The recent trial and conviction of two Ohio high school students for rape is a sad reflection of affairs inherent in the student and general population of this country. The ‘culture of arrogance’ that reportedly predisposed the event, is highly visible in student communities and the youth culture in general across America. I experienced this cultural moral break-down during my five-year tenure as a high school teacher. Students regularly engage in what I term pre-criminal, arrogant and insolent behavior on a regular basis towards teachers, administrators and other students.
There also exists what has been identified as a ‘permissive culture’ within the community of parents responsible for today’s high school students. While most parents would deny that they are indeed enablers of their children’s misbehavior, their voices do not reach much beyond their kitchens and living rooms and noticeably are often absent in the classroom and on the campuses at large. This is not due to the lack of preaching and teaching on the part of some parents; but often due to the sheer force of the prevalent culture of young people and ever-present peer pressure.
I have been confronted by irate parents who have approached me as a teacher as well as administrators because their children gave them a one-sided story of mistreatment or accusations of unfair treatment. I even had a parent threaten me once via e-mail because of something her child conveyed to her. I think it is highly prudent to verify the insights and observations of people in their teen years. This can be accomplished often quite simply through a parent-teacher meeting or often a phone call.
American students can boast of being pundits of the Information Age, brandishing high-end cell phones and other communication devices that allow them the freedoms as well as the opportunities to engage in broad social discourse and interaction. But, that being said, there are few moral filters to sort the influx of information and activity outside of the home environment. This, combined with the often permissive, rather than restrictive environments of school campuses, student social groups, busy and disengaged parents, and educators limited by authority, can be a dangerous mix.
I deem ‘pre-criminal’ behavior evident when a child crosses a serious behavioral line or attitudinal line within or outside of a structured environment such as a classroom, campus or organizational environment. This line is generally something that can be found as an organizational or social infraction or code of conduct violation and can be as diverse as use of profanity towards an adult, a verbal assault, or physical threat. Also, what can seem less threatening, but may be equally or of greater concern is students simply refusing to follow instructions or students who disengage emotionally, but remain present physically.
The Steubenville case is a hard lesson in American social and student morality. It is also a hard lesson for the case defendants and their families whose lives will never be the same; and the case plaintiff whose injustices to herself, hopefully, will be looked at, diagnosed and treated to prevent future abuse and criminality.
For Linda Tauhid’s Journal