was multiple boys that this so-called child pornography was sent to.

“I know some girl was taking pictures of herself and sending it to multiple guys. Obviously, they’ve still got their picture on their phone because they are now getting in trouble,” said Bethany Mitchell, a classmate.

So far only the 13-year-old boy has been arrested.

If they are going to execute this ridiculous charge, they might as well have executed it fairly. Otherwise, this is just another example of how normal childhood and youth relations are increasingly being criminalized and made illegal. It's just part in a long chain of injustices carried out against a demographic that does not have the legal right to protest these actions. They are criminalized, and held responsible, but not considered incapable of responsibility when it can't be used to get a conviction. This is sheer hypocrisy. Youth are sexual beings, if you criminalize their sexuality, you are criminalizing their humanity.

This is unacceptable.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Commercial Childhood, or To "Serve" Kids

...on a plate.

There's nothing wrong with making money by marketing to children in and of itself. The problem is that children aren't given the freedoms in society at the same time they are expected to be consuming. In the eyes of the money-makers, this makes them a prime resource that can be easily manipulated and can not "complain" least not officially. This is not to say that children don't complain, it's just the child's been turned into a commodity, who's use value only stretches as far as their parents buying power can persuade. This renders their complaints on deaf ears.

"I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled ...” -Jonathan Swift (1729)

Now of course Swift was writing in jest when he made these comments in A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Ireland from Being a Burden for their Parents or Country, and for Making them Beneficial to the Public, and certainly in protest of other economic conditions.

But such a scheme is not so far fetched in the minds of those who exploit children as a means to satiate their own ends--for society has not considered the willpower of children, or even acknowledged it. They make children a victim of exploitation simply by not allowing them the autonomy to fully consent to their exploitation.

When people speak of child exploitation, they are normally thinking of those rogue members of society who are out to abuse children in some physical way--child molesters. The term exploitation, as far as children are concerned, almost always deals with the physical well-being of children. Could it be said that we have come to this ultimate narrowing of the idea of child exploitation because it has not officially recognized yet that a child has an independent will that can as easily be exploited as their body?

In adult relationships, financial systems, and governments, it is well understood that exploitation is not always abusive. Often exploitation is consented to by the party that is being exploited. Exploitation simply refers to the act of using something as a means in order to achieve ends or other means. The exploited person can be someone as harmless as an employee, or something as harmful as a rape victim. In either case someone else is getting usage out of the person being exploited. Not only humans can be exploited, but objects, both tangible and intangible, and animals as well. The connotation for exploitation nevertheless normally is negative, meaning that when the word is used it most often refers to someone using something as a means for illicit, illegal or immoral ends.

However, when the idea of child exploitation arises, not only are all other intuitions about the nature of exploitation in general disbanded, but so is all rational sense. It is thought that child exploitation refers specifically to cases of child prostitution, rape, and other abuses regardless of whether the abuser is actually exploiting the child or not. Pedophiles exploit individual children at one particular instance, or perhaps set of individual instances. Marketing experts for companies exploit millions of children, if not all of them, in this country and globally at times, and at all times, throughout a child's development. But who are made to be the demons of society, and who are ignored by parents? Which one is more universally threatening?

There arises this thinking that children don't have the ability to be exploited mentally, or have their own wills alienated from them, because they lack the mental sense.

But the marketing experts know better, and have been exploiting children's will for many generations, attempting to turn kids against their parents, turning children into billboards for their products, and otherwise distracting them from their complete lack of personal say by fattening their minds up with self aggrandizing slogans about "empowerment" that have little realistic meaning outside their use as turning kids into good little consumers.

"The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parent and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of Modern Industry, all family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labour." --Karl Marx (1884)

Children do not work as they did in Marx's day, nor was the concept of childhood as important in his day. Children are not considered candidates for "physical" work, but they have assumed a new "social" utility in this day in age. They are both consumers and marketable, and they work very hard perpetuating the regime that spends millions to molest their wills, their brains, their interests and change their sense of self (to one that is consumer based), gender (to one that is boys vs. girls), their parents (to one that is kids vs. parents), their education, (to one that is kids vs. teachers), and their age (to one that is young vs. old) in ways that are beneficial to the profit motivation of the company.

These are ways that are often opposed to the way parents and schools want to socialize children of all ages and genders and personalities to be productive, observant, thoughtful, and self-regulated individuals. Children are converted into dollar signs, and set to work for these corporations as soon as they are marketed to and asked to go beg their parents for those certain highly-prized ticket items.

