I know some people will read the title from this and from the first part as a recrimination of sorts toward a group of people. Not at all and not so. For those of you who must know, it is poetic license or “the catch phrase” or the “hook.” In advertising, it would be the “come on.” So let’s debunk any negative connotations and let’s go back some 25 years to when I first started at AES. I loved all my students there, each and every one of them. I didn’t like them all, by any means, but I loved them all. Even as a Dean, where I met the kids who did bad things, I loved those kids too, each and every one of them.
Now let’s clear up bad things. By bad things I don’t mean cut Keller’s class because he was too tough, and I don’t mean cut class at all, even though I don’t advocate or condone cutting classes. By bad things I mean bully, demean, take advantage of other students, smoke dope, drink, you know, and even these things are on the not-so-bad side of the bad range. By bad I mean more like rob, rob with a gun, beat up wantonly, beat up wantonly as part of a gang, etc. etc. etc., the things we all know are bad and criminal.
Many stories like that latter definition of bad come to mind, but those are for another time, maybe. For now I want to relate a story about our Senior Trip in 1997 when we went to Universal Studios, Daytona and Sea World by bus from the Bronx, a group of all African American and Latino kids. The first night in the motel some of the kids wanted to go to the pool so a few of the chaperones went with the group of kids, maybe thirty of them.
Throughout my whole teaching career in the Bronx, I went on countless trips with our kids, many of them overnights and many of them not. One thing I noted early on that remained a constant was that our kids became demure and shy when taken outside their everyday surroundings and into new places. Even a trip from the Bronx to somewhere in Manhattan changed their individual and group personalities from mostly unabashed to mostly shy. Of course this does not speak to individuals per se, but as a group, and this was a truism for most of the kids over the years.
At the pool was another group of kids, not of our demographics and I won’t say more than that. This group was wild and crazy and disturbing the guests of the motel, the families who had come with their children and were at the pool. They threw their things everywhere, made a mess everywhere, dominated the pool and the lounge chairs, were loud and cursed up a storm in front of the little children. The big boys scared the little children, messed with the girls in their group in ways that shouldn’t happen in public and did much more.
All the guests that were the families seemed to think this was kind of okay, just kids having fun. I had come to the pool a little after my group of kids and sat quietly in a lounge and watched all this. I also watched my kids, who were quiet and laid back, as they swam and had fun as a group in the pool and out, away from the families and particularly away from the other group. Because I had come a little after my kids and I am not their color, the guests couldn’t know I was with them. Consequently, I was privy to some nasty remarks made about them simply because of their demographics. They were actually being very good and by comparison to that other group they were being angels, yet they were disparaged, the subjects of finger-pointing scrutiny.
This entry is about context, to put context to many things at work in our society and to put context to the title of this entry and the one before it. Bad kids? No. Kids.
I saw this phenomenon once before at Ohio State University, go Bucks! One of the years I was there they beat Michigan for the Rose Bowl, and the fans, the kids, if you will, had a loud drunken party on High Street (that really is the name of the street that borders the campus on the north side and runs through Columbus as a main street), doing more than ten thousand dollars worth of damage to police cruisers and store windows. Even the cops stood on top of their cruisers and shot their guns in the air. The next morning, the mayor, ME Sensenbrenner, commented for the news and newspapers that it was just all American kids having fun. But when civil rights/anti-war protests took place, with no real rowdiness and no real damage (this before the famous riot where martial law had to be put in place), the same kids were animals, wild beasts, and the finger-pointing was rampant. Same thing different time.
My “bad kids” were great kids. And by the way, the FBI and undercover cops started that famous anti-war riot that led to the Kent State Shootings. Check it out in the old newspapers if you don’t want to believe someone who saw it firsthand.