Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Medicine has come a long way since the days when the Egyptians were performing lobotomies without the aid of anesthesia. Since 1846, when a dentist, Dr. William Thomas Green Morton first used ether as an inhalation anesthetic to accomplish painless surgery to today, when a variety of drugs are used for that purpose, medicine has jumped by leaps and bounds…except for one small problem. It seems to me that medicine and its practitioners have been working in a vacuum by not, until very recently, considering the cause and effect of outside influencers on medical advances, eg, how severely concussions and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) can affect one’s life.

Dr. Robert Cantu and his team at Boston University are at the forefront in the study of CTE, which, to quote from their website, “is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as subconcussive hits to the head that do not cause symptoms.” Brandy Chastain, FIFA Gold Medalist soccer player and coach, recently made news by willing her brain to the CTE Center at BU, and, hopefully, other athletes in other sports, professional and amateur, will follow in her footsteps.

Back in the days when my basketball career was in full bloom – what a crock – nearly any type of contact would result in a foul. As a consequence, it was rare for us to get really knocked around while playing the game. Today, it’s a different story. I watch, as collegians and professional hoopsters hit the floor and often bounce their heads off the hardwood. Are they concussed? I don’t know, and it’s very possible that they have no effects. It is my understanding that these “subconcussive” blows to the head may also lead to CTE. To once more quote Dr. Cantu and the BU team, “At this time the number or type of hits to the head needed to trigger degenerative changes of the brain is unknown. In addition, it is likely that other factors, such as genetics, may play a role in the development of CTE, as not everyone with a history of repeated brain trauma develops this disease. However, these other factors are not yet understood.”

All of this raises a number of questions on my part. For example, when a diver falls 33 feet or dives from the 10 meter platform, what is the effect on his or her head when they hit the water? Is it possible that the subconcussive effect of this effort, repeated hundreds or even thousands of times depending on the extent to which the diver competes, say up to the Olympic level, a potentially dangerous form of competition that could lead to CTE?

If you’ve never had a concussion, you’re fortunate. To the best of my knowledge, my experience centers around three events. The first was a slip on ice in the driveway very early in the morning in which I was unconscious for less than a minute. I lost my glasses, saw more stars than were actually shining down on me, and was somewhat nauseous. The second time was at an automotive repair shop when I skidded on some unseen sand and grease. The fall wasn’t quite the caliber of the first but the stars returned and the dizziness was in full bloom. The final tumble took place as I was leaving the gym. A new medication was working in consort with an older one; combined with what had been a good workout, the two dropped my blood pressure to “pass out range.” I awoke to find an IV in my arm and my body in an ambulance headed to the hospital. The most interesting part of this fall was that at no time during my day-long stay at the hospital did one doctor or nurse tell me that I was concussed. The egg on the back of my head told me that a concussion was a genuine possibility. I treated it as such and remained as flat as possible with the lighting kept to the barest minimum. It wasn’t until a few days later, when I was speaking with my primary care physician, that the subject of concussion even came up.

Now that we know the extent to which concussions and subconcussive blows to the head can lead to degenerative brain disease, it seems to me that we should be taking a second, third, fourth, and more looks as to how our children’s heads are protected during athletic competition. How safe are the helmets worn in football, baseball, lacrosse, and hockey competition? What other sports should be considering the use of helmets? What are the sports equipment manufacturers doing to lessen the impact on the brain? Before parents allow their children to become involved in certain types of athletic competition, maybe they should consider the consequences that could occur later in life.

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Oh, how times have changed…and not for the better.

We were told by our parents that we should treat our school teachers exactly as we would treat our parents…with both courtesy and respect. Those of us – yep, I was one of ‘em – were punished accordingly if a note was sent home that we had, in any way, misbehaved in class. The only time my folks didn’t drop the hammer was when the teacher, Miss Lannin, sent a note home saying that I had kissed Gloria Madden. Of course, Miss Lannin didn’t know that I’d been dared by the ‘janitor’ to do it and had received a nickel for my efforts. Mom and Dad had a difficult time trying to bawl me out while holding in their laughter.

Later, in my academic career – fifth grade to be exact – I received a sharp rap across the back of my hand from Miss Shea, a former nun, who was exceptionally skilled in the use of a ruler as a weapon of individual destruction. My crime was in mispronouncing the word frigid – looked like frig-it to me, but evidently, Miss Shea found my interpretation bordering on the edge of indecency. How the hell would a nun know that? Ah, well, I guess we’ll never know.