They are alienated from themselves, their parents, their society, and other children, who are forced to compete with each other for prized high ticket items in order to find some sort of validation with their peers, and all but otherwise distract themselves from the fact that society has not given them any other way to validate themselves. Such more personally constructive means are not profitable, and therefore discouraged in the laws, because supervisors and volunteers are dissuaded from working with children due to laws to combat the scourge of paranoia.

But let me stress a caution, these companies would have a lot less influence if a child was recognized as having a legitimate individual will. At present, they do not. It is not so much the fact that children ought to be protected from this change in the very definition of childhood, which Marx would have called "Bourgeois," it's that they should be empowered to use their individual wills to their own extents, and not be held so captive to the suggestion of their profit-motivated corporate overlords who have no collected interest in fostering the child's positive development.

The more children are protected from things that harm them to the point where they can not protect themselves, the more vulnerable they are to these influences. Furthermore, because children do not have a mind of their own to give consent, the only way this transaction can happen in childhood is if it is coerced. This is the same situation society holds against pedophiles and child molesters. However, it seems to believe so long as child exploitation without their consent (simply because they can't give consent to such things) is profiting someone monetarily, as opposed to any other way, is perfectly acceptable.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Critique on "Perverted Justice"

Here are the facts concerning child sex abuse that vigilante group "Perverted Justice" doesn't want you to know or think about, so they can continue to sell their war on the smallest percent of child sex abuse cases and force society to look the other way on the more likely scenarios of child sexual abuse:


(1) Child sex crimes are rare.
(2) 50% of sex crimes are committed by relatives
(3) 40% of sex crimes are committed by family friends, neighbors, and careworkers
(4) that leaves 10% of sex crimes (against children) to be committed by acquaintances
(5) In fact, about 3% of child sex crimes prominently feature the internet.
(b) child sex criminals are not very likely to have a criminal record. About 10%, give or take, have a criminal record.


(1) that's equally true for online and offline sex criminals
(2) about 10%, possibly up to 25%, reoffend sexually at some point in the future
(3) Of online sex criminals, a very small proportion have a record for child sex crimes (4%).
(4) sex criminals are more likely than the general population to commit nonsexual offenses... about 20-40% do.
(5) these numbers are for child sex criminals incarcerated in prisons
(6) about 65% of all criminals reoffend, making child sex criminals about par for the course, although slightly lower by most estimates but more likely to reoffend sexually against children
(7) Child sex criminals with a previous criminal record for child sex crimes reoffend against children sexually about 52% of the time.
(8) that's also more or less expected. People with a prior record are at much greater risk than people without for all crimes (remember only 10% of online sex criminals have criminal records).
(9) Sex abuse has declined about 50% in the last 15 years, and paranoia has been on the rise


Of the 3% of child sex crimes involving the internet, about 1/3rd involve a police sting, 1/3rd involve a real minor forming a relationship, and 1/3rd involve only pornography


There is no significant level of online victimization of children under 12 years old. About 0.01% of online victimizations involved children age 12, the rest were older. However, most arrests involved children around 13-15 years old. Studies seem to imply that the danger of online victimization are highly overstated.

Probably there are significant numbers of 16 and 17 year olds who initiate relationships with adults via the internet that result in very few prosecutions. Meanwhile, the arrests for child sexual victimization via luring probably pretty accurately reflect about a tenth of actual such victimizations (of children 13-15, just given the average rate of enforcement of crimes).

Yet the threat of "child predators online" coming after your "children" is made to be the most dire threat to our children...even to the point where kids and parents have to forfeit rights, and a kids have been taken away from homes based on the fact that their internet activity wasn't supervised.

And all for what? The typical Perverted Justice sting is set up to look like something that happens fewer than 1% of the time in reality. The paranoia just does not mirror reality.


There are about 75 million children in the country and about 80,000 substantiated reports of child sexual abuse in the country. Assuming that about 10% of actual cases are caught, that implies about 800,000, which is about 1% of 75 million. It's actually slightly more than 1% and would give a rate of about 17.5% children being sexually abused.

By the same token, about 0.2% of children are sexually 'victimized' via the internet, not counting child porn cases or stings. That would make about 144,000 adults who were sexually 'victimized' via the internet, assuming the rate hasn't gone up in the last 18 years, which I am sure it has.

Given the estimate of 500 complaints a year, that makes 9,000 complaints every 18 years, that is comparable to 14,000 reports every 18 years.

The point is... just that, no matter how you cut it, it seems that internet sex crimes get far too much publicity and funding relative to their actual impact while familial sex crimes, which account for almost 50 times as many victims, are under reported.


