Thursday, July 22, 2010

Walking a thin line

What's the difference between Alcatraz kids and other kids? Specifically my kid and his friends? It's easy to say that the difference is that these kids are criminals while others aren't. That's simple but I don't think that's entirely a correct answer. it's only a small part, a very small part.

Get this: Mac and I brought the video game Rock Band into Alcatraz school last Friday. The kids earned the privilege to play because they earned it as a class based on a percentage of their behavior points. Mac came with me since it was his video game and his equipment and he knew how to operate it. He also wanted to guard his "toys." So there they all were, playing, talking, laughing, gabbing about music and girls, teasing, and just having a good time with each other. Most of the boys were pretty skilled at Rock Band. Of the 6 who were allowed to play, they could be successful on the "hard" level, and some on "expert." They knew how to play the game, knew what they were doing and how it all worked. They had obviously played before.

Different train of thought- why are these kids in jail? Keep in mind that Mac and his friends all around playing, talking, laughing, gabbing about music and girls, teasing and just having a good time with each other. What made the Alcatraz boys get in trouble? What makes Mac and his friends go home afterward rather than knocking over a liquor store? They all look the same, sound the same. What went wrong?

Is it because of their home lives? Poor parenting? Environment? A chemical imbalance? Peer pressure? All of the above? When I see how normal, how regular, how... average and ordinary they all are, it breaks my heart. I wonder about the break down in their lives that landed them here. I dredges up the old argument with no answer: nature -v- nurture. It always comes back to that. In the case of the Alcatraz kids............. it's probably both.

Here's the other thing. Mac has a few friends who've been in trouble with the law and could easily be in prison school. What's the delineation between Mac and his friends and my Alcatraz kids? Why is there one?

Do you know how scary it is to think that Mac and his buddies are just a measly bad choice away from Alcatraz?


Jimmie Earl said...

I just spent 3+ hours in the waiting room at the garage while my car was being fixed. Total strangers began talking about this very thing. We concluded after much discussion, that it has to be a nature vs nurture thing. We don't believe that kids are born troublemakers, it has to be in the nurturing they don't receive from the cradle on. Interesting thoughts from a bunch of retired men from diverse walks of life.

Wiley said...

I think it's both (and I don't normally sit on the fence, so this is something). I think that the possibility to do wrong, really wrong and evil (I lump them all together here because they all stem from the same place) resides deep within us. It's a natural thing. We are sensitised to peace and cooperation vice violence and selfishness through nurture, though. It's nurture, in the form of our environment, that lets us develop a refined sense of (good) judgment. It's nurture in the form of civil society that encourages us to accept and adapt to a rules-based order. And it's nurture in the form of supportive people around us that temper the selfishness and make us realise loved ones are those that matter, nothing can replace them and we don't want to disappoint them. But when nurture breaks down, that dark part of us breaks free.

Or maybe it's just the Giant Chicken playing with us all.