Later, I sat in Bertha Tenney’s math class in junior high school, and when Billy Bailey decided to act up, Bertha knocked his ass right out of his seat and onto the floor. Billy was tough. How the hell she could have put him flat on the floor is something that still confounds me.

There were several other examples of corporeal punishment that I could relate about my own high school experiences, but I believe you can see where this is going. What happened to me after the Holy Roller incident and to Bill after Bertha took him out with one swift back hand was nothing to what happened to us when our parents learned of our misdeeds. Yet, in spite of all of this, Bill and I grew up, went off to college, achieved a modicum of success…depending on how you define it, and raised children of our own. Were we as tough on them as our parents had been on us? I doubt it, but if a teacher told me that my kid had disturbed a class, I kind of doubt that I would have blamed the teacher.

Today, it would appear, that the teacher is never right, can’t lay a hand on some little puissant who is disturbing her/his class, and can be sued at the drop of a missed call in class. My reaction to this is one of horror. Recently, a teacher with 16 years of experience clapped a piece of candy out of the hand of a 14-year old who had been disrupting her class. She is now being taken to court over this…she left a mark on the poor child’s wrist. She should have left the little punk with a couple of black eyes.

There is a law now that says teachers cannot touch students. Are we afraid that some teacher is going to go “postal” and wring some kid’s neck? I rather doubt it. I won’t reiterate what I did to one of my sophomores in high school, other than to say that two weeks after I’d punished him, the Massachusetts State Police came and took him away on felony charges.

These are different times. Latch-key kids whose lives are programmed from the moment they rise in the morning until their heads hit the pillow at night are given little outlets for some of the hormones that begin raging in their bodies earlier and earlier. The word, “Discipline,” is foreign to them. They aren’t disciplined at home…”You’re grounded; go to your room!” Go to the room with your cell phone, computer, and every other electronic device one can think of; that’s not discipline; that’s peace and quiet. Sparing the rod and spoiling the child has become too much of a mantra for today’s parents and it has carried over into the legislatures which are makings laws that completely handcuff teachers in their efforts to do what they are poorly paid to do…teach children who are eager to learn. If a child is a disturbance in a classroom, he or she should be disciplined to the degree possible and that doesn’t mean giving up a cell phone for 24 hours. Punishment must be meaningful and fitting. Unruly child…refused to listen…created a disturbance in the classroom…was eating candy openly…hey, kid, I’m so sorry that you didn’t know Miss Tenney. Had you lived, you would never have forgotten her.

Years ago, teachers were treated with the honor and respect due them. What happened? Where did all of the respect go? Did teachers change that much? I taught high school for a brief period of time. It was in the same school from which I had graduated. I gained an even greater respect for teachers, now colleagues, in whose classrooms I had been a student. Did teachers, as a whole, become people to be disrespected and not believed? Has television and social media been responsible for the lack of respect shown to these people who, generally, want nothing more than to increase the knowledge and intelligence of those with whom they work day-in-day-out?

Perhaps the parents of captain-candy-eater should be in the dock with the teacher. After all, who raised him to be disrespectful to other adults? I cannot imagine what this child gets away with at home. There is no such thing as “Stop it Bobby; stop it Bobby; stop it Bobby; stop it Bobby” ad nauseum. There is only one “Stop it Bobby,” and if it is not stopped, Bobby will wonder if anyone got the license plate of the truck that just ran him over.

It’s time we reinstated two words in the classroom…RESPECT and DISCIPLINE…on both sides of the desk. Teachers have known those two words for years. It’s too bad that today’s children have not been taught their true meaning before they even begin school.

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Kid got killed here recently; got hit by a train. That doesn’t sound like a very pleasant way to die. His mother was out looking for him, and she stopped a group of his friends, asking if they’d seen him. They admitted that they had but didn’t know where he was. It was about this time that the state police helicopters started circling overhead, not far from where the mother and the kids were talking. It got me to wondering…was this an accident or was it suicide. Today, a week after I wrote what you just read, I learned the truth…he stepped in front of that train intentionally. He had been bullied to the point where he felt that his life was no longer worth living. How, in the name of God, does one reach that decision?

Kids growing up today have it much tougher than I did and even tougher than my own children. Heck, social media was a term that I don’t believe my kids ever heard. Today, there are chat rooms, dark chat rooms, and probably more kinds of rooms that you have to be “in on” in order to access. Cyberbullying has been added to the lexicon of the 21st Century, and it’s causing some serious problems.

