Denver Bar Association
March 2000
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Keep Our Kids Safe


by: Miss Management    

Editor's Note: Due to complaints about The Docket's frequent coverage of the rich and famous, it has been determined that there is a need for equal time. Therefore, this column is dedicated to the poor and obscure, which includes government attorneys, solo and small firm practitioners, attorneys who are parents of small children, and everyone at Legal Aid. (Miss Management is the nom de plume of a Denver attorney who is or has been most of the above.)

When Miss M first heard about Columbine, she made three predictions.

One, that it would lead to a hitherto-unseen level of media feeding frenzy--which has never stopped. Two, that it would quickly degenerate into indiscriminate scapegoating. The blaming, infighting, lawsuits, arguments over money and even chopping down trees, are cases in point. Three, that the actual root causes would never be admitted and would certainly never be addressed. Sure enough, our continuing societal denial has generated a continuing saga of children committing ever more heinous crimes. Well, Miss M has decided it's time to speak out.

1. Our educational system is inappropriate, inhumane and not at all in the best interests of our children. Study after study finds that teenagers don't function mentally until about 10 a.m.; so all of our high schools start at 7:30 a.m., leaving all of our kids in a state of chronic sleep deprivation with accompanying depression, poor mental function and ill health. Our inadequate teaching professionals, apparently incapable of teaching in class, vie for the honor of piling the most hours of makework homework on their poor students' heads. In an effort to consolidate physical facilities, schools have become factory-warehouses of education, diverging ever farther from the ideal student-teacher ratio--one to one. Many large schools have abolished "home room," locked kids out of school before and after school and at lunch, severely restricted the hours that teachers are available for consultation, and sent security personnel to patrol the halls to make damn sure there are no students actually walking around in their own schools. There is little educational choice, as we continue to impose an insane "liberal arts" ("college prep") curriculum, more suited to an 18th-century aristocrat, on students who need a skill or a trade to survive after graduation.

2. Our culture is toxic, especially to children, in music, films, magazines, the Internet, and worst of all, video games marketed specifically to children, where everything positive about life is graphically destroyed. Callista Flockhart's skull-like face and cadaverous body is the ideal of feminine beauty (and her repulsive antics represent the legal profession at its finest). Arnold Schwarzeneggar's body count is the model of masculine morality. "Greed" is our most popular television show, and our highest-paid professional is the steroid-ridden athlete with a long arrest record for beating up women. What, pray tell, do we expect from children who see these things, or worse yet, who watch us watching these things?

3. There is little modeling of positive goodness in many children's lives. Their parents have demonstrated commitment by getting divorced. They have demonstrated sexual fidelity by running through a string of boyfriends or girlfriends. They have demonstrated sobriety by light substance abuse and social drinking. They have demonstrated love for their children by ignoring them. They have demonstrated their pride in their children by demanding athletic and other kinds of achievement, sending their exhausted kids off to one after-school program or practice after another, at increasing levels of competitive difficulty with never a moment to breathe. They have sneered at the possibility of any real higher good, and either attend church for business reasons or have dropped any pretense at spirituality at all. What was once a person-to-person relationships based on mutual interdependence, has turned into occasional e-mail.

No wonder our kids have neither the time, the compassion, nor the motivation to waste their time helping or understanding another kid who is in pain. In real life, as in high school, we have accepted a society that rewards only the swift, the strong and the competitive, and given them the inalienable right to eat the rest of us.

If we want to change our children's world, it behooves us to stand up and change our own. Miss M can only do so much.

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