I’m not a ninja Christian and I’m not looking to be converted anytime soon. However, I do like to see people breaking stuff, be it an eight-foot wall of ice or rows of cinder blocks that happen to be on fire.
Because of this, myself and few fellow destructophiles went to see the John Jacobs Power Team, which was in town last week. The team is “the world’s greatest exhibition of power, strength, speed, inspiration and motivation.” Mostly, this inspiration has religious overtones (except in school assemblies, where they simply spread the message of goodness and niceness) but not annoyingly so, and no matter what your beliefs are, it’s just fun to see, among others, folks named Commander Rock and “Willie the Freight Train” breaking stuff, while spreading messages of hope to those who need it. For you psychologists out there, the Power Team practices positive reinforcement.
Other people out there are trying to pass negative reinforcement legislation. Dale Yeager, a criminal profiler of the Department of Justice, says he has developed a system for detecting evil people when they are six years old. He wants schools to start examining 6-year-old children and profiling their behavior; looking at their body language, demeanor and interpersonal skills as well as “red flag” symptoms such as bed-wetting, starting fires and abusing animals. The purpose? To weed out evil children, those destined to pull a Columbine disaster in high school or an Oklahoma City in adulthood, and keep them away from “mainstream education” until their behavioral patterns become satisfactory.
With this system, a child tagged as being evil can look forward to loads of psychiatric therapy, an education in a juvenile hall-like environment and years of other disciplinary schools. According to Yeager, “The bad apples must be taken out. And while there certainly are environmental and societal factors that can determine aggressive behavior, the fact is that some people are just prone to violence.”
What kind of doped up, nuttier than a fruitcake, heinously non-triumphant, ludicrous, ridiculous, idiotic, knee-jerk reaction is this?
Assuming the profiling and psychiatric sciences are perfectly accurate, which they are not, how is it that we, as Americans, could allow such a thing to happen? To selectively remove children from their schools based on bed-wetting or how they relate to crowds is nothing less than discrimination. To try to place the problems on the child (who as of yet has not shown overt signs of violence, let alone not committed a crime) instead of his family life, upbringing, and socioeconomic background is irresponsible. And since the youth profiling system more than likely is not accurate (I know plenty of fire-loving children who grew up to be normal, responsible members of society), there is a tremendous possibility of incorrectly labeling children and starting them down roads they should never have to follow.
Those who are placed in the “bad apple cart” additionally will have to face the fact that they were selectively removed from the normal kids’ schools and face a life-long crisis of wondering why. Will colleges and employers rather select a person who came from the normal school or the bad apple school?
Instead of messing around with children’s lives, why not instead focus on our present society? Why are children of the 90’s and beyond killing more classmates than children of the 60’s or 70’s? It’s probably due to a lack of positive role models, be they religious or parental in nature. Even the peculiar science of psychology has demonstrated that positive reinforcement is much more effective than negative reinforcement regarding behavior. Instead of applying negative reinforcement to a select category of six year olds, why not apply positive reinforcement like bringing the Power Team into schools, where positive messages are spread in an entertaining way where everyone could benefit?
Because it makes too much sense, that’s why.
Ken Hamner is a cynical graduate student.