One of the resources that I used in preparing this essay is The Anika Foundation in Australia. One of its objectives is, “To raise awareness about, the problems of youth depression and suicide.” I have found their research to be sound, sane, and very informative. It’s not limited to the happenings “down under,” but is international in its scope. For example, one of the first citations in their research is of a paper written by Harvard Professors David Cutler and Edward L. Glaeser, along with Assistant Professor Karen E. Norberg of the Boston University Medical School. In their study, they note that “Suicide is now the second or third leading cause of death for youths in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many countries of Western Europe.” While this study was published in 2001, other articles from more current sources agree that suicide is still number two or three, overtaken in some years only by homicide among youth.

Recently, two high school friends in Texas killed themselves hours apart in what appears to have been a suicide pact. Less than a week later, Arizona State University junior, Thomas Wagoner, jumped to his death from a campus building. The victim of bullying in high school Wagoner was known to have suffered from depression because of his experiences; it was something he mentioned in his suicide notes. According to his roommate, Jared Blevens, “He mentioned being depressed. I had known he was depressed, but I didn’t realize how depressed he was. I thought he would talk to me or one of our friends.” Blevins added, “I would say if you are concerned at all then you should get help…because I didn’t realize how bad it was with Thomas. And I knew him better than anyone else.”

These are sad stories, crazy stories, stories that didn’t seem to happen when I was growing up or when my children were growing up. It makes me worry for my kids and their children. Getting inside the head of a teenager is about as easy as herding cats or nailing jello to a tree, ergo, it cannot be done. If they are depressed or suicidal, most of them appear to hide it well, and if they go ahead and commit suicide successfully, we never know the reasons because they take those with them. Suicide.org says that “…teens who attempt suicide and survive tell us that they wanted to die to end the pain of living. They are often experiencing a number of stressors and feel that they do not have the strength or desire to continue living. We also believe that the majority of youth who die by suicide have a mental disorder, like depression, which is often undiagnosed, untreated or both.”

I care about this for two reasons (1) I have grandchildren, some as young as five. I probably won’t live to see him to adulthood, but I don’t want my daughter and her husband to suffer the pain of losing a child. I don’t want any of my kids to lose a child. I think the greatest fear that Joan and I ever experienced was that of having to bury one of our own. Perhaps, in a way, she was fortunate to have died when she did. I still live with the fear that one of my kids may go before me, and it terrifies me. (2) I worked in higher education for 40 years. During that time I saw students who had friends who had committed suicide. When a young person looks you in the eye and asks, “Why do you think…?” how the hell do you answer them? Their pain is palpable and feeling it along with them is just too easy to do. One young woman sat in my office after missing mid-terms. She had gone to the funeral of her best friend in Washington, D.C. The friend had hung herself. Frankly, working with this young woman was physically and emotionally draining. She got through it and graduated. Her faculty members were wonderful in their understanding of what she was going through.

How do we know when a person is getting ready to commit suicide? Wow, that’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question. As a parent, a teacher, or a friend, you just have to keep your eyes and ears open. It’s been estimated that perhaps eighty percent of those thinking about suicide want other to know they’re hurting and want to stop them from dying. If they begin to give away things that they’ve highly prized in the past; if they seem hopeless or depressed; if they show signs of a preoccupation of death, it may be time to step in or to call for help from the professionals. As I say, knowing the signs, seeing the signs, is not the easiest thing in the world for an untrained friend, teacher, or family member. Several years ago, a high school student I know surveyed her class about suicide. She found that thirty-two percent of the class had considered it. Fifteen students had actually tried it unsuccessfully. She was shocked as were other members of our committee.

Jared Blevens said about his friend, “I didn’t know how depressed he was.” Perhaps the one-time use of any word that’s even associated with depression should be a key to begin talking. Or, perhaps, communities should begin developing programs to talk about suicide in much the same way they now openly talk of bullying and cyberbullying. We cannot allow this to continue to be the second or third leading cause of death among our youth. If we do nothing, it could easily challenge motor vehicle accidents as the number one cause of teenage fatality.

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How do you know who to believe?

