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Lesson Plans

Re: Democracy and gangs

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
henry (taylorh)
Sun, 01 Jun 1997 15:05:09 -0700 (MST)

On Sat, 31 May 1997, Lorena Nalin wrote:

> Those who become involved with gangs thrive on the violence and
> intimidation for power.

It would appear that the power of these groups and the effectiveness of
their intimidation is demonstrated when the "ownership" of such symbols
is ceded to the "gangsta".

True story: I had a dog once who, while gnawing on a juicey bone, was
incessantly plagued by flies. In frustration, my pet surrendered. He
stood up, turned and peed on the bone then walked away never looking
back. It was the only thing his doggy brain could come up with.

That bone was an enjoyable thing to that old dog, but the flies took all
the enjoyment away. Not knowing what else to do, he repudiated it,
surrendered it to the flies and walked away. The flies didn't care
whether he peed on it or not. As far as they were concerned their
intimidation worked and they got control of the bone.

Is it a good idea, in the long run, allow symbol after symbol to become
anethma? Do symbols have any significant meaning which we are deprived of
when we turn over all interest in or control over these symbols to
gangstas? I doubt that there many Taoists in the community to lament the
loss of a symbol equivalent to the Christian cross. I imagine that not a
few thespians resent the loss of a symbol that once denoted their craft
and could be worn on a lapel without raising a question or risking life
and limb. Is it a good idea, in the long run? I don't know. I also don't
like it; I just don't have a good answer.

In the short run, the easiest answer has always been to supress everything
associated with a perceived "evil". Sauerkraut, as you may recall was once
renamed "liberty cabbage"... after the war it was ok to say sauerkraut
again. Supression works. (But, did liberty cabbage help win the war?) Is
supression a "good thing"? Is it justified? I don't know. I just don't like

Typically terrorists attempt to develop resentment and disaffection
towards governing bodies through actions which will result in forcing
authorities to establish restrictions on common, assumed, freedoms,
behaviors or symbols. It seems to work often enough to justify the attempt.
Is that intention at work here? Perhaps not the conscious intention.

In many cases, symbols are about identity. Do any of you recall the film
The Dead Poet's Society? In it, the teacher, Mr. Keating, develops class
and personal identity via movement, leading the students in a walking
exercise, encouraging ideosyncratic personal style and establishing a
bonding group identity through the shared experience. The symbol/identity
game can be successfully utilized by teachers.

Schools, as a whole often have an established identity... the Bobcats,
the Falcons, the Titans, what-have-you. Frequently it is a pretty
powerful thing. But is it seen by the students in contrast to gang
identity or are as a supplement to it? Is affiliation in both identities
or is it important to choose?

Students, especially from middle school onwards seem to crave community
identity. Gangs are masters at providing it. What qualities are most
desirable? If teachers and schools saw this as a challenge, what could
they do? Could teachers offer symbols and stories and associations
adequate to the establishment of a youth community or is it a possibility
that only gang leaders can take advantage of?

It's as if Carlos the Jackal is out there trying to recruit the kids in
your class. What he has to offer is a sense of identity, a sense of
community. That's what the kids are "buying". Can you offer anything that
competes with his offer? IF NOT, HE WINS. (Assuming a zero-sum equation
here which may not be strictly accurate.)

Remember too, that Carlos believes in what he is doing. He is often a
"patriot" who is trying to do what his ideology tell him is "best". The
teacher can't fake concern and get away with it. Personal or group
identity is not an "activity."

Centuries of art have been about symbolism, personal and group identity.
It is something the art teacher should know something about. It is a
question that a class can explore. As I said, middle school and up it is
something that many of the students will be exploring on their own or in
class if the opportunity is offered.

There are a bizillion symbols in the naked culture... each of them has a
very real story or sometimes sets of stories to uncover. Students could
just learn about art or they might learn that art is about them.

We could deal with symbols as sonething to fear and censor. We could also
become proactive and deal with symbols as a really interesting and maybe
even vital issue. I don't know what the answer is, but these are a few of
the things I have been thinking about in this regard over the past year
or so.