There are a significant number of sex crimes involving children under 14... they're probably even less likely to involve a stranger or acquaintance. But when you hear about Perverted Justice... the kinds of offenses they're preventing are (1)possession of child pornography and (2) adults having consensual sex with 16 or 17 year olds... because that is how almost all online 'victimizations' actually end up.

People who hook up with children online are pathetic, lonely losers. No one is standing up for them, but they only seem to represent fewer than 1% of child sex abuse cases.

Stranger abductions involving sexual motives are even more rare than internet meetings for sex, although there was a case of a clear abduction resulting from the internet. There's no evidence that young children (below 13) are being lured into sexual contact via the internet (although there is evidence that people make attempts). However, all these Perverted Justice stings conclude with this statistically rare phenomenon going on: the adult actually meeting with the child for sex.

Perverted justice and similar sting projects focus on imitating 13 and 14 year olds. And when they respond positively, they get talked up more. How many actual 13 or 14 year olds are actually out there getting into similar situations? Statistically few. So these men are unlikely to succeed without running into a fake child.

A lot of adults that meet youth online do lie about their age. Often they'll claim to be 35 years old when they are 45 years old or 25 years old when they are 30 years old. Almost all youth who get involved with adults are lonely and have problems socializing with peers. A disproportionate number are confused about their sexuality.

Here's a report on these findings:

Of course, in onepaper they admit, "Internet sex crimes involving adults and juveniles more often fit a model of statutory rape – adult offenders who meet, develop relationships with, and openly seduce underage teenagers -- than a model of forcible sexual assault or pedophilic child molesting."

Basically, as part of their conclusions for how to prevent online sexual relationships, they recommend that parents talk to their kids about sex, starting at age 13. Which is the simple and reasonable solution, but ultimately the only one that's not profitable.

Given this reasoning... why else would Perverted Justice (who refuse to disclose their profits from the participation in these stings...upwards of 10,000 USD) be turning such a minor statistical issue into an object of mass paranoia, to the point where it serves to cripple children by limiting their rights and subjecting them to unnecessary supervision practices?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My Symbol of the Youth Movement

Here's my design for a potential symbol for the Youth Movement--a skewed Mobius Strip design of any color, one circle being physically larger than the other, but both being equal in the width of their outlines. The idea is that they are interconnected, the young and the old--one can not exist without the guidance and teaching of the other--one circle is no more important to completing the strip than the other. Any action or policy done that serves to seperate one from the other causes the destruction of all.

In one direction along the strip, the young takes in part of the larger circle--the experience and wisdom gained by time--and in the other direction lends part of itself to help complete the larger one--the ideas and insight of a new perspective. Anything other than this cycle of give and take between the old and young is destructive. Let both the young and the old share in the world as we know it.

The idea is that it ought to be simple enough to draw in the sand, a simple design that can easily be reproduced on pins, flags, can be instantly recognizable, and easily drawn by hand and reproduced over and over and by all people, even young children.

(If you like it, feel free to distribute it far and wide to promote youth empowerment, youth rights, anti-ageism, anti adult-centrism, or anything else dealing with youth and children)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Scarlet Letter "DCV" (Dress Code Violator )

You won't believe this. Coming just hours after the last major reporting of a school dress violator comes another even more disturbing story. This time about a high school student who was made to wear a ridiculous rag that said "DCV: Dress Code Violator" after being forced to remove his patriotic tee-shirt because of an asinine school policy.

Then to make it worse, the school tried to silence his protest with the media. School dress violations are becoming a popular way to ignite students against their inferior taskmasters these days.

Officials at the Merced County school confirmed Thursday that Jake Shelly was forced to take off a red, white and blue tie-dyed American flag T-shirt on Tuesday. The shirt said nothing offensive, just: “United States of America, Washington, D.C.” The school’s assistant principal issued Shelly a bright yellow T-shirt that read “DCV: Dress Code Violator” to wear for the rest of the day. He was given his shirt back after classes ended.

“It was really embarrassing and humiliating to have to wear that all day — and just for supporting your country,” his sister Kaycee Shelly said.
Nothing short of the Scarlet Letter approach, and that's putting it nicely. Is this really the school's approach to decreasing disruption? One has to wonder how disruptive a bright yellow T-shirt saying "DCV: Dress Code Violator" is in a classroom, and how disruptive an embittered high school student, along with an embittered school and teachers, is going to be.

Earlier in the day, he was speaking with a local news station when an unidentified teacher walked up to him, ripped off the microphone clipped to his shirt and told him he was not allowed to talk to the media.
This action makes no sense, unless you want to consider that since the school already doesn't want to promote the diverse American culture, that they are no longer in support of the right of free speech in this country either. Otherwise, the school has no authority as to saying who the student can talk to, they simply don't want to loose face in front of the criticism of the more commonsensical public who would eat them alive.