You listen to a news report on television, but you have to check the station background to determine if its reporting is fair and unbiased. Is the manner in which the news is being reported fair or is it slanted in favor of one group…pro-choice or pro-life…liberal or conservative…men or women? There are many types of groups that can be favored or biased against. How do we know that we’re getting every single aspect of a particular story? There was a time when such was the case with newspapers and even weekly news magazines. However, they’ve become so transparent in their biases that we often find ourselves reading only that media outlet which actually reflects our own views of the world.

I was thinking about this as I watched a story on Planned Parenthood the other day. I have no particular bias one way or the other on this subject. It seems to me that if the federal government has been supportive of this organization for a number of years that it must be doing something right. Then I remembered those horrible advertising spots that talked about the organization selling baby parts and one of their doctors talking about getting a new car and just how gross the ads were. Ah, but wait a minute; those ads were later discredited and shown to be fraudulent…or were they?

My own digging came up with this: “The mission of Planned Parenthood is to provide comprehensive reproductive and complementary health care services in settings which preserve and protect the essential privacy and rights of each individual, to advocate public policies which guarantee these rights and ensure access to such services, to provide educational programs which enhance understanding of individual and societal implications of human sexuality, and to promote research and the advancement of technology in reproductive health care and encourage understanding of their inherent bioethical, behavioral, and social implications.”

Adhered to at all levels, that’s a pretty darned good and comprehensive mission statement. I say, “Adhered to at all levels…” because, as with any organization as large as Planned Parenthood, with as many offices scattered over the country, there are bound to be a few employees who will apply their own interpretation of what that mission statement means. That’s also true of the people who are against Planned Parenthood and remember those ads without remembering the fraudulence that was associated with them.

I’m pro-choice. I think a woman has the right to do with her body exactly as she darn well pleases. I also believe that women doing the same job should be paid the same amount of money as their male counterparts. One of the things that I don’t believe is that women are ‘baby machines.’ In that regard, I am a firm believer that if you happen to get pregnant and know that it’s going to be well-nigh impossible to feed and clothe that kid until it grows to an age where it can support itself, you should not have the child. I often think of the people who call themselves “pro-life” are, in fact, only “pro-birth” without any regard to the life that follows. Bringing a child into this world entails on hell of a lot more than just giving birth. I’m not talking about raising a child in the lap of luxury; that would be laughable. However, bringing a child into the world in the 21st Century requires a great deal more than a roll in the hay without any consideration of the consequences.

From what I can gather, performing abortions is (a) not done at every Planned Parenthood office and (b) accounts for only about three percent of the business done by the organization. It appears that the bulk of what is done is in the counseling area…and not just counseling about whether to have an abortion or not, but counseling regarding reproductive health. I learned recently of one woman whose life was saved by a trip to a Planned Parenthood clinic. She was there for some testing when it was discovered that she had cancer of the uterus. “Thankfully, they caught it,” she told me. Had they not, she would have died. Think about that for just a minute…”Had they not caught…” her cancer, she would have died. At the time, this lady was a single mother with two young children. Planned Parenthood saved her life. I’m willing for my tax dollars to continue to support an organization like that.

I’m not crazy about any of the people who are running for the nomination to be the 44th or 45th – depending on how you count Grover Cleveland – President of the United States. I’m even less crazy about those who promise that they will fight to defund Planned Parenthood. After doing a fair amount of research and reading over the past several days and nights, the organization appears to be filling a niche that is not being filled in the private sector. Until it is, I believe we should allow Planned Parenthood to continue its good works.

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There was a time when I was color blind. It’s only taken me something over 80 years to learn that perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps I wasn’t color blind all those years after all. Black people seem to have a greater propensity to commit criminal acts than other races. Jeff, Beshama, Jimmy, Ernie, Joe, Sandra,and so many more black friends can feel free to call me out on this, but I’m sorry folks, check the Department of Justice figures. I don’t believe they have been skewed or fiddled with or offset in any way just to make the members of our black population look bad.

I watched the news recently as a disgruntled V. Lester Flanigan shot a white reporter and cameraman on a local television station. No, admittedly, I didn’t see the actual shooting; I just heard one gunshot. The camera was then dropped as V. Lester continued his rampage. Now, I don’t happen to be gay and I don’t happen to be black, but I do know what it’s like to be fired without cause and without recourse. Disgruntled? You bet your sweet patootie I was disgruntled. I guess knowing where the next university president was having his affair, with whom and on what day was just cause to him, but it certainly didn’t appear that way to me. What the hell, I’d known for a few years what he was doing. If I hadn’t told anyone before, what kind of a fool would I have been to tell others now. Therefore, yes, I was somewhat more than irritated when I was informed that my job was being abolished (can you say “bullcrap”?). However, I didn’t publish a manifesto and I didn’t go out and shoot people. I consider that my regard for human life is just a little higher than that.

