I made a mistake.
I watched (part) of a program called “The School To Prison Pipeline”. If I had inklings that the the United States has become such a sick society, I am now sure. The things the government does/has done to other countries are bad enough, but imposing systematic injustice on their own children is despicable.
Society glorifies firearms, with children indoctrinate, at worst, and influence, at best. Is there any wonder that kids play with toy guns and bring them to school. The problem is that overreaction to a few terror incidents has made guns in school a crime, even toy guns and even with children. The report mentioned a child being taken out of school in handcuffs for bringing a toy to class. I hope that this is an exaggeration, but I fear that it happened.
One theory is that this is one more means of feeding the monster of profit prisons. Greed and fear out-trump humanity and common sense. Children in Texas, which the program covered, are smothered with tickets, summons, and court appearances, where they are tried as adults and without parent protection. Of course, this costs money. People that cannot pay end up in debt or in prison or both. Feeding the machine and putting people in a hole for life.
I learned that all schools have armed uniformed officials, who are called “resource officers”. What the hell does that mean? They are cops. They are there to produce profits. Governments cut back on teachers, but ramp up on armed intruders. What kind of feeling to children have: fear, loathing, respect, who knows?
In my opinion, and the opinion of others I have read is that gun culture is responsible for school violence. in some Texas schools, teachers are required to carry loaded guns in class. Normal teenage behaviour often leads to arrest and conviction. Common sense has been destroyed by the demands of the fear mongers, gun lovers, and profiteers.
Last night, while having dinner in the hotel restaurant, I observed something surprising, something unusual (which is usually surprising), and something I did not expect to see in my remaining lifetime.
I noticed four families arrive at the receptionist (the restaurant has no walls, only a large, high thatched roof). I had seen them sitting together in the bar earlier, with their children at another sitting area. From overheard bits of conversation, I discerned that they had met for the first time at this hotel.
As they lingered at the receptionist, I watched waiters push tables together to form two sets. I assumed that the families would split up for dinner. I was wrong. One set was for the children—on the outside terrace directly in from of our table—and one set for the adults at a distance from the children. The children ranged in age—I guessed—from six to young teenagers.
The first surprise was at how well-behaved the children were. No fussing. No crying for parents. They talked amongst themselves, as if they had known each other, but snatches of conversation suggested that they compared schools and hobbies. No adult appeared to provide supervision or guidance, even when the waiter came to take orders. I was impressed, especially when comparing them to other children at the hotel and my experience observing familiars on vacation.
But, that was not the most surprising aspect. What I did not expect to ever see again was children at a table without an electronic device. These were not children of poor families, but ones that appeared to attend private school, wear designer labels, and have parents able to afford a luxury resort. No one pecked at a smart phone, toyed wife an iPad, or struggled with computer game.
No one checked Facebook or sent foolish garbage on Twitter. They conversed. They connected, if the true sense of the word. Unbelievable.
Be happy you’re not a parent in England.
News reports claim that the government is planning to pass laws to punish “emotional abuse” of children. It will be interesting to see how broadly that is defined. Will a parent be arrested for not appeasing a screaming child, who has been refuse an armful of candy on display at a grocery store check-out? Children are masters of manipulating parents with screaming tantrums, when they do not get their way. This is often (always?) misinterpreted by the busy-body faction, which is large in England. I can imagine long-suffering parents being fingered by malicious neighbors and “concerned” citizens.
There is too much room for overreach by government in an area where teaching discipline can be seen as abuse. Children need to mind their parents and governments need to mind their own business, which is rife with abuse.
When I was a child, the ultimate punishment was to be sent to my room and not be allowed to play outdoors. An intermediate stage was being restricted to the yard, being able to watch friends roam free in the neighborhood and beyond. The worst I recall was two weeks “incarceration”; the crime, I think, was falling into the swamp and coming home soaked, but only when it became dark.
That form of punishment would not have worked with my children, because each preferred to be in his or her room. The worst for them would have been to send them outdoors to play. We couldn’t have grown up under more different circumstances. I never saw a tree I did not want to climb; my children never climbed a tree.
I couldn’t live without nature; nature was something my children might notice, if glancing out a window. Dirt and water, in the form of streams, ponds, puddles, or swamps, were my preferred elements. Of course, my mother needed to wash a bunch of clothes, but I did not care. Soiled clothes was a badge of honor in my neighborhood.
Tonight, we were at dinner at “the best Thai restaurant in Dubai”, supposedly having won this title for the past five years. The ambiance was wonderful, the food was excellent, and the service what one expects in Asia. Because we had chosen the early seating, because of having a child in the party, we were surrounded by tables with children. Every child had an electronic device, which keep them occupied, but also prevented interaction with grown-ups. The child with had one, which kept him from fussing and let us talk. One must take the good with the bad.
I recall having to entertain children at restaurants, before the advent of electronic diversions. We used books, colored pencils, and toys. We spoke to them and explained things, no matter how little they understood or how little sense we made. We kept them occupied and taught them discipline. Now, parents must achieve the same result, while competing with apps...
As way of contrast to and relief from all the stupidity reported in the media, I spent a day with a two-year old child. His concerns are so simple...and refreshing. He does not see problems, real or imagined, at every turn. His desires are simple and easily fulfilled. He does not care about the race or color of Santa Claus or whether Christmas is a former pagan or modern and artificial, commercial event. He likes the colors and lights and flavors. A decorated tree is something to marvel at; the colorful packages under the tree are intriguing, especially because he should not touch. He does not understand the hoopla... and does not need to. He is happy with each new impression, which each day brings. He knows what he likes and does not like, but is willing to try new things. Colors and shapes and movements and sounds are interesting. Some bits of television hold his attention; others do not. The right food, the right drink, and a spot--any spot--to sleep are all he really needs...
Newspapers report that most break-ins in Germany occur through the terrace door.
Obviously, the alleged pickpocket from an earlier post has moved on to more-fertile fields of crime, even if he has yet to figure out that it’s easier if the shutter is not down...
While we’re on the subject of conscious thought....I wonder what goes on in the head of an eighteen month-old kid, when he is wandering around his house with a paper bag over his head, What does he see in his minds eye, because all he sees (if his eyes are open) is brown paper? And, what in the world drives a kid to put a bag over his head? This is not something he has seen any adult do (at least, I hope he hasn’t).
These are great, unanswered questions, especially because he has yet to utter more than a few syllables. The human mind works in strange ways, as one can see...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.