For those of you who know me, and some of you who don’t: I’m Eli, I work at a Behavioral Health Facility.I work with kids with behavior problems, some kids with specifically mental health issues, and lots of kids with trauma and post-traumatic stress or drug related problems as well as abuse and family issues.
I see issues on a daily basis.
Believe it or not, having worked at my job for the past 9 months, with only anecdotal observation: Kids with fundamentalist parents fare worse in terms of emotional stability and openness to change. Sometimes, we get a kid with behavioral issues who then hides behind this undying vow to serve God and is at one minute cursing and kicking and punching people and sometimes within the same breath is preaching hellfire, brimstone and eternal damnation. Fundamentalism is based on extreme polarization, so the children raised with a fundamentalist worldview simply demonize and caricature those who confront them and hide behind self-justification.
My Friend Elizabeth Esther posted something the other day that prompted me to respond in kind with my observations, as well as some general facts from the field of mental/behavioral health, where I work. She said,
“What really troubles me is the underlying belief that breaking a child’s will is right and good. This is a belief found in many, many Christian circles. In my experience, that one belief was used as justification for all kinds of physical and spiritual abuse.”
The ‘Us Vs. Them’ mentality is an all too prevalent feature among parents who have become too lazy to listen, too busy to pay attention, or too emotionally blunted to respond in kind. Now, that’s not to say the children are faultless, because they’re not. But more often than not, it’s either ignorance or neglect that causes issues in the kids I work with when it’s not direct abuse. Setting yourself up as a person intent on “breaking the child,” or “breaking their will” as you would a horse only furthers the sense of alienation that likely exists between a parent and child if the child is acting out.
People come in all the time thinking that at the end of the day what the kid needs is a good ol’ fashioned whoopin’ to set ’em straight. I’m not here to argue whether corporal punishment works with some kids better than others, but I am here to offer this: I personally believe and am part of a treatment program that is modeled on the idea that relationship building is the most effective means of correcting behavior.
People expect behaving children to act robotic in their responses, or at least it seems that way to me. What I’ve developed on the unit I work on is an ongoing conversation with people, young people, but people nonetheless. The answer is rarely found in strict disciplinary measures, or trying to break a kid down, sometimes it takes that strict discipline to create a sense of safety and consistency, but the discipline itself is only a means to that common ground.
1984 was a novel, and should never be considered a way of life, especially when it comes to proper parenting (Though, sadly,I encounter this all too often). An ongoing conversation treats the child like a dialogue partner and asks them to assert responsibility for their actions and responses even as I engage to relate and join them where they are, so that I can follow them to where it hurts before I lead them out into a new horizon.
So, here’s the deal.
If you’re a drill sergeant parent who has an oppositional/defiant child at home my question is:
When’s the last time you really stopped to listen? When is the last time you showed your child a caring ear, and that you’re trying to understand their feelings?
Pope Benedict XVI Says:
Love when it truly meets us, reorients our lives, our very selves in a new and unfathomable direction. It could not have previously been known, nor could it have been anticipated by anything that has come before, it asserts itself by virtue of its own self-disclosure.
I know that on my unit, the best progress has come through a mixture of limit-setting, as well as a general trying to understand kids based on the principles of Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy. The idea is that building a relationship is far more important in the long term than making sure you get your way.
So here are a few small things you can do when communicating to a child who needs someone to listen, or respond.
- Pay Attention: I can’t stress this enough. Read body language, look at the child’s face and eyes, are they playful, are htey happy, is there any tension in their expression or body language? What is the tone like?
- Focus on your non-verbal responses: Are you communicating attention by having an open demeanor and making eye contact? are you really letting the child express what they have to say, or are you pre-formulating your repsonses. Even if you’re intelligent enough to predict what the child is bringing to the table, wait until they are finished before you start speaking, and let them see you think a bit as your response develops.
- Match their tone and expression: Sometimes, kids just need to know that someone gets it. Sometimes when I have a screaming kid in front of me who appears to want nothing more than to scream and shout, I get excited with them. I may not scream but i’ll raise my voice and try to match the rate at which they are speaking to let them know I’m on their level in a non-threatening way.
- Avoid Power Struggles: When you need to impose discipline for a teenager, or even a youngster flirting with rebellion, avoid turning it into a a massive struggle for dominance. If the kid is going to buck you and buck you, find out why they’re doing it. Get inside their head. Try to listen and see. Sometimes kids act spoiled and are needy, sometimes they might need a hug, or a time out. Figure out what works best for your child, and repair the relationship with your child as soon as possible, try to make conflict a small thing, and push past their defenses to get to the heart of the matter.
