Monday, April 15, 2024

Chained youths

It is unfortunate that in Naga society today most people thinks of our young people either as thugs, users or victims. As thugs they steal cars, vandalize public properties, attack others and disrupt classrooms. As users they take drugs, drink and smoke, get pregnant and, hedonistically, care only for themselves. And as victims they can’t find work, receive poor schooling and are brought up in dysfunctional families. But the fact is that many of these troublesome behaviours associated in this way with young people are not uniquely theirs. But such association does indicate that truancy may indeed be a ‘youth problem’. After all to be a truant one must be absent from school. However, if it is more correctly seen as absenteeism (unauthorized absence from work), then it becomes merely another example of a phenomenon that crosses ages, classes and backgrounds. Likewise, the classic linking of youth as thugs does not make sense when we examine the profile of those appearing in court for such related offences. Yet a view of ‘youth as a problem’ continues to drive policy discussion and is linked to notions of social exclusion. Certain groups of young people are seen in deficit, as a problem, and the answer to this behaviour is to impose more control on the one hand, and, on the other, to direct remedial resources and interventions at those deemed to be in need. Take for instance over controlling by parents. It has been said that over controlling parents are more hazardous and toxic than any poison contaminating child’s food. Children who have controlling parents are at a higher risk for certain mental and psychological problems. Depressions, anxiety and suicides are undoubtedly the visible outcomes for the same. Not having freedom to express themselves, to nourish the skills they have, to have a discussion with parents and to feel aloof all the time, directly or indirectly, contribute to the deterioration of their mental health. Controlling parents constrain, invalidate and make kids every time emotionally dependent on them. Such parents are often recognized by being overprotective, possessive and commanding to their children. Indeed the perception of youth as a threat has produced a range of policy initiatives concerned with extending control and management. While some have involved increased surveillance, the use of continuous assessment has also narrowed the curriculum, enabling closer monitoring of what they are allowed, and not allowed, to learn. This new authoritarianism can also be recognized in increased levels of incarceration. Schools and colleges have today become fortresses surrounded by fences. While this is often justified in terms of keeping danger out, more often than not it is employed to keep young people in. It is obvious that there has been an increased emphasis on control within education and training. When we turn to the nature of the curriculum one can see these trends represented in more subtle forms. Isn’t there other way of educating the youth? Wouldn’t it be better if children and young people were taught to control themselves rather than having to spend money on costly external constraints? Thinking up schemes so that young people are forced to develop less anti-social forms of behaviour would be a better course of action. Targeting specific activities and employing programmes to promote ‘healthier’ practices would be a better option. This is not an argument against a concern with control, because communities require ways of curbing anti-social behaviours if they are to be placed where people can flourish. Individual young people do sometimes behave as thugs, users or victims, but it is not the young who solely need to be restrained. There can be no acceptable reason for controlling people on the grounds of their age any more than on the basis of their race or gender. It is even unacceptable to restrict the movements of young people and children on account that they are in greater risk of becoming victims. Rather those who perpetrate the crimes should lose their freedom, not the potential victims. Overall our interest in control must always be balanced with a concern for democracy and justice