In many schools, gangs are a problem. Schools, politicians, parent groups, etc. ask "How can we help save these kids?" Speaking as someone who went to a school with a significant gang problem, I have to wonder if we are asking the wrong question. I have to wonder if the question should be "Should gang members be in school at all?"
Now my sister, who works with at-risk youth is probably going to kill me when I head up to Ohio, but I think it is a question worth asking. We're talking about how to enhance school security all the time. We're talking about how we should screen every kid's writing assignments with a fined tooth comb for "warning signs," have metal detectors at every door, have drug sniffing dogs come in at random and make everyone dress all pretty. It's strange how no one thinks that maybe expelling students belonging to organizations dedicated solely to murder and mayhem might enhance security. Certainly a great deal more than making people dress nice.
It goes against modern education orthodoxy to be sure. We currently believe that we should try and educate everyone no matter how much they don't want it and no matter the cost (unless they're honor students with a butter knife in their lunch box or have gun shaped toaster pastries). But let's do that "comparing ourselves to other countries" exercise we do whenever we want to try implementing some hair brained scheme.
In other countries, if you tossed a chair at another student, started fights, got 5 of your buddies to "jump" someone in the hallway, and attacked teachers (all things I witnessed), you'd be out. And not out for a few days or months. You'd be gone. No school shrinks, no appeals, no excuses. And this isn't just in China. Try that garbage in Japan and you'd be kicked to the curb. And that's what we should do here.
I can hear the objections now.
"We're not Communist China!" or fascists or whatever else.
This isn't about ideology. This is about protecting the rights of kids who go to school to learn. This is one group we never hear about. Besides, we base half our ideas on the "China does it" standard anyway. May as well use a productive idea. It would be a nice change of pace.
"It'll hurt minority youth!" (Followed by racism this and racism that)
It really is funny to me how whenever someone like me talks about gangs, I'm told I'm using "gangs as slang for minorities" and therefore I'm being racist. Yet whenever someone says "Hey those people think wearing the wrong colored clothes is an acceptable reason to commit premeditated murder. Maybe they shouldn't be in school." They basically say gang member equals minority. They do know there are white gang members and I'll say up front they should be expelled too but want to, but for whatever reason, equate someone who brings up the idea of expelling members of criminal organizations, to the local Grand Wizard.
That aside, you know what hurts minority youth? Being afraid to go to school. And not the "I didn't study for my test" afraid. More like "Will I get put in the ER?" afraid.
"The gang members have a right to an education."
Sure I'll buy that. However, all rights are conditional on respecting the rights of others. If you go around punching people in the face, you can't claim you have the right to live in your own home in lieu of going to jail. And what about the rights of the other kids? What about the kid who wants to overcome his circumstances and be the first in his family to go to college? Doesn't he have the right to an education without having to deal with gang nonsense? What about the girl who wants to escape generational poverty? Doesn't she have the right to be able to do her work without having to look over her shoulder wondering if she might get caught in a Crip/Blood fight? Seems the only students who have "rights" are the ones who have no interest in the rights of others.
"Where will the gang members go?"
Who cares? Thugs not having a place to go is not a valid reason to make kids who want to learn have to deal with them. Most drop out the exact nanosecond they can anyway.
"Discrimination! Freedom of Association!"
Sorry all you thug lovers but there is no freedom to be part of, and say it with me now, a criminal organization. And we discriminate all the time. We don't let arsonists be firefighters. We don't let sex offenders run daycares. Both things are acceptable. Certainly we can discriminate against people who don't go to school for any reason other than to destroy it.
"Maybe we can save some!"
Sure. There might be a chance we can save a few. And we'll get a mediocre MTV Movie out of one. But most won't be saved. Sorry to say, but the vast, vast majority of gang members have made their decision. Why? Because they don't want to be saved. Ask any addiction counselor. You can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped and trying to is pointless. No amount of the teacher bending over backwards will save them. And what's the cost of trying to save gang members from their own stupidity?
We have to have metal detectors because gangs bring in guns.
We have to have drug sniffing dogs because the gangs bring in drugs
We have to pay armed security guards because the gangs keep fighting.
We have to pay for cleanup because gangs vandalize everything.
We have to pay for uniforms because someone thinks that making kids dress nice will make them less likely to be gang members (what a laughable idea).
We have to pay teachers extra health insurance because gang members attack them.
And the reverse also applies. How many kids get dragged down by gang members? We don't drag many kids up from the gangs but the gangs drag a lot of kids down.
If we weren't so intent on trying to save gang members from themselves, what could we do with that money? How many more teachers could we hire? How much more could we contribute to our beleaguered special ed budgets? How many more books could we buy? How much more could we do for the kids who want to learn?
Instead we waste it trying to save people who only come to school to harm others and drag other people into the muck with them.
It's time to stop. We need to stand up for the kids who want more for their lives than prison. If that means we have some extra empty desks, so be it. Being a gang member and being a productive member of society are mutually exclusive. We have spent the last thirty years giving Crips, Bloods, Skinheads, etc. chance after chance. It's time to give the kids who want to learn the chance they deserve.