District officials said they apologized to the student, his family and the local American Legion on Wednesday — Constitution Day.

The assistant principal initially thought Shelly’s T-shirt violated a clause of the school dress code that does not allow “shirts/blouses that promote specific races, cultures, or ethnicities.”
This part of the dress code seems designed to be interpreted wrongly. What do they consider as "promoting" various ethnicity and cultures? If the goal is to promote diversity in the school, why aren't the students allowed to wear clothing that promotes their race, culture, and ethnicity? Does this mean that if a girl goes to school wearing a dupatta or a hijāb (head scarf) that she'll have it taken away because it "promotes" the Muslim or Punjabi culture? And worse, that she'll be forced to wear a bright yellow shirt saying "DCV: Dress Code Violator" for the whole day?

Probably not. But in any case, if the rule were to be interpreted literally, it doesn't sound like a way to promote diversity, or make sure no one's ethnic background is trampled on--only undermine it. And how exactly does "United States of America, Washington D.C." trample on American diversity? What kind of country is this where young people can't even wear clothing that promotes the country they live in?

The shirt was a colorful play on hippy clothing for a school spirit week, not a deliberate attempt to disrupt the school environment or trample on other ethnicities. But at least the school saw the error of it's way and apologized, and then went on a binge with the media trying to save face. It's a sad time in America if this is the automatic knee-jerk response to student expression.

Students on campus started a campaign to wear as much red, white or blue clothing and carry as many flags as possible Thursday in protest of Tuesday’s decision, despite the apology. Jake Shelly wore the same shirt he wore Tuesday and was not disciplined.

“I am glad so many people are supporting this and wearing red, white and blue,” his sister said. She believes the swift change in rules was because of the overwhelming student action.

The bright spot in this country has and will always be with it's motivated youth. Student action can bring about change, and it should.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Suspended for Free Speech

Another case of the increasing illegality of childhood. Young people have the capability of voicing an opinion, they are just not allowed to express that capability in ways the school can't proof read. So now kids have to get suspended from school in order to vitalize and actualize their humanity. Isn't that the opposite of what a school is supposed to do for a child?

An 11-year-old in Aurora says his first amendment rights are being trampled after he was suspended for wearing a homemade shirt that reads "Obama is a terrorist's best friend."

The fifth grader at Aurora Frontier K-8 School wore it on a day when students were asked to wear red, white and blue to show their patriotism. According the the boy's father, the school district told the student, Daxx Dalton, that he had the choice of changing his shirt, turning his shirt inside out or being suspended.

Daxx chose suspension.

"They're taking away my right of freedom of speech," he says. "If I have the right to wear this shirt I'm going to use it. And if the only way to use it is get suspended, then I'm going to get suspended."
And with those words this kid proves he knows more about what it means to be an American than any of those beurocrats could ever dream. It's only unfortunate that the price students are forced to pay is to give up on the very thing that supposedly was meant to "expand" their minds. School rules are important, but so are the students. Hats off to this kid.

Aurora Public Schools would not talk about the case but said the district "Respects a student's right to free speech, such as the right to wear specific clothing," but administrators say they review any situation that interrupts the learning environment. Paperwork submitted by the school district says Daxx Dalton was not suspended for wearing the shirt, but for willful disobedience and defiance.

So that's what they're calling a young person's freedom of speech these days. Defiance. Next they'll be calling him hyperactive and then he'll have to be "cured."
The boy's father says he intends to pursue a lawsuit against the district.

Well done, create a big stir, whip up a frenzy. Perhaps it'll teach this school and all others around the country which is really more controversial, which is really more of a "disturbance"...a school who allows so-called "disruptive" opinions to coexist...or a school who denies them and gets full of kids who refuse to go without them?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tell ADHD "not to bother you"

Highly recommended watch: PBS, The Medicated Child (can be viewed online, follow link)

Most experts agree, the term "hyperactive" is applied too often and too widely. It is not uncommon these days for 5 to 10 kids in every classroom in America on average to be labeled "hyperactive" and subsequently diagnosed with ADHD. This is surprising, considering 50 and 60 years ago, no such label even existed. There were no "hyperactive" kids 50 to 60 years ago: they were considered "lazy," or "rebellious," or "fidgety," (Nylund, 2000). Think to yourself, was Huckleberry Finn ever labeled "hyperactive?"

Run down the list of the diagnostics for yourself and consider if this folk hero of American literature was in fact diagnosable by today's standards: "Often does not give close attention to details..." "has trouble keeping attention in tasks or play activities..." "does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork..." "avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort..." "often interrupts or intrudes on others..." "often talks excessively..." ...etc.

