Thursday, May 5, 2011

So I have this student.

Teaching is supposed to be about recognizing and appreciating other viewpoints, yeah yeah yeah.  To some extent, I'm all about that.  I like to encourage my little monsters to think critically and analytically, and to propose alternatives to systems in our country that aren't working.  It's the crux of teaching social justice, I think.

But then what do you do when their opinion is just  WACK?

JJ is a shock-and-awe type of kid.  So it should not have surprised me when I was teaching alternatives to incarceration/restorative justice today and the following dialogue occurred.  

I was explaining how investing money and resources into rehabilitation would benefit taxpayers financially.  

JJ:  I don't wanna spend money on them.  They committed a crime.  They should be treated like dogs. (Important to note that I teach children of incarcerated parents--JJ's dad has been in jail and her mother is an addict).

me:  I understand your point of view.  But if we don't do anything to help, or rehabilitate these people after they've committed their crimes, then statistics show that when they are released, they will just commit the same crimes again.  And then we're spending even more money on them.

JJ:  That's why I believe we should euthanize them.

me:  Come again?

JJ:  We should just euthanize them.

me:  Huh.  So you believe we should just kill all people who commit crimes?

JJ:  Yep.  Why should they get free services when people who haven't committed crimes don't?

me:  People who haven't committed crimes do get free services.  Public health clinics, government assistance, disability, etc.  See, most people who commit crimes are empty (I draw a twinkie-like shape on the board that is empty/uncolored).  Most of them have been damaged due to abuse, neglect, overexposure to crime.  I believe it is our job as a society to help fix them.  They deserve to be whole.  So if instead of throwing them in jail or prison, where they will be brutalized and come out even more likely to commit crimes, we treat them with rehabilitation, therapy, counseling, training, etc.?   Then, upon release, they are far more likely to become contributing members of society (I draw a twinkie-like shape on the board that has been colored in: full).  

JJ:  That doesn't work.

me:  Actually, empirical data shows that recidivism rates plummet when an inmate has completed a rehabilitative/therapeutic program while incarcerated.  If we give them the tools to address the harm that they have caused, learn to speak an emotional language, and give them the training necessary to be hirable members of society, then a vast number of them, according to statistics, succeed without returning to prison.  As of now, over 60% of people who are released from prison come right back after their release.  Which means we're spending 30K per year on these people indefinitely.  If we'd just invest in rehabilitative programs for two years, we could eliminate that cost.

JJ:  Why is it 30K?

me:  Housing, food, guards--

JJ:  See they don't deserve all that.  They are in prison!

me:  They don't deserve food?

JJ:  Nope.

me:  Well, JJ, that's unrealistic.  Do you believe we should starve people to death who have committed crimes?  What about Three Strikes inmates who are in for theft/robbery/assualt?

JJ:  All it would take is one bullet.

Ay yay yay.  I don't know what to do with this one!  I'm used to fostering different viewpoints but daaaaaamn.  This girl's talkin' some wacked out dystopian novel shit.  Not really sure how to handle her. Gonna have to ponder this one for a while.  Or maybe figure out how to inject her with a dose of empathy. ;)


kimbirdy said...

yeah, i had a lot of therapy clients like this at civic center secondary. she sounds like she has been deeply hurt by people who are supposed to love and take care of her. she clearly has a lot of anger {and probably rightfully so}, but no way of releasing that anger in a way which feels helpful for her, so she's just holding it. whenever people say such strong statements like this {"i hate them all!" "i don't care!" or "they should be euthanized."} they actually mean the opposite - they care deeply, they love their family members, which is why the pain is so deep when they are not treated with love in return. i'm sure she feels powerless to punish the wrongdoings which were forced upon her, and no one else is stepping in to help. all she probably wants is an apology, an admittance of how she did not deserve certain experiences, and an attempt at change, but that's not happening, so her defense is to say "f*ck em!" i don't think she actually means what she is saying, she is just expressing her pain.

i think the most helpful thing you can do is just listen. let her feel like a caring adult gets her anger and understands that it's okay to feel angry about things that have happened to her {i'm sure she has NO adults doing this for her}. arguing with her will only deepen her wound and make her feel more lost in a world of injustice. but allowing her to give a voice to her wounds will greatly help her let her guard down to things like this later.

i hope that helps some! it can be so frustrating working with people like this, but in my experience, just listening and saying "yeah, i get where you're coming from" is such a powerful healing tool.

