Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Boy in the Balance

His name is not important, his life is. He just turned fifteen this month. He is a typical boy doing all the typical stuff that boys his age do, awhile back he started to have difficulties in school. He began to act out, being disruptive and talking back to his teachers. We were made aware of this through disciplinary reports from school.  His grades had been slipping and he was falling behind. I thought that he would get extra help and instruction. I thought the behavior problems would stop when he was keeping up again. It can be very traumatic for a child to admit they are having a problem when all the other kids seem to “get it” right away. Instead of coming out and saying “hey wait a minute, I don’t understand” they tend to “act out” instead because a thirteen year old does not have the coping skills of an adult.  Some kids will shut down and just stop trying. It’s the only way they know how to cope. I guess the logic is that if it looks like they just decided to stop doing the work then nobody can pick on them for being “slow or stupid”. Well he just seemed to upset the teachers way too much and started to make a name for himself as a “trouble maker”. He still never got the help he really needed. He started to hang out with other kids who also found themselves in the “trouble maker” category. His best friends were all having some sort of difficulty so, at this point most of the influences he felt were coming from other “troubled children”.
I got a call from the school one day, telling me to come and get my son because he was caught with a joint of marijuana. He was summarily expelled from school for the remainder of the year.  He is allowed to go to a “special” class (well away from any good kids) where they study very little and watch movies and play video games! The nearest I can figure out is that it is more or less a GED preparation class! It seems to me that they are encouraging him to drop out and get out of their school. My wife and I decided that we needed some help and took him to the county social services department to get him the help he needed. We went to drug and alcohol counseling as well, he tested positive for marijuana and nothing else. I was actually pleased that there were no dangerous drugs in his system. I remember doing my very best to overdose on marijuana as a teenager myself! I smoked a really big baggie with my best friend and laughed till my ribs hurt then ate everything in the fridge! I’ve never witness any reefer madness and I don’t know anyone who has. I’ve never seen or heard of anyone ever dying as a direct result of using pot in the fifty years I’ve been around. The same cannot be said for aspirin just to put things in perspective. ( "Conservative calculations estimate that approximately 107,000 patients are hospitalized annually for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)-related gastrointestinal (GI) complications and at least 16,500 NSAID-related deaths occur each year among arthritis patients alone." (Singh Gurkirpal, MD, “Recent Considerations in Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug Gastropathy”, The American Journal of Medicine, July 27, 1998, p. 31S))
My son has had about 8 hours of drug and alcohol treatments (sessions) and has had four clean urine tests. He failed the first two and then, he tested clean twice (one month) then, failed one (two weeks) then, two more clean (another month), he failed the last one.  We have restricted his life a lot and he doesn’t get to go anywhere but some days he gets an hour or two to himself because of our scheduling.  On his last visit to the drug councilor he tested positive for pot. Although his councilor has said that she does not think that he has a drug problem she is still going to recommend that he be removed from his home and sent to an inpatient drug rehab because “he was not being honest with her”. After eight hours of counseling they were unable to turn my child into the perfect young republican so, they have decided to throw in the towel and lock him away in a drug rehab.  I wonder if anyone other than I can see how ridiculous this seems! We have segregated him and labeled him embarrassed and humiliated him. We’ve shown him by example that he is not worthy of our school system or our time and effort. We have forced him into ever smaller groups of struggling kids who also need our help, love and understanding. It reminds me of a drying up puddle of gasping pollywogs. What happens to my child next? What happens when the drug rehab center can’t seem to get him goose stepping to their drum beat? What’s next prison? It’s very likely! Because we have cut him off from all the good influences and pigeon holed him in with other “troubled” teens and destroy any hope in his young mind of ever returning to school with his head held high. He now has no intention of ever going back thanks to the efforts of the school officials. That’s ok; at least they won’t have to deal with him!
My son is not a marijuana addict he is the victim of over reactive officials, teachers and councilors who think they know what’s best. It doesn’t even sound right! Say it to yourself “Marijuana Addict” I’m not sure there is even such a thing. If you are an adult that used to smoke a lot of pot and now you don’t, please tell me about your experience. Was it hard to quit? Were there any withdrawal symptoms? Did you need to seek help? I don’t recall having any difficulty whatsoever! Maybe that is why we never hear the words “marijuana addict”. This drug councilor told me that she didn’t think he had a drug problem yet she wants to send him to a drug rehab. No drug problem, then why rehab? Oh yeah! That’s right she did say “he wasn’t being honest” so yeah send his lying ass to rehab! He was forced to go and talk to somebody he does not know and has no reason for trusting and the PHD can’t figure out why she hasn’t been able to win his confidence, after all she did use her best doctor talk on the boy for grand total of 8 whole one hour sessions!
It just seems to me that if a child has a problem then it is up to the adults to find out what it is. Acting out, cussing, backtalk, drugs, sex and alcohol are all symptoms not the cause. That seems to be all we do in this country is treat symptoms. Why is my child doing these things in the first place? Who the hell cares?  Just get him away from the good kids and force him to behave! This is the answer I get from the teachers, school officials and councilors. This is the best they can come up with? A little common sense goes along way. If a child suddenly starts cutting himself at the age of fourteen we take him to the doctor to find out why but, if a child suddenly starts experimenting with drugs, we punish him and throw him out of school? What is wrong with this picture? I am truly at the end of my rope hanging by a thread. I love my son and wish I could make it all go away, but he is now at the mercy of a bunch of bureaucratic number crunchers that see my son as a statistic. They need to keep their jobs and justify their paychecks by showing the numbers of their successes but, their failures are little human beings who slipped through the cracks. There is no such thing as a bad kid, only bad parents, bad teachers, bad councilors, bad cops and bad judges.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Rules of Engagement

