Saturday, July 3, 2010

Part Two: The Outrageous Remedy

 Part Two of the MeanMesa Series: Albuquerque Youth Corps

This youth problem is too complicated to ever totally solve or even improve.

Just turn it over to the experts, my television show is on.

Regardless of the compelling, tear soaked nature of philosophical or ideological proposals we've adopted as we try to solve this mess, it's time for some unavoidable pragmatism.  We've already sponsored the full cost of every theoretical solution only to see these "promising" new plans crash and burn with a discouraging regularity.

Even more discouraging are the endless, obsessive return trips to this "well of poisoned dreams" and unrealistic thinking.  We New Mexicans have consistently selected solution schemes for this disaster from among a long and inebriating list of synthetic aberrations carefully crafted to place no blame whatsoever on the actual perpetrators of this monstrosity, instead, selecting those schemes which "snatch at feathers" and remain comfortably detached from a colder view of embracing the reality -- and the culpability -- we find before us.

Speaking frankly, it's clear that the parents of these lost souls will do nothing which might be even the least bit painful to rectify this intolerable situation.  That's not to say that someone needn't take action, just that the parents have established themselves as unchangeably uninterested in being that force of change.  These Albuquerque "parents" have staked out their own territory, and that "territory" reveals their incompetence and lack of concern.

So, who or what does that leave on the table?

Fire up the neo-con whining chorus, they should begin shrieking uncontrollably about now.

This city -- and far too much of the rest of American culture -- will simply fail if a solution is not found.   What had once been characterized as a dynamic, productive nation will collapse to being a parcel of real estate, subject to being "incorporated" by other cultures where the young are not discarded by their  selfish, uninformed and the uninterested parents.

Of course, there are many young citizens of Albuquerque who are doing better than the dismal image portrayed here, but the point is, are there enough?  What is the maximum unfavorable ratio of moderately successful children and families compared to those who will never be self-sustaining?  The future we are spelling out here will be populated by "producers" and "consumers."

 What will the ratio be?  Will Albuquerque find it survivable?

Worse, we cannot see much hope for a solution which might be easily borrowed from elsewhere.  When we look at other cities, we see them confronting the same or worse problem that we face here.  Home grown problem or not, it will require a home grown solution.

Replacing Failed Parents With An Emergency Program

Will we construct a "Stalinist Nightmare" right here is River City?  Not necessarily.  On an ever so slightly brighter side, we are rapidly running out of alternatives. 

Here, the shrieking neo-cons can calm themselves into a momentary placidity.  We will need to "privatize" the recovery of the victims.

We can "contract" the rehabilitation of these abandoned young ones.  It might be nicely attractive to propose yet another glitzy, unrealistic theory about correcting the failed parenting, but we haven't really got time to waste on another cul-de-sac of hand wringing ideological whimsy.  These proposals have consistently failed in the past, suggesting that they will be no more workable now than they have been previously.

Comfortable or not, we will have to strike out for results now.

Please consider the prospects of forming the Albuquerque Youth Corps, at least, a well organized pilot program.

The concept is simple enough.  Any teenager who has that sneaking suspicion that his or her life is going no where can sign a contract with the Youth Corps.  When a youth meets the requirements for membership, there will be a weekly payment.

What kind of requirements are we talking about here? Let's look over a few which we might consider the "basic package."

Random drug tests:

A terrifying number of these young people will reach their eighteenth birthday with a criminal drug record.  They view this liability as one of "the quick and the dead."  Those fortunate enough not to get caught for use or possession get to fill out job applications just as if they had never so much as touched the stuff.

The Youth Corps drug testing program represents the affirming side of this "hit or miss" business.  A teenager with a multi-year record of clean drug tests can offer a much more substantial claim to a would be employer -- a claim which, under the current system, can only testify that a job applicant was quick enough and smart enough to not get caught.

Be A Decent Student:

A Youth Corps contract will require that a teenager attend school when he or she is supposed to attend school.  The contract will further require that behavior and comportment at school be clear of any egregious mistakes.  This part of the contract cannot be satisfied by a student arriving late or falling asleep in class.

It should not be too hard to determine whether or not a student's scholastic efforts will actually result in graduation.  The contract requires that students make a continuing effort to graduate from high school.

Actual good grades can augment the amount of pay one might receive under the "basic package," but they can be considered an "extra," that is, "moving ahead."  The "basic package" only requires good attendance and generally good behavior.

It represents a major step forward when we look at what's occurring now.

One Full Day of Work Every Week

Albuquerque is "underwater" with city work which we can't afford.  The reason we can't afford it arises from the wage rates we pay city employees.  Introducing a large work force at a much lower rate can turn the tide on many city projects which now seem to be simply out of reach for our budget.

There are houses and buildings to be weatherized.  There are parks to be cleaned and improved.  There are bike lanes obscured with too much brush.  There is an abundance of trash to collect.  Every high school in the city has a few "favorite projects" which can't fit into its budget. 

Youth Corps "contractors" working one day a week on Saturday can amount to a massive reservoir of available labor.  The youth involved in these projects can learn a little work ethic and take home enough money to make shop lifting and drug dealing a little less attractive.

The "construction sign" on that renovated school ground might say:

Youth Corps Muscle and Energy 
for the City of Albuquerque
We Care!

Be A Law Abiding Citizen

The prospect of a judge sending a note to the Youth Corps every time a young person is convicted may not be as gaseous as one might first imagine.  Teenagers know the difference between legal and illegal.  Part of a contract with the Youth Corps would require that there be no felonies, violence or serious anti-social behavior resulting in a court conviction.

One of the greatest -- and most destructive -- myths of the modern city of Albuquerque is what is called the "correctional system."  A special branch of the "correctional system," operated, of course, by still more experts is the Juvenile Detention Center.  It houses was is presented as a correctional and educational facility where Albuquerque's youthful offenders are sent for "rehabilitation."

This effort actually produces a small number of what are considered "success stories," along with a far greater number of, well, "not so successful stories."

It has become exhausting to continue to believe that this expensive and ineffective approach is the "best that we can do."  It is a disaster thinly protected at this late stage only by the not so convincing chorus of the experts.

The point here is that huge numbers of Albuquerque's young people are funneled through this mish mash into the "correctional system" after their age and inclinations ripen further.

This failed approach is clearly accomplishing nothing more than assuring a future "career opportunity" for the remarkably uninspired prison guard union.  It is not a solution to what is presently happening -- for starters, it enters the scene far too late!  Raising the youth of tomorrow has been a "damage control" project long enough.

The Albuquerque Youth Corps, on the other hand, enters the scene early enough to "bend the curve."  It's time to take control of this job away from parents who are too busy -- and too selfish -- to be responsible.

Right here, the neo-con shrieking choir can pipe up another "belch fest."  While they continue to fumble around in their inebriating ideology, the city has to start producing better results!

We have discussed the "basic package" of a young person's contract with the Youth Corps.  In the final section of this posting, we will consider what possibilities lie beyond the "basic package," how to pay for the effort, who might lead it and how it might be organized.

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