Today's Los Angeles Times (10/31/09) included a story horrifying in its brutality -- in more ways than one.
Recently, a 15-year-old girl was gang raped outside a high school near Oakland, California, while a homecoming dance proceeded peacefully nearby and as many as 20 onlookers jeered, took pictures, and messaged their friends to come join in the fun. Two hours passed before someone witnessing the event decided to call the police.
Columnist Sandy Banks tried to answer the obvious questions. How could such a callous (not to mention criminal) occurrence take place, and why on earth would it take two hours for someone to come to their senses sufficiently to put a stop to it? She interviewed a junior at the school, who opined that "A lot of them, they don't think they're going to be successful. They've already been judged, so they go with that. They drink, they smoke, they pop pills. It's the 'bad boy' culture. That's how they see themselves."
I can't help wonder how widespread this feeling is. Are there, in fact, thousands -- perhaps hundreds of thousands -- of young people who face the future with a brooding face and a heavy heart, uncertain whether any portion of the American dream will ever collide with what currently passes for their lives?
We are told by the so-called experts that the widespread and gargantuan inequality that pervades American society today will never cause unrest -- at least partially because people at the bottom of the ladder perceive the potential for upward mobility.
Please note: regardless of the attitudes and emotional predispositions of the perpetrators of this indecent affair, their actions are in no way justified. Those directly involved should be prosecuted, and the voyeurs should be grounded until they mature. For some of them, this might entail missing next year's dance.
Side note: the school board is planning to install security measures now -- after considering them for years. And, rest assured, a campus police officer has proclaimed that "We have a safe environment at Richmond High." The educational bureaucracy at its finest!
What should really be happening in the classrooms when things return to "normal"? Should teachers focus on social responsibility, communication and collaboration skills, conflict resolution strategies, and critical thinking? Well, that might be nice, but some parents would complain, and besides, the students need more math, science, history, etc. so they can improve their scores on those all-important standardized tests. That way we'll "Leave No Child Behind" -- except the unfortunate young lady who was brutally raped.
When things finally erupt in this country, we're going to have the best educated rioters in the history of the world. They'll be full of knowledge -- potential "Jeopardy" champs all -- because that is what our educational policy makers think is important -- but hope will be in short supply.