This is a re-post from  my new friend, Bud at 

I think it's brilliant and well thought out advice for all. Feel free to pass it around (just leave a link back giving credit to Dead-logic) there are a lot of people out there who could benefit from a few simple rules, including myself!

Rules of Engagement

I have certain "rules of engagement" I do my best to follow when I am having a conversation, particularly with people who believe something I don't. Keep in mind these are my own personal guidelines, and while I think they are good guidelines, I offer them here only as a suggestion:
1. "Bracket" your judgment. In other words, suspend making judgments about another person's beliefs until you understand it completely.

2. Work hard to understand other people's beliefs completely before offering any criticism.

3. Be able to say their beliefs back to them in their own words. Then you will know you have a complete understanding of their perspective. Furthermore, they will see that you respect them because you've taken the time to learn about them and what they think.

4. Learn the questions they are asking. People are different. The concerns you have, and the issues you feel are important will not always be the same as the concerns others have and the issues others feel are important. We must work to understand other people in order to have a meaningful and productive dialogue with them.

5. Ask yourself those questions they are asking. Everyone exists in a particular context, which means one person's concerns may differ from another's. Addressing such questions can help you see "through their eyes" and strip away the erroneous preconceived notions you might have about them.

6. Be suspicious of labels. Any label a person decides to give herself can cause as much confusion as clarity. Labels, such as "Christian," "atheist," "conservative," "liberal," et al., are meant to help people understand what the person believes, but these labels come with baggage that might not necessarily apply to the individual who has donned the label. Whenever we hear one of these labels, each of us get a different image in our minds of what that label represents, which may or may not represent the person with whom we are speaking. Regardless of what label a person uses, the only way to really understand what she believes is to talk to the person.

7. Question their beliefs. The first six rules of engagement are meant to help a person avoid attacking straw men. At this point critical thinking should be applied to the person's beliefs, swinging the axe of radical criticism through the forest of ideas, to see which will remain standing and which will fall to the force of reason.

8. Let them question your beliefs. This is important. Trust is earned when you are open with them and you make yourself vulnerable by exposing your beliefs for criticism. Also, never forget that you could be wrong, and thinking through your beliefs by having them challenged is both healthy and beneficial.

9. Find common ground. In other words, find areas where you and the other person(s) agree, and build from those points of commonality. Also, when you find common ground, you will see the points of disagreement more distinctly, and thus you will be able to address those concerns more directly.
These rules of engagement are meant to encourage people to become better listeners. As I have said before, to listen is to interpret what is being said; to analyze and critique the material; to interact with the what is being said as one allows the ideas and arguments to ruminate in her head; to allow these ideas to clash with the ideas and arguments to which the listener currently adheres; to put oneself inside the speaker's frame of reference to see the world the way the speaker sees the world and comprehend her paradigm. In short, to listen is to think. Critical thinking implies empathic listening. How is discussion or debate even possible unless both parties understand that about which they are actually in disagreement?