- Are you affirming the child? Even if you disagree with the feeling, are you allowing room for the child to feel that way and to express their feeling? Are you trying to “step into their shoes?” We call this process “join, and follow to lead.” When a kid I’m dealing with is escalated, the best thing to do sometimes is join them, and see what I can do to show them someone cares. If they’re throwing things, I won’t throw things, but I’ll do something high-energy like dance, or do jumping jacks, or laps around them, to show them that someone is on their level and understands their need to respond to their emotions in a high energy way.
- All You Need is Love: This may seem really technical, but it’s really just a way of showing love. As I engage the child by matching their energy and intensity and demonstrating listening that asks kids: 1. How they Feel. 2. What they want. and 3. What they’re willing to do to. 4. Examines how acting out isn’t working and shows the child alternatives; then it’s all about making sure you’re really there for the child, and willing to offer them a love that surprises them.
As money tightens, and people look up alternative solutions to increasing debt at the hands of student loans, it’s important to ask if the university system is going the way of the dinosaur. Is the university system the best model for learning? And if so, what will it take to make it economically viable so that talent can match job production?
Last night I was reading this article about how in the music market genius has overtaken the industry’s ability to produce jobs. I mean, think about it, if you like Indie bands, like I do, you can choose from 40-50 acts off the top of your head, each more obscure, underground and wildly talented than the last. Even as research bemoans the death of the academy and scholars everywhere are feeling the crunch as tuition gets higher, drop-outs increase and jobs for people with master’s degrees in English, History or Philosophy become harder and harder to find, maybe it’s time we question the way that thee areas of work are still committed to the Industrial age, in a digital world.
Opportunities from higher education are not expanding with the rate of education and talent. For example, the market is flooded with more written material than has ever been possible and with digital media there is nothing short of exponential growth. However, due to this mass flooding, the general rate of quality is decreased and so we see fewer and fewer works that stand a cut above. There is also the problem of how research papers and theses are largely ignored in the outside world. The Academy is no longer the central hub of learning in the public sphere.
People want ideas, and they want them now.
Of course the academic community contributes to public learning, however, with movements like TED talks there is a wider access to education and innovation, but the difficulty is that despite the proliferation of innovation and the rapidly increasing rate of technological development, the market and the university have ceased to relate almost entirely in terms of research and expansion leading to new industries except for in the fields of chemistry, engineering, electronics/technology and biology. Even in these places where the academy meets the road in a very public way, the ability of these institutions to generate innovation that leads to employment is minimal compared to the industrial revolution.
Here are 10 Things Every Parent Should Know About the Ivy League which originally appeared in Time Magazine and was later re-published by Reader’s Digest. Claudia Dreifus and Andrew Hacker provide the following advice about Ivy League schools: Don’t do it. Research Universities are often more enabled and empowered by publishing and their graduate programs than their undergraduate achievements. The rule seems to be that culture and technology are changing very quickly and that educational institutions are not, making the university system unnecessary for career advancement for those able to ride the waves of new technology and become Social media Entrepreneurs, or Android App developers, or any other of the new careers that were unthinkable even 20 years ago.
Is university the game-changer it used to be? Consensus seems to be: No.
I mean, don’t get me wrong the University spawned Google, Facebook, and the ideas that would lead to the personal computer, but the University has not made game-changing decisions since the computer, and cultural respect for education is on the decline. It seems we need some good ideas to solve some of these glaring problems, that’s why I propose we look at the following:
The important question is not really whether the University is viable as an educational institution. It’s a good distraction and removes our attention from the one that’s truly important: What we are willing to do to apply the University educational system to the needs of the world today? What are we doing to make the knowledge acquired at universities economically viable so that the middle class is not crushed under student loans or a decreasing job market?
If we want to save the university from obsolescence what should we do?
Here are my 5 ideas.
- Specialize in Skills Education:
Skills and not general ideas will be the way of the future, and our education system should match. When people have a wide skill base they can generate more ideas based on what they know. The thing that fueled so much innovation for the industrial revolution was not simply the power of a few inventions but the widespread ethos of work and the openness of the culture to bridge gaps and embrace new skills for the future.The culture was shocked by the new technologies, but it made due, and adapted. Our current culture is reticent to join the innovators on the edge, we love our iPhones, but refuse to let the new media become the way of the future in our educational systems. Instead of focusing on fact collection, we should foster education that teaches things like: social intelligence, new media interaction, arts and crafts, business management, ethics, and literature. All of these systems should foster measurable, tangible goals for students to reach to demonstrate proficiency.
