Saturday, March 21, 2009

Encouraging fighting to solve problems

As I read the report about South Oak Cliff (SOC) high school using cage fighting to solve problems, I was troubled for more than the obvious reasons.

Evidently, "documents obtained by The Dallas Morning News show that troubled students were sent to duke it out – with bare fists and no head protection – in a steel utility cage in an athletic locker room. "...while..."students stood around clapping and screaming while watching the fight, as if they were in an arena."

Yes, our urban areas and urban schools can be violent places to be, unfortunately. But is perpetuating that violence really the way to go?

Though the principal at the time denies that he allowed it to go on or knew about it, I wonder if he bought into the belief that in inner city communities people have to be dealt with violently in order to make change. Respond with violence. That's the only thing they'll understand, right?

I've heard that sentiment from other people as well. I don't buy it.

In different parenting classes, I've often heard that we shouldn't spank kids because it teaches them to hit. I don't subscribe to that fully, but there is an underlying point there. If we yell at people, they often yell back. If we hit people, they will hit back. But if we don't feel like we can hurt the person who hurt us, the hurt and anger that is left behind is often taken out on the next person that comes along.

Treating people like animals in a cage creates the "zoo effect" that incenses me. It allows people to observe barbaric behavior at the expense of the people in that environment. How can we think that treating people like animals creates a setting where people feel dignified and respected in a way that behavior will change toward the better?

From the reports I've read, I would agree that SOC is a very challenging environment. Under the same principal who allowed the cage fighting, grades were adjusted so that certain players could play in the state basketball tournament. Creating an environment where high expectations are the norm and students are acknowledged and valued is not easy, but it is possible...and necessary.

We have to do better...for our kids...our communities. Our response affects everyone's future.
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