Our beloved Brew.

Our beloved Brew.
R.I.P. Big guy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

More on what to do about youth violence

On September 28 I wrote about the murder of Derrion Albert, the high school student who was beaten to death in the streets of Chicago by fellow students who disliked him because he was from another neighborhood.

I predicted within a week another murder would move him from the headlines. Actually, there have been two student violence incidents since Albert's. In the mean time, President Obama sent Attorney General Eric Holder, and Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan to Chicago to address the issue.

Sadly, all they did was make more speeches, rattle off a list of what they consider to be the White House's actions to address youth crime, and drop off a check for $500,000, allegedly to be used to improve security at the school Albert attended. The Chicago School District promptly announced that they had already spent more than that amount providing additional bus service to that high school in the two weeks since Abert's death, implying the money wouldn't be buying any new security, but being applied to the bus bill.

And of course, Jesse Jackson jumps in front of the cameras to call out the National Guard. Michael Phlager, the catholic priest/neighborhood media darling did his usual chest beating and mock outrage while issuing some inane challenge against the perpetrators by stating "if you come after our children, you come after us," or some such nonsense. Everybody is jockeying for camera time but no one has a meaningful solution. ministers and neighborhood leaders seem more interested in where they can get another grant to advance one of their current (read: nonperforming) programs.

I touched on a couple of ideas I think can help to bring this epidemic under control in my Sept 28 post, but it seems it's time to elaborate.

40% of the children in Illinois have no adult male living in their household. 35% of all children born in Illinois have no father listed on their birth certificate. When will we as a society recognize that without strong male role models in the life of each and every child, their chances of success are significantly reduced?

In addition to more after school and peer group activities others have proposed, here are the five things I believe could be done immediately to reduce the incidence of violence among America's youth:

1. We as a society must use every means available (economic, interpersonal, political, etc.) to impress upon women that having children with multiple men, who do not take daily responsibility for helping to raise their children is no longer acceptable. New consequences need to be imposed. We must change social services, laws and cultural standards to impress upon these women that society will no longer bear the costs of their bearing children they are not equipped to raise.

2. Men who do not participate on a daily basis in the lives of their children must be made to feel the full weight of society's wrath. I will leave fathers' rights to others to discuss; my issue is fathers' responsibilities. If a man chooses not to provide support for his children, I say throw the book at 'em. If for whatever reason a man cannot be present on a daily basis, they should be prepared for another to do it. If that means their standing as a father is somehow diminished, that is the price one pays for not meeting their responsibility. If on the other hand, fathers take an active, daily role in their childrens' lives we should find new ways to recognize these successes. Nothing accelrates change like positive reinforcement and peer/public recognition.

3. In households without a daily male role model, children are left to learn men's role in society from television, movies and music. Media does not properly demonstrate to children how responsible men behave. We must restore honor and prestige to the process of being a responsible and engaged father. Let's establish a new standard. As a society, we must insist that EVERY child be raised under the influence of a mother figure and a father figure. The days of moms raising children without the assistance of a male role model must end. If mom isn't capable of finding a responsible man in her life, at least give the children a chance to find one through social services, the YMCA, churches, or other community resources. The days of children living without access to a responsible male, if none lives in their household, must end.

4. Parents and other concerned adults in each community must self-organize to provide daily and frequent parent patrols around their schools, and in their neighborhoods. A national program called Watch D.O.G.S. enlists dads, father figures and other concerned males to spend a day in school. A schedule is designed for every day of the school year, and dads take turns volunteering. Watch D.O.G.S. is especially successful in elementary and middle schools. They are not there as a security force, or do they carry specific roles. The only authority they have is to serve as positive male role models for all the children with whom they come in contact throughout the day. In some cases, they help out with math, or reading. In other cases, they just walk the halls and monitor and have lunch with the students. Truancy, school violence, and incidents of bullying all improve dramatically in schools where Watch D.O.G.S. has been allowed to flourish. It doesn't take a formal program like Watch D.O.G.S. to see improvement, just the presence of a few men in school to help set better examples.

5. Until men are willing to accept the daily responsibility for the children they bring into this world, then the privilege of molding those children should be taken on by others. Neighborhoods can organize on a grassroots level to see that every child in the community has a personal father figure, or responsible male role model, or mentor. This isn't rocket science folks. You match the kids up with men of character who are willing to give some time and attention. It is almost unthinkable that a child would be raised without a mother figure in their life, so why don't we assign the same significance to a father figure? Yes, I know there are issues of safety and screening that have to be addressed, but the sooner a child has a responsible man in their life, the more likely they are to feel the influences every child should.

A study done by Gallop and ABC News in the late 90's sought to find common denominators among the criminals in the prison systems across the country. Only one factor proved to be almost universal, and was cited by more than 85% of all the inmates interviewed. What the criminal element of our society has in common isn't race, poverty, lack of education, or the influence of drugs and alcohol -- it is father absence, or fatherlessness.

The bozos lining their own pockets in Chicago's city hall, and the politicians in Washington, DC wring their hands, call for more police, tougher laws and more funding, but the real issue is men just need to be better men on a one-to-one basis with children, and women should demand this for every child. Admittedly, many of the young men who committed the savage beating of Albert are beyond hope and a scourage to society, but there are plenty of children that can be still be saved, and they are watching the adult reaction carefully. Do nothing new, and we signal the same path awaits more fatherless children.