Huck Finn is the archtype of the classic American boy, no doubt of antiquity, yet if he were growing up in this century, there is no way he'd be able to escape childhood without a few diagnoses. From 1990 to 1998, there was a 700% increase in Ritalin producation in this country (Diller, 1998). These are staggaring figures. Disorders don't just blossom over the course of a few years. The only explaination for this medicinal and diagnostic trend is, the medical industrial complex, and the uninformed, paranoid public. And either variable has been made dependent on the other.

Ritalin does have some short term advantages, it has been found to reduce non-compliance, incrase attention and cooperation. However, it has been found to have side effects such as incrased heart rate and blood pressure, interference with growth rate, insomnia, weight loss, and nausea (Friend & Bursuck, 2002; Hallahan et al., 2005; Panksepp, 1998). Now if any of your parents think your child will be better off with any of these side effects, you are free and certainly encouraged by the Medical Industrial Complex to do so, at your expense, and unfortunately, your child's. Fight for your kids!

On top of these side effects, it is doubtful whether drug therapy behavior improvements as described above even lead to better academic performance or better social relationships, which are the two areas that ADHD kids have trouble with. Furthermore, the "positive" effects of behavior modification drugs often make parents think that the problem with their child has been "cured" simply because their child's bad behavior has stopped (which happens 80% of the time) and that no other treatment is necessary(Doggett,2004; Purdie, Hattie, & Carroll, 2002). It hasn't stopped. Our children constantly need our help to socialize them properly, with or without the pill, and that's what the drug companies won't tell you, and that is what the drug companies are trying to make us forget.

Research tells us otherwise:

"Multimodal approaches to intervention have been found to be most effective in terms of lasting change...treament with psychostimulants has beneficial effects, provided that it is accompanied by remedial tuition, counselling, and behavior management by parents/teachers as required (van Kraayenoord, Rice, Carroll, Fritz, Dillon, & Hill, 2001, p. 7)."

What are some alternatives? First of all, make assignments for children assumed to be hyperactice or inattentive shorter--lots of problems or lots of paragraphs at once might only bog down a child who is struggling, and make sure you set reinforcements for completion that favor the step by step, problem by problem, paragraph by paragraph accomplishments, along with a reward for completion. You also have to train the child's "skill" and "will" to improve their own acchievement (Paris, 1988).

Pills take the parent/teacher and the child out of the process of the child's development and hand that responsibility to the pill's effectiveness. The responsibility should always be primarally between the parent/teacher and the child, whether he or she is on the pill or not. Children should be taught to control and monitor their own behavior, and this has been shown to have positive effect on their attentiveness or self control. One child-centric (not pill-centric) method for dealing with an ADHD diagnosis is to enlist the child's own strengths and thoughts to combat the urges to behave inappropriately--essentially, to get them to self monitor their own behavior.

Nylund's (2000) strategy for dealing with ADHD children is to get the child to combat sources of "boredom" "trouble" and other external forces, and to help them find ways to first recognize when these urges are happening, and then apply their will to overcome them. This is called the SMART approach, and it begins with seperating the "problem" from the child.

Nylund talks about how a boy named Chris (9 years) and his teacher worked together in unison to overcome his urges. She put him up front so that she could signal to him every time it was time to pay attention, and it was up to him to train himself to pay attention whenever he saw that signal. He got back on track and was able to organize his desk, for instance. He was better attentive, and very self controlled by the end (Nylund, 2000). The only way to get a child to control themselves it seems, is to get a child to literally "control themselves." This seems like common sense, but that's not what the drug companies want you to realize (the ones profiting from that 700% increase in Ritalin production).

If you don't believe this technique can work, ask Chris what he thinks, and he'll tell you:

"You just have to have a strong mind and tell ADHD and Boredom not to bother you (Nylund, 2000)."

So you don't want your child turning into a Huckleberry Finn? That's reasonable. We have to try as a society to implement other strategies with children that don't divest parental or professional involvement in a child's development to a pill. Children have always needed to be taught proper socialization skills, and the rise in ADHD is only symptomatic of a society that has dropped the ball on it's ability to that. Teaching a child socialization skills does not happen on its own, even if the child has been medicated and is showing a "reduction" in negative behaviors (Purdie et al., 2002). ADHD is not a disease, it can't be cured like the flu, it takes active involvement, it takes teaching and learning. It did back in Huck's day, it does now, and it always will.

Passive Youth is an Injustice

Right now, society is passive in the way it deals with "restricts," and "bans" and "sets curfews" ...all in an attempt to "stop" problems from happening so that it doesn't have to actually deal with them proactively. The only proactive measures society then takes resort to law enforcement against youth agitators antagonistic to these abuses of power.

