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Brain plasticity and criminality (part 3 of 3)

Posted Apr 09 2009 7:14pm

This is a continuation of my previous two posts: part 1 and part 2

Now, let’s briefly consider the consequences of what it means to set up a child for almost-certain failure in school, how that impacts their successfully following society’s rules at an older age — and how, as a society, we react to their law-breaking.

First, if we were to go to San Quentin or any other prison, city hoosegow or juvenile detention center, we would find that they are chock full of individuals who were not good at/in school. Most inmates are failed readers. A large proportion never complete high school. Moreover, if we were to test them, we would discover that many are detached from the human mainstream, i.e., have psychopathic personalities. They just don’t think of YOU (to them, another anonymous human being living in the neighborhood) in the positive and caring and empathetic way that you might think of THEM (i.e., of any other human being in your neighborhood).

If the 5-year-old arrives at the schoolhouse door set up for failure in school, and especially if they arrive there with already-embedded aggressive behaviors and weak human attachments and little emergent empathy and no significant possibility of growing it, open the prison doors, Martha, because that’s where every 2nd or 3rd such kid is headed.

One observer who has gathered very useful information about the consequences of failure at school is David Boulton, whose “Children of the Code” explains how a child’s behavioral problems are commonly amplified by the child’s growing self-awareness that they’re not good at school. It often takes far longer for a now-older child to clearly understand that they are very poorly prepared to achieve success in the world model that they have constructed in their dreams. “Not only am I not attached to (care very much about) YOU,” says the brain of such a child, “but explain to me why I’m not any good at the things that would assure that I could live in that very nice world that I thought I was destined for.”

We substantially CREATE this problem through our foolishness and neglect. Rather astoundingly, we BLAME these children, ultimately, for their detachment, for their impoverished early lives, for the mythic world view that they we’ve spoon fed them on television and via the business marketing that has penetrated almost every nook and cranny of our ‘world’, for the stresses and punishments and abuses that they had endure in their young lives, for their failures and their disrespectful attitudes in school, and for their lawbreaking when they’re old enough to be good at it. In society’s general view, rather amazingly, IT’S THE KID’S FAULT. With rare exception, we American citizens do not understand that WE’RE just as much or more to blame than the older-age offender is.

Other ‘advanced countries’ do a better job in most of these respects than we Americans do.

I’ll give YOU a few days to reflect on what we Americans COULD do, to improve the lives of our young kids in ways that increase the probability that they would be less likely to rob of assault us. Then we’ll use some examples that apply for other societies, and we’ll reflect again on brain plasticity as an asset to help us determine what we might do, on the short and longer term, to change this dismal picture.

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