There’s no excuse for failing kids.

Having been born a stutterer, half deaf, half blind, diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy as a baby, premature at six months, and anxiety, I understand experientially what it is to be different on a number of sensory levels.I have an excellent mother who:
a) Took me faithfully to a cerebral palsy center when I was 2-4 years old, which encouraged improving my sense of touch and balance.
b) cured my stuttering through speech therapy when I was 7 years old (I can still taste the strawberry paste they used.  They put it on the inside of the roof of my mouth to get me to touch my tongue there.  It was disgusting and I gag at the thought, but it worked)
c) Fitted with glasses that same year.
d) Attempted a hearing aid when I was in 6th grade, but I gave up after a few months.  She respected my decision after a little fighting.  In retrospect, I’m impressed that she accepted it, considering the high cost.  I’m grateful she listened.
e) Took me to biofeedback training at the same time.  Of all of the above, that was perhaps the best decision.  I learned how to breath through my problems, as it were.I am now, at 42 years of age, by all appearances, perfectly normal, if a little eccentric :P

I scored extremely well on standardized tests and I did good enough academically, although not so well socially.

I may have ADHD.  I may even be on the autistic spectrum somewhere (perhaps Aspergers?).  I honestly don’t know.  I have my suspicions, but it never mattered enough to find out for certain just yet.

But: Let’s flip things around.

What if I didn’t have that kind of assistance?

What if I couldn’t rely on Mom?

Would the school system have taken care of me?

No.

So what might have happened?

Had I been unable to see the blackboard well, my grades would have immediately suffered once there was less desk work and more dependence upon the blackboard.

Low grades = Who cares about grades.

So, instead of focusing on the teacher and what they have to say, I would instead focus on the other students.  But, had I continued stuttering, unable to focus on the schoolwork and fearful of mocking from other students, I’d find school a horrid place that I needed to escape from.

Or, if I felt neglected by those who I felt were supposed to care about me (teachers + the school – had I not had a caring mother, I’d be looking to somebody to lean on) – then, I might act out.  Do things.  Cause trouble.  anything to be paid attention to.

Or, I’d be bored.

Boredom is more than “something you have to learn to deal with”.

Boredom can lead to creativity when nurtured, or crime when there is no feeling of safety.

Crimes is gaining control over your environment.  You can’t have control at home.  You don’t feel a sense of control in school.  So, you gain your sense of control in the outside world.  Destruction.  Criminal mischief.

And lo and behold, you gain social acceptance!  The social acceptance of those who find your violent anarchistic behavior to be “bucking the system”.  You get noticed.  Paid attention to.

If you don’t gain social acceptance through a newly found set of criminal peers, at least the police notice you.  The courts notice you.  Something is being done with you.

You’re paid attention to.  You’re noticed.

It’s not much, but it’s all you have.

It is, indeed “criminal” of the criminal justice systems to not have some kind of “translators” for these troubled boys (girls too, but statistically more boys).  They don’t know how to tell their story.  They might not speak well.  Write well.  Communicate well.  They communicate via outburst and have had no reason to respect authority, for authority never respected them.

The system assumes a level playing field.

But it’s not.

I was lucky.  Very lucky.  I count my blessings.

I know what many of the alternatives that were possible for me.  I watched myself dramatically change from being one boy to being the next boy.  I became a different Ken at each instance; the same – but more in control of myself and my environment, insomuch as the world I was thrown into allowed me to be in control.

To me, this is all basic.  How the system continues to exist in such a manner has always baffled me, always confused me, always upset me.  Perhaps it my unique experience in growing up that gives me a unique perspective.  But I don’t think I’m anybody special.  I wonder – is the assumption of norms so powerful that grown adults with education and training can’t see the impact of what they are doing on those who do not “fit” already?

Perhaps we need a one eyed man to lead the land of two eyes.

All have broken parts.  Large groups of people acting as if they have no broken parts will not be sympathetic to those with exposed flaws, such as these troubled youth, for they remind “the normal” of their own frailties… and the marginalization of the weak and powerless and their incarceration allows the normals to continue believing that they are unbroken and whole.

The boys are failed by the same society who then punishes them for the failures society caused, making those boys the scapegoats for its own brokenness.

Society consists of people.  The criminal justice system is made of people.  The school system is made up of people.  But when people don’t act like people but form a larger organism which lacks empathy, something is severely wrong.  People are not viruses or cancers – they are people.  The criminal justice system is not white blood cells attacking an oncoming plague; the criminal justice system is made of people who are not behaving like people towards other people.

Intervention must happen with the assistance of governments and school systems long before they reach the potential eyes of the criminal justice system.  Perhaps alternative schooling methods.  There are some in most countries, I believe, but there can be more.  More intervention by psychologists, psychiatrists, childhood development experts, cognitive science, educators: More adults in these children’s lives who can use their specialized skills to improve the people who are making up the unseen future society.

Fix the problem before it becomes a problem and the problem ceases to be.  Fixing disabilities and providing alternatives, greater empathy for the fact that these are children and not criminals.  Perhaps they will become criminals someday.  But until they reach the age of the majority, they should be the responsibility for all members of society who are capable and willing to help.

I don’t think society will be doomed if we don’t.  School stinks, being a human on this planet in societies and families and cultures can really be awful for some people.  I don’t think there is a magic bullet for all problems.  But we can definitely be doing a better job than we are now.  I can’t think of any valid excuse why these kids should be left behind to rot.

I know I strayed from the neuroscience component.  But I’m far from dispassionate about the issue, as it strikes me at the core.  There are areas of choicelessness in everybody’s lives; you’re thrown into the world where you are and you have to make it with the help of everybody around you.

There’s no excuse for failing kids.

—–

Thank you.  I don’t usually talk so much about her as I’m usually talking about other things.  People in my offline life, I rarely mention online.  Who would think my ridiculous post on toilet paper would lead to this?  I didn’t see it coming.

But I couldn’t simply give a dispassionate opinion about this topic as it’s a vital one to me.  I couldn’t see any other choice but to tell my story..  I find poor treatment of the misunderstood – in this case, quite literally misunderstood – to be an unpardonable sin.  I needed to be fully understood before I expressed further opinions on the topic.  I had to express my gratitude to the places I found success, before I felt I could rightly speak of the places where I see severe failures.

It was the only way I felt I could be understood.  It could have been me who was speaking in short worded sentences to police after committing a crime.  I could have been a statistic.  But I wasn’t.  I’m grateful for that.

I have the freedom that those kids don’t and I could have been them.

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