I argue that society would be better served being proactive with children, "setting mutually understood limits" "allowing children supervised exposure to the real world activities" "giving children opportunities to expand their minds and objectives" ...that way children will be empowered to stop their own problems on their own volition, and by doing all this society will have been dealing with them proactively.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Wrong in Principle--Still Acceptable?

From the UK news publication The Guardian, comes criticism of a photography exhibition involving stylized pictures of children who were provoked to the point of tears intentionally for the sake of getting the shot. The photographer promises that no lasting psychological damage was inflicted on these subjects, and appears to believe that makes this practice justifiable.
"Photographer Jill Greenberg has whipped up a storm of controversy with her new exhibition, End Times. The pictures in the show, for which she deliberately provoked tearful outbursts from children by taking away lollipops she had just given them, have been described by some as tantamount to child abuse."
Taking candy away from children is not child abuse, and I doubt there is any psychological harm coming from this. The real issue is that such a thing as exploiting a child's emotions outside their control or consent for personal gain is tolerated so long as there is no "lasting harm" inflicted. What is the limit before something that is wrong in principle is no longer acceptable, regardless of whether or not it inflicts harm?
"Greenberg herself insists that the children had the sweets returned within 30 seconds, that no lasting harm has been done, and that her concern was to depict what she says reminded her of the "helplessness and anger I feel about our current political and social situation."
What is ironic is that the pictures were taken to protest growing global concerns offset by the traditional appeal to the supposed innocence of children, but what the photographer fails to understand is that the same rationale is often used to justify such global violence, wars, and destruction to begin with, on behalf of protecting that so-called innocence that is being exploited in these photographs.

It certainly seem contradictory to argue for the protection of the innocent while exploiting real live kids for personal monetary and career gain, and stirring up this kind of controversy (abuse issues) only distracts from the very causes she's trying to bring attention to.

I won't post any links to this exhibition or its photographs because it deserves no advertising. It's nice to see controversy and public outcry over this, but controversy often only fuels the fire.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ACLU says, Down with the Juvenile Curfew

We can usually count on the ACLU to be the voice of reason. The following comes from the ACLU press room concerning a recent enforced under-18 curfew in Hartford, Connecticut, after a series of shootings.

Lifting the curfew is not putting children in any more danger than they already are being out during the day, and is nothing but discrimination justified by paranoia--regardless of whatever good intentions there were in putting it in place.
ACLU Opposes Planned Hartford Juvenile Curfew
ACLU Press Room

Announcement of a curfew for juveniles in Hartford drew an immediate response from the ACLU of Connecticut: Abandon the idea. Such ordinances are a violation of fundamental rights of innocent people, the ACLU says.

Mayor Eddie Perez, with his police chief at his side, announced the curfew Monday in the wake of a series of shootings in the city. Such a curfew has long been on the books in Hartford, but its enforcement has been set begin Thursday.

The problem is real, the ACLU says, but a blanket curfew barring all those under 18 from being on the streets from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. is the wrong solution.

David McGuire, staff attorney for the ACLU-CT, compiled a list of reasons such curfews have proven ineffective, and have been struck down when challenged in court:
  • Curfews violate constitutional rights of due process and freedom of expression, by giving the police unlimited discretion to arrest young people engaged in wholly legitimate and constitutionally protected activities or speech. The planned Hartford action is an assault on the basic constitutional rights of thousands of young people in the city.
  • The police have every tool they need, without curfew, to protect and enforce laws involving youth. Day or night, they always have the authority to stop young people based on reasonable suspicion that they are violating a law or posing a danger to themselves or others.
  • Curfews, at their core, essentially place all persons of a particular demographic under “house arrest” for the actions of a minority. A curfew criminalizes all youth, regardless of whether they are breaking any laws or posing any threat. The proper response to juvenile crime is instead to arrest the criminals.
  • The public would never accept this approach for adults. Young people who have parental consent must enjoy the same right to freedom of movement as adults.
  • A curfew usurps parental discretion.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pedophobia and the Mosaic 2000

