You don't need much proof that lots of early teens act like jackasses until they either grow out of it or get passed on to juvenile court. As an adult, it's quite annoying to watch them throw their empty soda cans and cigarette boxes on the sidewalks, stuff their faces on the metro ("no eating or drinking"), and mess up public transporation with graffiti and stupid teen tricks. Since this is DC, there are bullets or knives involved all too often.
One of my sisters-in-law is from a tiny town in the western half of North Dakota. Her cousin lived in L.A., and his early teen-aged son was in such constant trouble for vandalism and other offenses there that the authorities suggested they send or take him "back home." My sister-in-law's parents offered to take him in, so back to ND he came. I asked her a few months after his return how he was doing.
"Oh, fine," she said.
"Is he settling down? No more vandalism?"
"No, he's still at it, but you know, folks in [hometown] just expect kids will do that, so nobody pays much attention."
And sure enough, the kid stopped after a while. Maybe petty crime wasn't as much fun if it didn't cause a ruckus. Or maybe he just found other interests like sports (you can almost always play on a team in a very small town--they need all the bodies they can get) or girls.
Watching that kid dash away from the escalator reminded me of all that. But there's lots more involved in big cities now than just low tolerance for youthful hijinks. Bob Herbert has an excellent column in today's NYTimes: "Behind the Laughter."
Herbert talks about Conan O'Brien's needling of Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
O’Brien joked that the mayor was establishing a program to improve the health of the city’s residents, then deadpanned: “The health care program would consist of a bus ticket out of Newark.”
He did a video bit in which he praised the city’s “thriving arts scene” (while showing a graffiti-scarred wall); its “four-star lodging” (shots of abandoned, gutted, rusting vehicles); and its “world-class live theater” (a peep show).
Conan is just trying to be funny, I guess. And his audience (or at least his laugh track) finds it all amusing. Herbert, however, points out this [emphasis mine]:
In Newark, where some of the streets do look as bad as the scenes that were part of Conan’s comedy bit, the unemployment rate is 14.7 percent. Keeping kids in high school long enough to graduate is difficult. Drug dealing is a fallback employment option for men and boys who can’t find legitimate work.
Other cities have the same problems, some to a greater degree. So what are we doing? While mulling the prospect of sending up to 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, we’ve stood idly by, mute as a stone, as school districts across the nation have bounced 40,000 teachers out of their jobs over the past year.
That should tell you all you need to know about twisted national priorities.
Even as teachers by the tens of thousands are walking the plank to unemployment, we’re learning, as The Times reported last week, that one in every 10 young male dropouts is locked up in jail or juvenile detention. As if that weren’t gruesome enough, we find that the figure for blacks is one in four. What would it take to get the perpetual crisis facing these young people onto the radar screens of the rest of America?
And in case you haven't heard about all the teachers being laid off, Paul Krugman had an enlightening column in the NYTimes last week: "The Uneducated American."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States economy lost 273,000 jobs last month. Of those lost jobs, 29,000 were in state and local education, bringing the total losses in that category over the past five months to 143,000. That may not sound like much, but education is one of those areas that should, and normally does, keep growing even during a recession. Markets may be troubled, but that’s no reason to stop teaching our children. Yet that’s exactly what we’re doing.
There’s no mystery about what’s going on: education is mainly the responsibility of state and local governments, which are in dire fiscal straits. Adequate federal aid could have made a big difference. But while some aid has been provided, it has made up only a fraction of the shortfall. In part, that’s because back in February centrist senators insisted on stripping much of that aid from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a k a the stimulus bill.
As a result, education is on the chopping block. And laid-off teachers are only part of the story. Even more important is the way that we’re shutting off opportunities.
For example, the Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported on the plight of California’s community college students. For generations, talented students from less affluent families have used those colleges as a stepping stone to the state’s public universities. But in the face of the state’s budget crisis those universities have been forced to slam the door on this year’s potential transfer students. One result, almost surely, will be lifetime damage to many students’ prospects — and a large, gratuitous waste of human potential.
Teabaggers, pay attention! Your beloved 'Murica-loving', tax-hating representatives are doing their best to bring the country down.