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The Best Defense Is An Offense

Reports of inappropriate relations with children seem to be on the rise these days.  Why is that?  The more hopeful explanation is that children (and their parents) are savvier and have more ease discussing such issues than those who came before them.  This would suggest that incidents have not increased, but the reporting of them has.  The more frightening explanation however is that more troubled and/or very immature adults are around our children now.

Pedophilia is not the only classification, as it is all boundary crossing behavior we are discussing.  An adult, in a position of authority, who treats a child as an adult is on a slippery slope and is shirking their duties and responsibilities.  A teacher befriending a child is not necessarily a cause for alarm, it can be though if the teacher is immature and doesn’t embrace his/her role as an authority figure.  A sport coach or scout leader who takes a special interest in one or two children may also cause concern.  This is not a ‘boogie man’ “the sky is falling” call to arms.  It has always been the case that we need to keep a critical eye on adults who choose to spend time with children.

A physical relationship with a child has no shades of gray.  It is inexcusable and intolerable and we should be doing far more to prevent its occurrence.  We can not send children to school or camp, wrapped in armor.  Instilling them with a fear of adults is a huge disservice and ineffective (as some abuse is at the hands of other children or teenagers.)  But there are things we can do.

  • We can make our children strong
    • A child with strong self-esteem is less likely to be singled out for attention
    • A child should know how to stand up and say in a loud clear voice; “NO”
    • A child with an empathetic and loving adult in their lives, who spends time with them and is available emotionally is far less likely to respond to the adult attention
  • All employees need to be screened
    • Psychological tests must be given to all employees whose majority of work involves children
    • Medical professionals, teachers, coaches, school bus drivers, custodial staff need all be screened
    • Testing will measure two different outcomes; pedophilia and maturity
      • A cut-off point for maturity would need consensus but any indication of pedophilia would reject a candidate from the pool

Corporations screen applicants all the time.   We already enforce tests for many professions.  You can’t (legally) work in a kitchen until you’ve passed the health and safety test.  The school bus driver has a special license to get behind the wheel.   A clinically designed psychological test should not be seen as an infringement but as a requirement.  Is it uncomfortable to consider a doctor or a dentist inappropriately touching a child?  Absolutely.  Does anyone want to consider how many people go into child-centric professions because of their psychological flaws?  Heavens no.  But ignoring it won’t make it go away.  That’s what children think.  The first step to really protecting our children is to act like adults.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2012 in Childhood

 

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Testing To Teach

If you just landed here from Mars, you would be convinced that schools have become sheltered workshops for sex offenders.  Every day there’s a new story of not just one individual accused of mistreating a child, but of entire schools infested with abusers.  “What in the world,” says the Martian, “is going on?”

Twenty or so years ago, these stories were much less frequent.  To be fair, we should attribute some portion of the increased reports to awareness on the part of children and the thirst of sprawling media.  But surely that can’t account for the ubiquity of these incidents.

Pedophilia is a pretty specific condition.  I’m not willing to suggest that every person who has abused a child is in fact a pedophile.  But most likely they all do share one very strong trait.  They like children.  A lot.  They are far more comfortable with children than adults.  They are uncomfortable with their adult selves.  Their social circles (if they exist) are limited and mostly center around child-centric events.  It is no wonder that these men and women are attracted to a professional in which children outnumber adults by a wide margin.

Without diminishing for a moment the severe and debilitating effect abuse has on children, I suggest that if there is an increase in child abuse, it is the result of an infantalized society.  There are endless degrees of immaturity of course.  At its most innocuous, these child/adults are wearing baseball caps as chapeaus.  But at its worst…

I’m not sure our entire culture can wake up and smell the (non-whipped cream/foam topped) adult coffee, and embrace what is rightfully and wonderfully theirs.  But certainly what we can do is insist that every employee working with children have a psychological test.  Schools love tests.  A minimum screening is the very least we can do.  It does not impinge upon anyone’s civil rights to determine if they are suitable for a job based on their disposition.  There is nothing inherently sinister about working with children, but there is something alarming about preferring their company.  Wringing our hands and being alarmed is an appropriate first response.  But adults step up and take action to protect the most vulnerable members of society.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2012 in Childhood, Education

 

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