"Pedophobia" is not a term to be thrown around loosely, or else it looses its effect. But every now and then a social convention comes around that can only be described as "pedophobic." The term literally means an irrational fear of childhood or children, if you didn't know, because it is not one of those hot-button terms that gets a lot of exposure, mainly because the targets of it are not afforded the ability to protest it. But rest assured, pedophobia is alive and well and stirring in its own silent but bigotted prejudice into public policy.
Pedophobia attacks all races, genders, sexualities, and socioeconomic groups, and gets more endorcement, or simply gets ignored, simply because it's target is children.
Exhibit A: The Mosaic 2000--a piece of anti-terrorism software developed for the explicit purpose as a "diagnostic method for conducting high-stakes evaluations of persons who might act violently in school," according to the Assistant Director of Field Operations, of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
"As an evaluation method that is computer-assisted, Mosaic 2000 presents a series of questions which, after analysis and comparison, provides an evaluative report to the school administrator. In this way, it will help schools identify threats most in need of intervention, and assist school administrators in choosing the appropriate tools."
What it is though, is nothing less than profiling. Now what kinds of otherwise normal youth behaviors and activities does this "government knows best" mandate are potential hazards to their schools and societies? Let's take a look at the various dimensions they consider tell-tale signs of a school shooter in the works:
  • Social withdrawal
  • Excessive feelings of isolation and being alone; Excessive feelings of rejection
  • Being a victim of violence
  • Feelings of being picked on and persecuted
  • Low school interest and poor academic performance
  • Expression of violence in writings and drawings
  • Uncontrolled anger
  • Patterns of impulsive and chronic hitting, intimidating, and bullying behaviors
  • Affiliation with gangs
  • Intolerance for differences and prejudicial attitudes [How ironic...apparently it's perfectly fine for this test to be intolerant and prejudicial]
  • Drug use and alcohol use
  • Inappropriate access to, possession of, and use of firearms
  • Serious threats of violence
Essentially, this is not a tactic to keep youth safe, the Mosaic 2000 is nothing more than a device to justify the suppression of youth for the sake of preserving their future commodity use and weeding out the ones that aren't useful. Apparently, it discriminates against all youth who are freethinking, have a low interest in school (which as this site rightly says is a poor excuse for a lacking educational system), low in self-esteem, anger issues, and feelings of "persecution" (yes, youth aren't supposed to feel persecuted while subjecting themselves to unnecessary character profiling), and engages in some typical, but not government approved, socializing.

Who makes the definitions as to what constitutes "excessive feelings" or "inappropriate access to weapons" or what the official limit to one's creativity can be in "violent writings and drawings" anyways? As far as "serious threats of violence" is concerned, that varies from school to school. For some schools, as this site also mentions, carrying nail clippers is considered a "serious threat" at one school (expelled), as is "writing scary stories" at another. All these definitions now sound arbitrary regardless of what the original (possibly) well-meaning intentions are.

Now, students only get profiled if they "come to the attention of the school as possible security risks..." but as an ASFAR "Youth Truth" article on this issue points out, how do students then come to the "attention" of the school? One only has to look to James Perrotti, Chief of Police at Yale University who wrote the questions for the program as a perfect example of ignorance, ageism, and bigotry to find out how they find potential evil-doers: "It's easy to pick out the gang members with tattoos. It's these other people that kind of surprise administrators, and these are the ones they really need to identify."
The Youth Truth article poses whether school officials can even be entrusted to use this information properly. We already know how they treat children they label as "at risk," can we expect anything different? It is disturbing to read about how objective this test takes itself to be in light of this oversight, as the author explains: "Would you trust the future of your son and daughter to your confidence that an administrator, who has probably labeled your child in order to use the program in the first place, will be completely objective and truthful in answering the forty questions, or even have the knowledge to do so?"

It is doubtful whether this new brand of profiling will even keep kids safe to begin with. So long as all the school resources are divested in answering to random kids the computer thinks are dangerous while ignoring those hidden aggressors who might have passed the test. It takes resources and justification away from investigating real hazards and entrusts all judgment to an indifferent computer test.

Leave it to ASFAR to set the record straight on this:
"Profiling of young people is no different than racial and ethnic profiling, and it is morally wrong. Profiling someone to predict whether they will commit a crime or be dangerous is contrary to the concept of innocent until proven guilty, as well as due process. It is wrong for a school to punish a student who has done nothing except be different. Schools should only act when there is a case of imminent danger to students and faculty, or the student has actually committed an offense."

"Unfortunately, one must question whether children and teenagers need to be kept safe from Mosaic 2000 itself."

Monday, August 18, 2008

For Those Corporal Punishment Advocates...

There is a myth that corporal punishment on children is fair and effective. The simple logic of the practice forces multitudes to accept its effectiveness as a necessary truth: "Spare the rod, spoil the child." However, the truth is rarely simple, and this is no exception.

The ACLU and Human Rights Watch have concluded that this "fair" punishment for a child's misbehavior is subject to cultural, racial, regional, gender, and socioeconomic factors that are completely outside the child's control, and that the motivation to use violence as a punishment solution on a misbehaving child is prompted by a whole lot more than a temper tantrum.