Leeann @ Join the Gossip said...

Oh my gosh! Talk about stubborn! You did a great job, unfortunately you can't reach everyone. Hopefully she'll grow out of that thinking. Maybe there's just a lot of resement toward her parents and she's hurt?

The best teacher I ever had was a huge advocate of looking at both sides of the story. He woould pick a topic and if we were able to debate both sides we got extra credit. I seriously think that's what's made me empathetic to every story having two sides. This post makes me believe even more that you are an amazing teacher!!

Kori said...

I love this! I just shake my head sometimes and wonder if they will change their minds when they get into the "real" world. By the way--have you heard that my 1st novel is being released on tomorrow?! Check it out on my blog! Have a wonderful Cinco De Mayo honey! Kori xoxo

Summer Athena said...

"come again" made me laugh and i feel bad bc i should not be laughing during this post.

she may be acting tough, you know? like just kill em all. but inside she is hurting too!

ps - i have a dermatological appt tonight and he treats celebs! maybe i will see one? hahahahaah!

melifaif said...

Wow, that is just sad. Talk about works both ways.

nicoleciomek said...

you can definitely tell this child has been traumatized herself.

that is very sad, but it is wonderful she has a teacher like you who wants to help her see broader views of issues and think about it from different angles.

Even though she didn't change her position in class, hopefully she'll think about what you said later. it is wonderful you involved in a discourse with her on the issue.

I bet it makes these kids feel really great to be respected and heard by an adult.

passport in my pocket said...

Wow. That is a toughie. Claire, you're such a wonderful teacher. You inspire me with your commitment and openness and honesty.

Lindsey said...

Oh man, unreal! I love that you used the word whack, that is a great word. I really don't know what you do with someone with a point-of-view that horribly off focus. I mean, it's almost impossible to even argue with someone who said the things she said because it's so ridiculous. I have a friend who has off the wall opinions like this and is SO HARD HEADED. There is no talking to her, so I've given up. Some people are just from another world, think they're right and there is nothing you can do to knock sense into them. I know you're a teacher and you feel a sense of obligation to better the child and help him or her see this in a different way, but yah ... I'm with you. Stuck. I do have to say I admire you so much! I love that you work with this kids and teach in prison. Amazing! You are changing lives and that is awesome.

bananas. said...

sounds like a feisty one. you can't take it personal. it's all based on her life and her personal experiences. only thing you can do is continue to doing what you do best...enlightening her. may take a while but she'll eventually listen. and hopefully learn something new. hopefully.

julianne. said...

WHAT an opinion. how old is this child? i kindof love her.
but you poor thing. <3

Gracie said...

Wow! You held your own and I do think it's kind of sad that, that is her opinion. What she must have gone through to think like that?! I think you are doing such a fantastic job with your kids and hopefully she will have more empathy injected into her.

P.S. As for the tiny mail I think you send it in a bigger envelope first with a stamp :) That how my tiny letter for Jason came to me.

Jo said...

All I can think is "this poor, poor soul". Clearly her parents have hurt her beyond anything we can comprehend. And, I find myself hurting for her.

I think you're doing a great job. Hopefully, at some point, she'll be able to soften. For her sake.

Meghan said...

It sounds like you handled the entire dialogue really well. Kudos to you! It also sounds like this poor girl is filled with anger, and I hope one day she can recognize that and deal. Maybe she should hear some stories of ppl who have benefited from the system? Rehabilitation success stories?

sheba said...

oh wow, i don't know how i would deal with someone so angry. i can only imagine how her personal connection to these issues colours the way she thinks/feels. i hope as she grows and matures, she'll come to realize that her *solution* is definitely not a good idea.

Edie said...

that's interesting.. to follow a line of argumentation - she has some logic but will come to realize that this was more about defending her argument.

best wishes,

J. said...

I'm with Summer- I think she's acting tough. She's obviously hurting due to her own experiences, and rather than admitting she's in pain, she's putting up a shield. (I do the same thing, in a sense.) Stick with it. She'll let up, eventually. . . you're too good at what you do to not break her down!