Hi, Phoebe,

I am appalled and saddened for the kids and faculty that bought it, but my main reaction is one of frustratation and depression at this latest manifestation of our society's blindness to the nature of a culture so exclusively based on flat-footed "ordinariness" and assumption of normal limits that we never seem to have the wherewithall in place for handling the "unusual" demand on our resources, whether inner (like this one) or outer (like Katrina).

 
That creative writing lady TRIED her best to get some serious attention to this guy. Yes, I know these kids need their civil liberties, and that passing rules for forcing them into therapy doesn't work - but, on the other hand, it would take so little in the way of a fundamental organizational framework for this sort of thing to be handled in schools BEFORE high school and/or college, so as to function as a preventative for later mayhem.
 
My friend Jerry Mintz has been teaching the art of democracy in schools - mostly in India, because our schools don't understand anough to invite him. He had a dropout school for high school-age kids in Burlington, VT, for many years - and after observing in my school several times, he began realizing how this worked at an even earlier age than he had thought it would. We start in first grade. It's mainly a matter of priorities. Teachers in regular schools may try to help kids learn how not to hate and bully and isolate and alienate and stereotype and race-bait each other, but what they have never tried is to discover how to teach the kids to take on the roles of peer level counseling themselves.
 
It's so simple, so easy, because the kids themselves, once they've been through the process of learning to play the role by going through the process, usually at first as the "transgressor," latch onto it and teach each other. We use Robert's Rules in the ad hoc group ("Council Meeting" - for which all classwork stops and everyone assembles to problem-solve) that convenes to help solve a problem for which the kid having it has called the meeting - but the effect is remarkable - for all concerned - and over time, the effect on the entire group of school kids is awesome. And, mind you, these are, a lot of them, inner city kids with pretty dysfunctional families. It teaches them democracy. They have a vote, can make proposals for solving a problem, call witnesses etc., etc. They get doggone good at it. The older ones teach the younger or new ones. Adults attend, and may sometimes testify, but the kids run the show. The outcome is often a show of genuine compassion for the miscreant, once they learn what triggered the aggression, which is often bad stuff at home. And the miscreant comes to trust his peers well enough to tell the truth about his life, knowing he won't be mocked or ignored!
 
When our kids go on to high school, they often become "peer counselors." Kids in our school seldom present insoluble behavioral or personality issues, but even paranoid schizophrenia doesn't manifest until after puberty - and our program functions as the proverbial preventative for later disaster!
 
Well, maybe you can see why I mainly feel discouraged by still another manifestation of how badly we in this society manage the basic needs of development from infancy to adulthood. We leave it to the parents to identify problems, and in schools, we focus on stuffing heads with information, techniques for abstract problem-solving - and conformity to institutional rules. Fit only for a capitalistic society. George must be sighing, up in the celestial clouds - Orwell, that is. Have you read "Such, Such Were the Joys" - about how he was treated as a "scholarship boy" in an English public school?
 
Love,
......Mary