BY JANE FRASER, SPECIAL
Newscasts report bad news more often than good news. I really hate watching the news on a regular basis. I like to know positive stories. I like to know reports which reflect good results. I like to know who won a game. What I find distressing is radical political changes in my country or elsewhere. I would like to see improvements, but not so fast that many people are affected negatively. This story is about reasons for crime. I was surprised to see my minister watching a police show on television. Maybe young people get ideas about getting away with crime.
Did my minister want to find ways to help youth who were in trouble? My stories about teaching high school and learning to improve my work show that I am a lifelong learner. Some children never get off to a good start. I often wonder, when a working mother comes home, if homework is supervised. I watched my brothers doing very little homework during high school. One friend said it was difficult to learn well at college without a good high school record, even if he was clever.
So, here’s a beginning point for crime. The parents may not control crime programs on television. In fact, TV may serve as a babysitter. Plenty of bad influences exist. However, the worst influence is beyond the home. Teens like to belong to gangs. Many gangs have dangerous purposes. Leaders train their followers diligently. “Do you know where your children are?” is a bumper sticker, which parents should take seriously. Then, there is also the generation gap. Teens may not be “well understood” by parents of a different culture. Times were different when the parents were young. Also, there are too few good community clubs with sufficient financial resources to hire experts in teen culture. A willing volunteer may not develop good programs. In education, high school teachers blamed the elementary school and universities blamed the high schools. No use “passing the buck.” Rise to meet the challenges. Go the second mile.
Listen to the distressed teenager, who may not go to the guidance counselor. He may just ask a teacher after school. I was always concerned about pockets of youth crime in Toronto, so I asked about why low-rental areas were dangerous. It seems that many young people are from single parent families. Often the single parent was a mother, working full-time to support the household. Do her children work part-time? Does she train them to help with household chores? Are we going back to early years and early education to see where crime may start? Are there books in the home? Is daycare providing some education leading to school years? Is daycare simply watching over physical needs? Does bullying start with little children? In our diverse society, we do not always accept differences in race, colour or creed. Do we even know what those terms mean? How do we deal with anger as adults?
Do our children witness distress? I was surprised to hear about a family of five, who never sat down for supper together for a long time. How could they make family decisions? Did they listen to each other? I have a few suggestions we as a community could use to reduce teen crime, leading to the criminal justice system. I would like to see judges and police officers learn more about child psychology. Also, “boot camp” is a good place to train youth before they criminalize themselves. I watched a young boy in that system. He had been stealing at the mall, on a regular basis. He went to a remote place to camp as a teen and his parents were supportive about the program. The First Nations youth often go back to nature, which is their heritage, lost in urban society.
A First Nation educator explained that, in the forest, he could listen to his blood flowing through his veins. That may be an extreme example. His educational leadership was splendid. He taught newly trained First Nation teachers how to deliver quality education to the children. Ideally, someone should be able to identify a troubled youth before he is taken into a gang. Apparently, it is difficult to get out of a gang. In fact, there may be as many as one hundred gangs in Toronto. In other big cities like New York, there were also a lot of gangs, sometimes with racial differences. The drug business is bad news for youth. The money is attractive. The life is dangerous. Also, they seem to have a lot of guns and knives. Control of crime is everybody’s business—all the way back to unwanted pregnancies and divorce and angry, frustrated parents. Where are the grandparents, aunts and uncles, older brothers and sisters?
Why are families not willing to step in and help, when they are better qualified than any public institutions? How long will it take to diminish the reasons for crime? First, education is key to adapt to the needs of learners. Special education may be useful. Once identified, a student may not easily return to mainstream education.
Adult education offers a second chance to those who missed out on what they needed the “first time around.”