Tragedy struck Las Vegas—as usual—on Tuesday night when police were forced to shoot a mentally disturbed and drug-addled teenager who was threatening his mother with a knife. I say “forced” because I understand that the police had no real choice to bring about the best possible resolution here—they had to act on what they knew in order to save an innocent woman’s life, even though the mother says they were wrong and now she’s suing them (of course), and even though the mother herself admits that her son was rampaging, high, violent, and uncooperative at the time.
I’ve brought this story up as a brief introductory topic in my classes for the last two days, and have ended with a quick show of hands for who they think carries the burden of most responsibility here. The results are stark and significant. My regular classes—which include kids who perform at grade level as well as remedial and mainstreamed SpEd kids—had sizable portions who blamed the mother (but not the kid); the vast majority of them blamed the police. Many of them openly bragged that they feel every such a situation is always the fault of the police. They laughed as they asserted this.
My honors classes, however, saw things exactly the opposite. Most of them still blamed the mom, many blamed the young man, but only four people blamed the police.
If we ranked all of these students in order by their grade in class, and then paired that list up with who they blamed, would we see a pattern? Naturally. The highest achievers place the blame on the boy, the middle of the pack—and the largest majority of kids, being the fat part of the bell curve—blame the boy as well as the police (indicating that the mentality of the lower class has thoroughly seeped into the working middle class which, believe me, is not only true but explains a lot of the woes in Las Vegas), and the lowest achievers confidently blame the cops, period. Do you think there’s a lesson in this?
Do lifestyles and their attendant mindsets determine achievement, or vice versa, or are they both influenced by other factors with a very high degree of correlation? Social liberals might say that low achievement is caused by situational poverty, which also causes an understandable aversion to authority. Malarkey, I say. Adopting attitudes that bring your life in line with successful segments of society will help you bring your entire life into that realm of middle class stability.
I only wish I had enough influence over my students’ lives to teach them that, but alas, all such efforts are crushed under the grinding heel of the youth media’s juggernaut, zealously enforced by their peers.
And for my part, I’m inclined to suggest that a fourth party might need to get part of the blame, if not the lion’s share. Where the heck is this boy’s father?