For instance, minor infractions, such as talking back, gum chewing, and violating school dress codes are "routinely" dealt with aggressively. Black and Native American students receive twice as much "paddling" as White children in both white and black majority districts, measuring the same transgressions. This is according to "A Violent Education: Corporal Punishment of Children in US Public Schools." If you follow the simple logic, boys are three times less spoiled than girls are for the same transgressions in schools that enforce this "fair" policy, along with children with special needs and disabilities.

The prevailing view of psychologists on the issue of the "effectiveness" of corporal punishment as an aversive strategy of behavior modification is best explained by the author of the report:
"Every public school needs effective methods of discipline, but beating kids teaches violence and it doesn't stop bad behavior," said Alice Farmer, Aryeh Neier Fellow at Human Rights Watch and the ACLU, and author of the report. "Corporal punishment discourages learning, fails to deter future misbehavior and at times even provokes it."
Despite all this, 21 states still enforce corporal punishment (legally) only because the simple logic of "common sense" resonates with the majority of their populations more than these hidden realities of its practice. And are the kids in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida and Missouri (to name a few) any less spoiled than kids in any of the majority of states where such measures are illegal? That still remains to be seen.

And in the end, the only impression that corporal punishment leaves on children other than welts and bruises, is further disengagement.

"The report shows that, as a result of paddling, many children are left injured, degraded, and disengaged from school."

There are better, more effective and fair ways to discipline. Violence begets violence--and nothing is more common sensical than that.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Farts Are In

It would appear the boys have spoken. In boys' literature, hearths are out. Farts are in. More and more, publishers are trying to interest the boy market with gory or gross books. The move is a desperate attempt to get boys into reading early, as boys have been seen to lag behind and loose interest in reading by middle school.

Some have called this trend nothing more than a market stooping to all new lows in children's literature for broader appeal at the sake of more appropriate and stimulating material. Others have sung its praises, saying that it doesn't matter so much what little boys are reading, so long as they are reading--and enjoying it.

Some books are more stimulating reads than others. Many books aimed at boys are fictional, such as the Captain Underpants series, The Day My Butt Went Psycho, Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger, Walter the Farting Dog. Titles such as these have attracted many boys' interests, which seems natural, but it is questionable how much they have inspired boys to enjoy reading in general. Of course boys are going to enjoy reading a book about something gross!

Many people don't seem bothered by the trend, and insist that so long as boys are reading it doesn't matter what they are reading about. Many parents though, would rather see their children reading material that challenges them and inspires them, not force feeds them down a narrow path of "crude entertainment."
For a list of good "boy books" to inspire a boy's interest in reading at all age levels, is a helpful and informational resource for parents and anyone who knows a boy.
For the record, three are many other gross and gory books that seem more educational and stimulating. These are mostly non-fiction. Scholastic's Wicked History series, including tidbits on some of the most ruthless tyrants and conquerors in history on blood-splattered paper, Mary Tudor, Leopold II, and Vlad the Impaler are included; The Sanitation Investigation series, from Capstone Press, including Getting to Know Your Toilet: The Disgusting Story Behind Your Homes Strangest Feature...etc
"Other popular selections in the grossness genre include Workman Publishing's "Oh, Yuck: The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty" and Simon & Schuster's "It's Disgusting and We Ate It! True Food Facts from Around the World and Throughout History." (Think worms, rats and squirrels.)"
Ultimately the point of reading is to open up a child's mind, inform them, entertain and educate, and once again it all comes down to respecting a child's informed autonomy. If you ask the boys themselves, they'll tell you what they think of these books, as this article describes:
"Eleven-year-old Yathrib Aryanpure, who just finished sixth grade in Tuscaloosa, Ala., says the answer is a resounding yes. He loved "Vlad the Impaler," especially when the boy learned the tyrant was assassinated, ending up with his own severed head on a stick. "I like gory books," he says. "Vlad the Impaler went on a killing rampage. In the end, he got a taste of his own medicine."

Mr. Schrank might be talking about 10-year-old Parker Self. Parker, who lives in Dallas, dismisses "Charlotte's Web" as a "girl's book" and assigned texts from school as "good for nothing" and "really boring to read." He prefers soccer and his PlayStation.

His mother, Hope, worried that Parker would never open a book. Then, Parker's grandmother found a copy of "The Day My Butt Went Psycho," and the boy was hooked. "Mom, this is a great book!" Parker raved."

Social conventions have finally caught up with a boy's interests, and I got to say, it's about time. As a former boy myself, this trend meets with my own approval... I might even be tempted to read some of these titles!