Saving our boys

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December 16, 2015

Social and cultural change, for good or ill, concern habits and patterns of behavior which flow from value-sets. Gang members and members of the Boy Scouts both have sets of values, rites of passage, rituals, group leaders and norms, shared objectives and an esprit de corps. So what makes for the differences between a potential boy scout and the member of a criminal gang? Clearly, a number of things, a number of which will be explored in successive columns.

For now: We are creatures of habit, and at the heart of our culture of violent crime are various crises of culture, fuelling, reinforcing and arming mostly young men in a conveyor belt of successive cohorts ready to take up the drug trade, gang membership and weapons for many years to come. Cultural habits and practices showcase the lived values of a given society. The mouthing of values is not the same as adhering to them.

While we adhere to the concept of monogamy in law and in Christian rituals, sociologically, we are a de facto polygamous society. While clerics will judge the morality of such a discrepancy between words and practices, the sociologist is more interested in understanding the social realities and habits involved in such a gap, or chasm, depending on the society. There are positive and negative social mores and norms, the study and analyses of which are critical in areas ranging from public health to marketing products to addressing criminal behavior. Habits require practice. Outward Bound is an "experiential learning, expedition school and outdoor learning program... that serves people of all ages and backgrounds through challenging learning expeditions that inspire self-discovery, both in and out of the classroom".

The highly successful global initiative also offers a program known as the Intercept Program for At-Risk Youth and Troubled Teens. It is designed for young people from ages 12 to 22 and addresses "the needs of struggling teens and at-risk youth beginning to demonstrate destructive behaviors, as well as the needs of their families".

The Intercept Program serves "youth, young adults, families, schools and communities... at risk of academic failure, dropping out of school, delinquency or becoming chronic offenders". AMIkids was the brainchild of a judge who got tired of seeing the same juvenile offenders returning to his court over and over. Today, AMIkids is thought to operate "some of the most effective juvenile justice and alternative education programs across" the United States. To offer readers a clear sense of AMIkids there are extended quotes following from the organization's website.

"Residential programs operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with students residing in dormitories on campus. The youth are committed to these programs for approximately 4-9 months and can be committed for as long as 36 months. The youth reside at the program and leave only for off-site, supervised program activities or approved furloughs. Family visitations vary by program. Youth have been adjudicated delinquent by the court and typically have multiple misdemeanors or felonies.

"Education curriculums deployed in AMIkids programs use differentiated instruction, individualized student planning, progress monitoring, on-line/computer assisted educational software, and experiential education/service learning, all in partnership with pro-social relationships between staff and students.

"Many youth come to AMIkids 'deficient in a wide variety of appropriate, pro-social behavioral repertoires. They lack social skills, anger management, pre-employment skills, communication, self-management, rule following, delay of immediate gratification, etc.' To help students develop short- and long-term pro-social behavioral repertories, and facilitate the daily management of behavior throughout the program, AMIkids programs employ procedures and techniques of behavior modification and utilize a sophisticated behavior modification system."

Like Outward Bound and other successful intervention programs, AMIkids utilizes experiential learning: "AMIkids' experiential education gives each student the opportunity to face challenges and to overcome them, gaining greater self-worth and helping to form a better value system.

"Programs are integrated based on the geographic strengths of each location and include seamanship, water safety, fishing, low ropes, high ropes, backpacking, music, gardening, culinary arts, reptile and wilderness programs to give each student meaningful and challenging experiences in a variety of ways... For those kids with more serious learning and behavioral issues, there have been startling results."

During the 2012 general election the FNM proposed a tapestry of ideas to help repair our social fabric, ideas which go beyond the more limited urban renewal approach of the current administration. A program designed with the inspiration of the highly successful Afro Reggae arts program in Brazil would marry the performing arts and artistic abilities of young people, especially those at risk, with entrepreneurial skills and business training. Imagine a new version of Jumbey Village and taking into account the reality that artistic ability needs to be tied to sustainable economic activity as often noted by cultural icon Pat Rahming.

Imagine such a center in the heart of an Over-the-Hill neighborhood, something new and awe-inspiring for young people to see in their neighborhood, instead of the proliferation of web shops. And imagine Pat Rahming and a treasury of Bahamian artists helping to design such a center dedicated to a new generation of Bahamian talent in music, poetry, the entertainment arts and other forms of artistic expression. We have in our power to create a new architecture of hope, literally and figuratively, for young and poor Bahamians, centers and facilities, opportunities and strategies, all designed to empower thousands.


Click here to read more at The Nassau Guardian

News date : 12/16/2015    Category : About Bahamians, Education, Environment, Opinion, Nassau Guardian Stories

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