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."

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