On that same television newscast, another black man was fighting with police as they attempted to bring him into court for arraignment on a second murder charge.  When they read the charges against him, I wondered how one human being could do that to another. There are times when I wonder just how my black friends must feel when one after the other of their own race gets paraded before the television cameras for some heinous deed. Hopefully, they just let it bounce off in much the same way I do when I see a crime televised that has been committed by a white idiot. That’s what I consider all of these people to be, idiots. Nothing, nothing in this world with the exception of war, justifies the killing of one human being by another…nothing. Losing a job does not; racial slurs do not; nasty comments about one’s sexuality do not; a perceived insult is not a cause for killing. You want to kill someone? Kill yourself, but what others say and do, while somewhat painful, is no cause for ending their lives.

I’ve searched and searched and searched for accurate statistics regarding violent crime by race in the United States. One study claims that,  “… during the 2012/2013 period, blacks committed an average of 560,600 violent crimes against whites, whereas whites committed only 99,403 such crimes against blacks. This means blacks were the attackers in 84.9 percent of the violent crimes involving blacks and whites. Interestingly, we find that violent interracial crime involving blacks and Hispanics occurs in almost exactly the same proportions as black/white crime: Blacks are the attackers 82.5 percent of the time, while Hispanics are attackers only 17.5 percent of the time.

“Some observers argue that what causes the overwhelming preponderance of black-on-white over white-on-black violence is “chance of encounter,” due to the fact that there are five times as many whites as blacks in the American population. However, there are only about 30 percent more Hispanics than blacks, yet black-on-Hispanic violence is almost as lopsided as black-on-white violence. This suggests blacks may be deliberately targeting both whites and Hispanics.”

This is all well and good except that the organization releasing this data is a conservative think tank, known for its right-wing thinking. I’m not saying that the data is wrong or right; what I am saying is that I’ve seen too many occasions when statistics have been twisted and skewed. Nonetheless, just looking at the raw data presents a frightening picture of black crime in the United States. And it’s as frightening to members of the black community as it is to other ethnic groups. Civil rights advocate, Van Jones, wrote in a 2005 article, ‘Are Blacks a Criminal Race?’ “African American youth represent 32% of all weapons arrests [and] were arrested for aggravated assault at a rate nearly three times that of whites. A 2012 study by the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention revealed that in 2010 black youths committed six times more murders, three times more rapes, 10 times more robberies and three times more assaults than did their white counterparts.

Similar statistics were released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the “Uniform Crime Reports.” They determined, “In the year 2008, black youths, who make up 16% of the youth population, accounted for 52% of juvenile violent crime arrests, including 58% for homicide and 67% for robbery.” By contrast, the only categories where white youths surpassed blacks were in liquor law violations and driving under the influence.

I don’t know the people who make up these statistics. I know plenty of black people. They don’t fall into any categories in this statistical data. So where are all these black criminals? People like Al Sharpton and other ‘injustice collectors’ will find every reason in the book not to blame crime of any kind on blacks but on the white society in which they live. To me, that’s just plain wrong. Is there greater poverty among members of the black community in the United States? Yeah, possibly. The bigger question is why? Although he’s no longer the hero he once was, Bill Cosby has made some good points. Black fathers should be assuming more responsibility for the children they create. Black mothers should be saying, “No,” and meaning it when more sex is going to lead to more kids and they can’t afford to properly raise the ones they already have. I think there is an innate fear on the part of white people in this country to confront the social ills that affect the black community. Black gangs form because there is safety in numbers; well, screw that. Let’s cut down the numbers so that black kids won’t have to worry about walking down the streets in their own neighborhoods. If more police are required, let’s get them; if more prisons are required, let’s build them; if stricter enforcement of laws are necessary, let’s enforce them. At the same time, however, let us not paint every black person we see with the same damned brush that says, “You’re black, therefore, you’re a criminal to be feared;” that, too, is bullcrap. Let us eliminate the United Negro College Fund and make it the United American College Fund with just as much money going all ethnic groups. Let’s eliminate Black Entertainment Network and Miss Black America contests, and let’s begin to unite, integrate, and truly integrate all races into one giant community. I’m not proposing that we gather in the circle and sing Kumbaya; that’s nonsense. But whatever we’ve been trying so far sure hasn’t worked. The black community and the white community are still miles apart in this country. Let’s stop talking about why we can’t do something better and let’s start talking about how we can do something better. Please, before I die, I want to be color blind once more.

