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Youth problem will not self-correct

I know we are all concerned about the recent return of gun violence and gang-related activities. The dilemma reveals the level of hate and insensitivity to life that has overtaken the minds of too many of our young men and women — prompting the deep question of where did all this hate come from in what we once thought of as friendly Bermuda.

I don't know if anyone has done a cross-analysis between the change in our educational system and adoption to middle schools and the trend towards antisocial behaviour.

Unfortunately, the politicisation of educational reform in the early 1990s led to a parting of the ways between families who could afford, even under duress, to educate their children through alternative schooling, whether home school or private. In the process, they abandoned public education, leaving it to those who could not afford private school and depended solely on public education.

Police investigators at the scene of the Robin Hood shootings last week that left two men dead and two others injured (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The change not only affected school-population demographics but also parent-teacher organisations. Good educational systems thrive when the student and parent population has mixed-ability children and a diverse spread of economic class. When school populations lose that critical balance, they begin to suffer and descend towards the lower elements, when previously they had an upward draft because of those who were motivated by parenting.

When young boys miss the formative development that assists their momentum to learn, develop and progress under a curriculum, they retreat into rebellion against school. From 11 to 14 is the perfect year category for young men to become rebellious and even violent. These are years when their testicular hormones are beginning to develop and the lack of parental guidance or a father figure, sport and study all combine as an act to sublimate a tendency towards antisocial behaviour.

It is truthfully an act of “systemic violence against young persons” to leave them without the proper tools of development. They innately feel that violence and act to destroy all societal authority.

If you want to produce rebels, don’t educate them or provide a purpose for living. In days gone by, we always produced some rebels and invariably if one examines their own educational experience, whether elementary or high school, most of the time the rebels that later became known to crime were those who missed the boat and did not progress educationally.

What happens when that becomes the norm, when low achievement is celebrated by the young, who through peer pressure will intimidate anyone who defies the order not to achieve? When bad boy and failure becomes the standard peer pressure being enforced by a young student body?

The horse has left the stable now and we have had at least 20 years of either miseducation or underperformance and an abundance of young men who do not have the educational skill set to fit in, and therefore have created an alternative lifestyle, one that is haunting our community now.

OK, enough said about the problem. The bigger question is what to do with the horses that have left the stable untrained. It was once said Bermuda is too small to solve its own problems, but just big enough to solve the problems of the world. This is a in reality a truth: we are too small to solve this problem on our own.

Back in 2011, I wrote to the Serious Crime Commission led by Randy Horton. I detailed what I termed as an effort to create overseas business operations part-funded by charities to offer opportunities to at-risk young men in different parts of the world. I am sure if any are curious they will find that submission sitting on a shelf in a file gathering dust along with other suggestions.

This idea is not meant as the sole solution and needs to be supported by more comprehensive approaches. It was a remedy to deal with the extreme cases of antisocial behaviour, where we separate rivals and give them an opportunity to become productive individuals and a second chance at life that takes them directly into job and business opportunities overseas.

I used as my case study, 17th-century England, which had a serious problem with an uneducated underclass who became hoodlums on the streets of the cities everywhere. There, those who were not of the aristocratic class had no opportunity to become educated and too few were afforded even an apprenticeship under a trade master, so they resorted to drunkenness and the streets. Many were apprehended, rounded up and put on ships and sent to the New World, where their status became redefined as pioneers and settlers. Thugs were transformed and redefined through relocation, and a utility that was beneficial to a new society.

In a more modern and humane context, society must consider the approaches of 17th-century England with a view to redefining the utility of our young persons who have missed the first opportunity of becoming well-educated, productive new citizens.

Unfortunately, we have a leadership that is aloof from the youth and their problems because leadership's sole focus seems to be partisanship. The only visible strategy is through policing and the criminal justice system — “catch them and lock them up” — which does not address the root of the problem. It should be an indictment that even with a young leadership, there is a complete disconnect and nothing attractive about leadership that would cause the youth to aspire towards them.

It is further problematic when at the highest level there is the same hatred practised against presumed political rivals. Party support takes on the similar characteristics as gang warfare. Politics is not about difference of opinion; it is hatred towards those who have differed. That attitude cascades down and blocks the natural love and respect for persons. Under the existing political paradigm, good behaviour or achievement will be nullified simply because you differ politically.

This youth problem needs specific focus and a blend of philanthropy, business and government, along with some international co-operation to save our young persons. The situation has been allowed to linger with some seemingly strange hope that it will self-correct.

It has only grown worse and, if nothing is done, will get progressively worse and become, if it it hasn't already, a norm. If we can solve our problem, we can in turn be an example to the world and societies faced with similar problems.

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Published November 02, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated November 01, 2021 at 6:18 pm)

Youth problem will not self-correct

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