Empathic listening is listening with intent to project oneself into the other person's context (sometimes this is called "projective listening"). The empathic listener tries to "put himself in the speaker’s shoes." This does not mean the listener must agree with what is being said; it means the listener works to place herself within the speaker's frame of reference, so that she may understand the speaker's feelings, her (implicit) reasons for believing what she believes, what led the speaker to adopt her ideas and conclusions, how her culture and background affects the way she perceives the world, how she uses language, et cetera. Empathic listening is the attempt to break out of one's own thought paradigm and enter into another's.

So shut up and listen.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ran-dumb Thoughts

The following are just stupid thoughts I have written down, some are supposed to be funny and some are just supposed to invoke thought. If you are easily offended, I suggest you stop reading this now. If you have absolutely no sense of humor stop reading this now and stick your head in the oven, but don't turn on the gas that would just be stupid.

Money is like a bowl of hot soup; if you don’t blow it, you can’t enjoy it right away.

Some get old and die while looking for the deeper meaning.

If you are not part of the solution, your kinda’ like most everybody really.

If I could do it all over, knowing what I know now, I would have never tried to light a fart!

Belief is like a hospital where people go when they are sick of thinking.

I got half a mind to …uh …umm to …uh what?

Cows have special powers; they can turn a bale of hay into a steaming pile of fertilizer and make milk while warming the planet! What the hell have you dung lately?

If it really takes one to know one, then you could only really know one, and that one is you!

It’s a good thing I got married, I would have never known what a fuck up I am.

Sometimes when I think real hard, I get a sharp pain in my head, so I don't do that much.

I have only one real complaint in life and that is; that some people are way too fragile!

Looking for an honest politician is like diving for chipmunks.

Believing in god makes you moral like; eating bologna sandwiches makes you left handed.

Dogs know how fucked up you are, cats know too, but they are not amused!

If I had a penny for every time I heard someone say “if I had a penny” ...well I guess I'd have a bunch of pennies then wouldn't I?

Income tax is proof that you can enslave a nation, without their consent, and they will be only too happy to let you do it!

If “whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” how would we even know that?

If the religious are good for god, does that means the rest of us are good for nothing?

What does a “crock of shit” sound like? ...and why am I the only one who doesn't know?

If you try to keep an open mind, don't be surprised by what pops in!

If at first you don't succeed, buy her another drink (make it a double).

I’ve been hoping someone would steal my identity, so I can have all my bills forwarded.

If your problem solving skills include “killin' sump'n”, you might be a dumb ass!

My life is like a high speed chase, I know it’s going to end in a horrific crash, but I’m afraid to pull over!

It may take a village to raise a child, but it only takes one child to raise a ruckus.

God had himself tortured and crucified to stop himself from sending me to hell! I don’t want to sound ungrateful but, what the fuck man? It just seems like there may have been an easier way!

I never judge people on the way they look. I may cringe and look away, but that's more of a gut reaction than a judgment.

I think my goldfish is depressed, I have to check the water levels every day to make sure he hasn't been crying.

When I was younger, I barely stood for anything, now I can barely stand anybody and some days, I can barely stand at all.

I wonder if anyone who died in the electric chair ever dreamed of being a great conductor.

If people think that they will be punished for all eternity for being evil, that’s a good thing. If they think they can be forgiven at the 11th hour, that’s a bad thing.

If you let someone treat you like they own you, they do.

According to the most recent surveys; most people don’t read the most recent surveys.

I was sad when I had no shoes until; I meet a man with no clue.

If I could only read one book; it would have to be a book about blankets, because that would pretty much cover everything.

Sometimes I wonder if man has I higher purpose, then I order pizza.

People should be proud of their bodies, unless they have more than one.

I know I’m not contagious, because most people don’t get me.

If people are in such a hurry, why do they waste so much time blowing their horns at me?

You should always try not to be too cavalier about fighting on horseback.

If we could just let our children come up with their own imaginary friends, the world would be a better place to live.