An example would be: Use demonstrable critical thinking skills, be able to synthesize a coherent logical argument within 15 minutes of being presented source material of up to 10 pages to read.Skills and not simply the acquisition of information has been and will continue to be the way of the future. But all this has to begin in grade school, with a new educational criteria simple dubbed Digital Literacy. Kids need access to the tools of today if they’re supposed to dream up the ideas that save the world of tomorrow. Let’s ditch the polish, the pomp and get back to work, making education that suits the needs of a world not yet here.
- Ditch the Bureaucracy:
It’s funny to me that educated people across the globe paying attention to the financial crisis are calling for austerity measures in Greece, Cyprus and France, yet refuse to acknowledge the bloated universities that reflect the financial markets of the Eurozone. Monkey see, monkey do. Austerity shouldn’t be a buzzword for capital gains only, it needs to take hold in our education system as well.A huge part of college funding goes to administration needs, and in this day and age, the university is bloated with unnecessary departments entire projects that seem to exist for the sheer purpose of letting people with degrees hobble within the institution that should have turned them into innovators instead of grave-keepers. Instead of a complex system of administration, return the university to an institution where teachers are key, and teacher salaries equal those of “administrators” who in many cases are not doing much for individual students. They may be helping to sustain an institution, but those jobs can be consolidated, streamlined and directed more towards direct student care and retention than recruiting and expanding new bureaucratic departments.
Structure the pay-grades at universities to reflect what really matters: education. Educators and not administrators should be the highest paid workers of these institutions, and pretending otherwise is just snubbing the way of the future.
Make teachers the majority, turn the University into a vox populi, and reduce administration to bare bones efficiency. It’s a dream job for some people to be working at a university making six figures to do paperwork, but it’s unrealistic in this culture and financial climate, and it simply has to stop. Communications directors, sports analysts, consultants and all the other information age peddling-pencil-pushers that this society has spawned are part of what’s killing the University.
Another thing that has to stop that’s related to the bureaucratic machinations of the educational system is paperwork. We need to find a way to streamline, digitize, and reduce the amount of paperwork that’s being done. Teachers should be teaching. Having close friends who are professors I see the amount of extra paperwork that the current system requires of them, and I think it’s absurd. Teachers should be providing education, moral support, skills based education and camaraderie in a mentoring relationship that fosters the next generation with role models that exemplify some of the best that culture has to offer eager minds. Teachers can’t do that if in their 40 hour work week, 20 of those hours are dedicated to paperwork, administrative emails and non-education related tasks.If we want education that matters, we need educators that do just that, educate.
The university should be a breeding ground for innovation and universities could invest more money in labs, extracurricular activities such as open experiments, green technology innovation centers, student think-tanks, cultural integration investment (to turn students paying money into job-holding future re-investors), art studios open to all students, photography labs, student centers that not only encourage leisure but also curiosity and make available the new technologies that make it possible. Once upon a time, the University system invented the computer, made possible the need for new technologies and stood at the forefront of those projects. I think if we all took a little time to invest in group founding spaces that invite interdisciplinary discussion and innovation like TED talks, the university might be able to survive extinction.
- End Standardized Testing:
The GRE and other standardized college exams are huge money-makers, but the thing is, they’re too general. How is it that a philosophy student and a history student are expected to meet all the same general criteria? Standardized tests are easy to make, but hard to really get results out of, instead each discipline or inter-disciplinary study should develop tests that fit a criteria agreed upon by the academy, subject to change and refining and open to discussion by the whole of academia.Standardized testing does nothing to prove a student’s proficiency, instead, we should develop tests across all levels of education that demonstrate skills, not fact retention. The mind is a muscle made for skills, and unless we get with the program, we’re going to be left behind.
This is where I might be getting a little wild in my thinking, but here’s the concept: Interdisciplinary studies are the way of the future, if someone wants to take English as a major, encourage an English course that has some interdisciplinary benefit to society as a whole. Do away with English as a major and instead offer things like: English for the Third World, or Literary Theory and Psychology. In doing so, you create an educational system that ties our general studies like English with education for developing countries or with psychological practice. We should take our finely honed traditional majors and connect them with places that will generate jobs and new markets in the world to come. Imagine: Philosophy for Green Technology, a series of courses designed to teach both classical philosophy and the applicability of those studies to environmentally friendly technological development.
