ISSUE 99 APRIL 2007 CONTENTS HOME PAGE
Reaching troubled kids takes time, gurus sayJames Garbarino has a little sign that says, “You can change the world, but unless you know what you’re doing, please don’t.”
Comical? Yes, but it points out what he’s found as a psychology professor at Loyola University who has studied violence in young people and served as an expert on the topic before courts and the U.S. Congress. For example, he says, the old “Scared Straight” program reformed kids by taking them into prison to meet raw, bitter inmates. Then someone got efficient and put this on videotape and sent it to schools. It scared good kids, he said, but some troubled kids figured, “I’ve got to be tough when I go to prison.”
It’s an example of a well-thought-out idea that is cut short — with reverse effects — by folks doing what an efficient nation like ours does best: get things done.
“We have to commit to understanding things deeply,” Garbarino told a North Dakota symposium last year at the University of Notre Dame that looked at the issues of at-risk youths. “You have to be willing to look in the dark places,” he said, referring to those difficult areas where there may not be much money or popular attention. He said he frustrates some in Congress with a lot of “it depends” statements.
He offers things to balance: Research shows that children with one or two risk factors — poverty, bad neighborhood, racism, etc. — may not see a big drop in their IQ. But you can be assured of trouble, he said, when you pile on those factors. He said the reverse is true for positive factors -- reading to children, showing confidence in them, spirituality, etc.
At lunch, William Strickland Jr., spoke of some of those positive factors: “People are assets, kids are assets.” His evidence, he said, is a program he heads in Pittsburgh that teaches 500 youths in grades eight through 12 how to do photography, ceramics and other arts. Ninety percent go to college, he said. Granted, some of them aren’t at risk, which is good because it erases the stigma for the others and raises the expectations for everyone. In the process of learning art, he said, the children are mentored. And they get to meet some of the greats in art.
— Joseph Dits in the South Bend Tribune, 17 March 2006
THE WAY IT IS
I sit here late at night wondering what tomorrow
I am locked up now.
Trying to choke and swallow me up. I’m scared.
Never knowing what tomorrow brings!
Jake M *