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The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have issued a warning to parents that ISIS is using social media to influence young Americans to join them in fighting for…for what? For an independent Islamic state; for a chance to get their heads blown off by an Iraqi, Iranian, Jordanian, or anyone else who sees Isis for what it Is…a bunch of trigger-happy idiots who are interpreting – I should say misinterpreting – what the Quaran actually teaches. They can make all of the claims that they wish, but the fact of the matter is that if you hate this country so much, go, get out. Live the dream; become a terrorist; but understand this…those are not toy guns that are firing back at you. If you get hit by a round from anything other than a Kalashnikov – I don’t care if it hits your little finger – you will probably die, as much from the shock as anything else. This is not a game that is being played. It is not a television show where you get shot and killed one week and miraculously recover by the third episode. If our children are being radicalized by ISIS on social media, we have some very real and very serious problems.

What is this “radicalization” of which we speak? According to one of this country’s most senior terrorism authorities, radicalization is “the process of adopting for oneself or inculcating in other a commitment not only to a system of [radical] beliefs, but to their imposition on the rest of society.” By imposing their beliefs on the rest of society, he is speaking of the use of violence, which in this case means those who don’t believe as the radical believes, must be punished in order to make them conform.

Why and/or how does radicalization to the point of condoning or actually participating in violent behavior occur? No one really seems to know despite the amount of research that has been done. What actually changes in a person that causes them to accept this violent manner? Most research dictates that change goes through a variety of stages. The first thing that must occur is that the potential recruit must think that an injustice or humiliation has occurred. It might be something as simple as seeing pictures or videos of dead civilians when America was fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. These horrible sights may be blamed on American air strikes even if that is not an accurate portrayal of the horror. Over a period of time, the recruit is provided with motivational sources that make him or her more likely to believe in violence.

Research appears to show that “An individual’s search for identity may draw him or her to extremist or terrorist organizations in a variety of ways. The individual may be searching for a purpose or goal in life that defines the actions required to achieve that goal. A violent act may be seen as a way to succeed at something that makes a difference. The absolutist, “black and white” nature of most extremist ideologies is often attractive to those who feel overwhelmed by the complexity and stress of navigating a complicated world. Without struggling to define oneself or discern personal meaning, an individual may choose to define his or her identity simply through identification with a cause or membership in a group.”

Think with me for a moment about the youth who join gangs. What is their primary need? It’s a sense of belonging to something; of connecting with others who feel similarly, ie, that they have been dealt a rotten hand in life (injustice or perhaps some form of humiliation); that they are searching for some form of identity, eg, gang tats or signs, and; that they are willing to be violent in order to be recognized.

There are many other factors that appear to influence recruits to become extreme terrorists – in this day and age we think of Muslims, but they are just the latest in a long line of violent extremists – including the need for a mentor or leader. This mentor may be someone who is articulate and who shares the recruit’s values on the Internet. In the case of the Muslim jihadists, it might be an imam or other religious authority that condones violent behavior because of the manner in which they interpret the Quaran.

Another factor that has proven particularly successful for recruiting terrorists is the Internet. ISIS and other terrorist groups before them have produced some pretty slick videos that make it hard to ignore their messages. All it appears to take is an unhappy or dissatisfied individual, capable of violence, who is seeking something “better” for his or her life.

Parents may think they know their teenagers. Few do. You take it from here.


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I really hate to admit this, but I’m not the brightest bulb on Broadway. There are a helluva lot sharper knives in the drawer than I’ll ever hope to be. When it was a choice of college or business curriculum in high school, you don’t have to be a mind reader to know which one I took. If it wasn’t for a good, swift kick in the rear end by my mother, I probably wouldn’t have gone to college. And if it hadn’t been for Louise Gagnon kicking me a few times in high school bookkeeping, I wouldn’t have gotten straight A’s in Accounting while the college course kids struggled with it. Had this been calculus or trig, I wouldn’t have lasted a semester. Truth be told, there were no “laudes” for me at graduation; not summa, nor magna, nor even a cum laude. I think they were just happy to see me gone from the student body. So, what do I do? I go right back into the fray and begin working at the university as an assistant registrar. At 22, my ambition to do something useful and intelligent was damn near nonexistent. It was kind of pathetic.

