Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

London Calling

London has finally managed, more or less, to put an end to three nights of rioting which has also spread to other cities. The cause of the rioting is not specifically known. From across the pond, I think the reason for the rioting is not hard to discern. Teenagers have seen a massive economic collapse, their futures effectively taken away from them (in the short timeframe of youth) and nobody has yet paid for it. A kid who was 14 in 2007 saw a crash when he was 15 and is now trying to get a job at 18, with none available. This is not a specific riot over a specific thing. It is the result of an alienated and disaffected generation that is angry at society at large and sees nothing in government, church, or school that would connect them to civil society. The best analogy is to California hills in recent years that are full of unburnt fuel (trees and brush) from years of bad forest management, bone dry and ready to ignite.

Eventually, there was bound to be some violence in response to what I would call the economic violence perpetrated by bankers against the middle classes of the developed world. In London, it appears to be low scale rioting by kids. In the USA, it is taking on the darker hues of the Tea Party, a group not dissimilar to emotional teenage rioting but much more dangerous. Or random violence such as the shootings in Tucson last January. As I said to people two weeks ago, the main desire of Tea Partiers was to see an actual default by the Federal Government and the chaos that would follow: "Burn, baby, burn!" There will be blood. This was to be expected. Lucky London that it is all so mild and juvenile. Greece has not been so lucky.


Raised By Republicans said...

The draconian austerity program being implemented in the UK right now is hard to keep separate from these riots. While there are no organized demonstrations going along with the riots to make the link direct and obvious, I think if there economic options for more young people in urban Britain, we wouldn't be seeing this.

It's a fairly well established observation that when economic conditions get worse, crime gets worse. So even if we say that the riots are nothing more than criminals on a rampage, there is still a connection to economic consequences of Tory policies.

USWest said...

I just had my dinning room floor redone. The artisan who did the work told me that he hasn't taken on any new apprentices in 5 years. He saw the crash coming, and got ready.

All the people who work for him are grey haired- most have been with him for 30 years. As he pointed out, there is a lost generation to the crafts. He said that many of them started as apprentices, some of them he had to father a bit, and they cleaned up and turned out right. He's right. The U.S. education system is geared to sending everyone to college rather than preparing less academically inclined students with solid skills that will set them up for craft work, auto mechanics, plumbing, electrician,etc. We can't expect to export our way out of our current mess or continue to say that we can have an "information economy".

To the extent that this is analogous to the edu system in the UK, I would say that we are forcing youth to stay children for too long. Kids want to be important, to do something- be given responsibility and a stake in their community. If society doesn't direct that energy into constructive pursuits, if it expects all these youth to be happy playing video games and hanging out at leisure centers, the riots will happen. I have heard British parents complain that "there is nothing for the kids to do". I think this lack of constructive activity and direction is what they mean. The British Prime Minister is being too facile to say it's mindless thugs. There is a bigger social problem there. And thus, I agree with LTG- it's at the root of anger and isolation.

I am not convinced that the UK is setting up systems to guide youth on the path to rewarding careers any better than the U.S. is. So, my question: how long before we see riots here?

As for my floor guy, he told me that if he had to name a class of people that were his best workers, he'd say people with "learning disabilities". The reason he gives is that they aren't dumb, but they have been treated that way in school. Working for him gives them positive reinforcement- customers are happy with the work, the boss congratulates them, and they want to work more and harder. I think that is an interesting and valid observation. We need to think about tracking. We do it informally anyway. We put the Academic students into honors classes and give the average and below averages students substandard education that doesn't fit their skills. We might as well formalize this so that kids & parents start making smart decisions about life earlier. The beauty about America is that unlike Europe, no one is ever stuck. We can always go back to school and start over in new careers. But to do that, our kids have to start out somewhere.

The UK is reaping what it has sown. They can lock these kids up, give them prison records and the like, but it isn't going to solve the bigger problem. The US should take heed.

Ms. Milk Run said...

I am always a little concerned about the idea of tracking, as I was mis-tracked for most of my childhood and was horribly bored in school (more so than the average reasonably bright kid). I wouldn't have been re-tracked without pushy parents, either.

Germany has a system of heavy early tracking, and apparently it tends to ensure that kids wind up with the same level of education as their parents. Bright kids from working-class backgrounds get shunted to non-university tracks, even when they could handle gymnasium.

That said, I think the idea that everyone should go to college or the same kind of college needs to be updated. A friend of mine with serious learning disabilities was lucky enough to go to a vocational high school and got a cosmetology license. She couldn't have handled the amount of reading necessary for a four-year college. As hair always grows, she has pretty stable job prospects.

I was surprised to learn in the coverage of the riots that you can leave school in England at 16. While I am sure there are kids who have absolutely no interest in finishing school, it seems like a pretty young age to finish your education (even if you aren't planning on university). Is this the norm in other countries? Or here?

-Seventh Sister

USwest said...

The "tracking" debate has gone on and off here in the US.

The main problem with tracking in Europe is that once tracked, it's really hard to break out. After a certain age, you aren't allowed to go to college or university. The other argument is that in Europe, kids are expected to make a decision about their career at the age of 12.

In the US, the system wouldn't be that rigid. Here, you can always change. You can always go back to school. And I'd say that you start your tracking at 14 or 15 (High school) instead of Jr. high. I think with some adaptation, it could work. What we are doing now just isn't working. We over diagnose "learning disabilities". Schools get extra money for kids with the label. And often, I think it's because these kids just don't fit into the expected mold. That has to stop.

In the state of California, you aren't allowed to hold a job until the age of 16, unless it's like a paper boy. Under certain conditions, children can be emancipated as early as 14.

Raised By Republicans said...

We used to do tracking in many districts in the US. It was badly corrupted along racial and class lines. School counselors would interview 13 year olds prior to entering high school and basically ask them what their parents did for a living. If Daddy was a doctor or lawyer or some sort of professional (and white), the kid would be tracked to the college prep line.

I have a cousin who was tracked into vo-tech because of some behavioral "acting out" back in the 70s and it probably contributed to his unhappy life. Rather than dealing with the issues he was working through, they simply dumped into the shop classes and forgot about him.

Providing viable vo-tech options is great. But I would seriously hope that - like many systems in Europe - it would be largely if not completely voluntary.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I don't think the riots are related to the austerity except for the fact that the austerity measures confirm the sense of alienation among the youth. All they know of government is that it's taking things away when they're already down. But the riots are not in any way a protest against these measures, I don't think. I doubt the youth even know what the measures are, except that they are not helpful.