But things changed for me along the way. I discovered things like setting goals – not so high that I didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of meeting them, and not so low as to be useless – and I began meeting them. I found a thing called time management, to do lists, and job function analysis worksheets, and they were great. I learned a thing called teamwork and how important it was to be part of entire group that accomplished things of importance. In a nutshell, I grew up, and in doing so, I actually became a bit brighter than I had been.

I believe that’s the way things went for most of us. Perhaps in today’s society, with all of the technology and counseling that is available, young men and women graduate from high school with a better understanding of where they’re headed and what their futures will hold, but I’m not certain that’s necessarily true. At a time when a college education can cost more than $200,000, it’s probably wise to have some idea of how you’re going to reap the rewards of such an investment. If that’s not the case, then something is drastically wrong with the thought process that says, “Spend it anyway.” Oh, sure, there are high school graduates who know exactly what they are going to do with their future and off they go to study nursing, medicine, the law, or accounting. That doesn’t mean that they will become nurses or doctors, lawyers or accountants. It merely means that those fields are what they want when they head off to colleges and universities. Life, however, has a funny way of changing our goals and objectives. The student who is studying nursing finds that he or she faints at the sight of blood; the pre-med students finds that inorganic chemistry is just a step too difficult for them and gets shot down; the law student discovers that passing the bar to practice is not really as simple as they made it sound while in school, and; the accountant who finally passes all parts of the CPA exam gets bored to death and finds that he or she wants something different from life.

Now that I’m an old man, it may be that I have something of a warped perception of what life is really like for the 17-18 year old crowd. The technology to which they have access is incredibly advanced. The amount of knowledge available through the various search engines just boggles my mind…and they can study all of this. They certainly can’t learn it all, but it’s out there, in the ether, right at their fingertips. You want to learn the history of civilization? You can call up 95 million references for that subject alone. You can watch videos on just about anything imaginable. There are 336 million references for how to become a pilot. You choose it; the Internet will provide it. If you’re truly goal-oriented and reasonably intelligent, perhaps you can learn whatever is necessary without even leaving your couch, chair, or Starbucks. Oh, wait, that can be right; you have to be credentialed. That means that you have to have that piece of parchment that says you have a “degree;” that you have sat in classrooms for four or more years and are now credentialed to go out into the world and practice your art, science, business, or whatever.  Not only that, but if you have credentials from the ‘right’ college or university, you will fare even better in the world.

There is no doubt in my mind that there are fields in which those degrees are a necessity. I would not wish to have a surgeon who learned his trade on the Internet operating on me. I would prefer to have a structural engineer who has spent time in both the classroom and the field design the bridge I drive over each and every day, and so forth and so on.

I wish that colleges and universities would teach students to carry on an intelligent conversation with others. I wish that college graduates could string two or three intelligent sentences together without a spelling error or incorrect word usage. I wish they could write legibly. Those things don’t seem to matter much anymore, but I can still wish.

Another thing that has changed from “my day” is the concept of ‘family.’ According to the Pew Research Center, “Less than half (46%) of U.S. kids younger than 18 years of age are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage. This is a marked change from 1960, when 73% of children fit this description, and 1980, when 61% did, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of recently-released American Community Survey (ACS) and Decennial Census data.” Before going any further, I should tell you about Pew. “The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research does not take policy positions.” While my involvement with Pew has been very limited, I have always respected the research that they have published.

Today, according to Pew Research, more children are living in a household where one or both of the parents are remarried. There may be step children concerned. It would be interesting to learn how or if the Cinderella syndrome takes place in these cases. “One of the largest shifts in family structure is this: 34% of children today are living with an unmarried parent—up from just 9% in 1960, and 19% in 1980. In most cases, these unmarried parents are single.”

From some of this, you can see that mine was more of a “Beaver Cleaver” family unit as opposed to today’s traditional non-traditional family group. What have these changes meant? If my own family is any indication, not going to college is just not an option. Learning must be done in an environment that is formal as opposed to self-teaching, and it must provide “credentials” with which young graduates can make their way in the 21st Century market place. As the late, great Maurice Chevalier would have sang, “Oh, I’m so glad I’m not young anymore!”


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