Go Online: Build a strong online base that allows for both traditional classroom learning and online classwork that can be managed by fewer staff, for a cheaper cost and can actually increase the amount of time students get to spend with teachers via blogs, email, twitter, research journals, online magazines and other digital media. Taking textbooks to Kindle, Nook or other e-book readers can also reduce costs, and if the books can be read online by multiple students through a comprehensive online library then fewer books will be required, but the information will be the same.Go Public: Another method of decentralization that could save the university is to take Higher Education fully public, and make it tax-funded. This is a long term idea, but merit, prowess and innovation should be rewarded, not simply being born into the right class or family. If we took Higher Education fully public, anyone could go to college and we could raise the standard of education across the board, while creating a system that would have stricter standards.However, I’m not saying let the government run higher education. Keep it private, let the institutions run the way they’re running, but with higher standards.
The Government could create a list of criteria for full federal funding of all tuition, and let the institutions worry about fundraising. Put the money in the hands of students, and raise the standard so that anything below a B average has to receive private funding instead. Putting tuition directly into the hands of students, with a $60,000 grant to attend college provided the student has maintained a B average could make for war with the banks and other institutions that don’t want to lose student loans as a source of income, but in the long run, do we want a better society, or simply a cheaper school system?
Making a grant system that bases your tuition grants on merit rather than income would reduce the drop-out rate, retain the best and the brightest, and facilitate making sure the most innovative students have the financial capability to meet the needs of a changing world. This wouldn’t altogether eliminate the need for student loans but could drastically reduce the necessity for upwards of $50,000 average debt for college graduates.
- Innovate According to Logic: The best and brightest schools of today, who wish to take practical steps to retain viability and existence as the world changes will do the following:
- Build a strong online curriculum able to be managed more efficiently, by a smaller staff.
- Retain a traditional university presence where classes can combine the best of online and traditional classroom education.
- Focus on Undergraduate Studies as a prime factor and avoid tuition hikes.
- Enforce Austerity measures on non-essentials and begin to specialize the scholarship types they would like to perform.
- Develop larger of more elite students who can be recognized for more significant achievements in more specialized fields of study.
- Ditch Graduate programs that have smaller class sizes and focus on a broad low-cost undergraduate base.
- Focus on class availability and make sure all degrees can be accomplished in four years or less.
- Reduce departments, administration and focus on specificity and expertise, more like the guild system of the Middle Ages.
As a former University student, I admit I loved my education. It taught me to collect ideas, both new and old, to look to the future and imagine possibilities, but also to retain the best of the past. I also learned to foster relationships with a generation of people learning and creating and discussing ideas. Those things will never need to go away, and they are essential functions of the university as institution. Some of the best moments I had in college were with teachers who invested not only in what I knew, but how I went about knowing, and thinking and feeling and seeing the world around me. Those things cannot be done away with, and they’re essential to who I have become. I love the University, but I hope it changes so that it rises above instead of floundering into extinction. Besides, the only way you can save the universe is if you have the know-how that comes from a great education.
EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
The examination of conscience is a Catholic dance move, it’s one that goes on secretly, it’s kind of like the pregame for mass, you go through these steps to make sure your groove is right and that you are bringing yourself to the floor with the right attitude of heart and mind. It’s about getting the right attitude mentally and emotionally and spiritually for what’s about to happen when you begin making all those signs of the cross and bows and kneels.
An examination of conscience is an essential part of Christian spirituality, whether you’re Catholic or catholic. (Because let’s be honest, no one wants to really be outside a church as awesome as the One, Holy, Catholic(meaning universal, but we can get into that later), and Apostolic Church.)
However, an examination of conscience is not an opportunity to get all caught up in all that “woe is me!” nonsense that can distract you from the real purpose of a good examination of conscience. The purpose of a good examination of conscience is not to behold your own sinfulness, but to behold where you’ve breached proper relationship with God and neighbor.
The difference between these two mindsets is incredibly important and not to be overlooked or taken lightly. What matters in the examination of conscience is not how closely i can nitpick and scrutinize myself, but how closely I can behold Christ in the midst of looking at myself both with and through Him. In 1 Corinthians 11 St. Paul talks about discerning the body so that we may eat worthily, and I suspect it is not only the mystery of the Lord’s body he is discussing, but also of each other, as the Body of the Lord. When we can come to the table having been restored by Christ, it is to celebrate His grace, and to remember His call to live in communion with God and neighbor.
So, in order to do a proper examination of conscience we start with the Ten Commandments, because those tend to cover most things. This will be slightly different from a general examination in that I wrote some of these questions myself and either added them to or substituted and combined other questions that fit together. I use this one, but have also added questions for those of you who might be married or have children.
1. I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me.
-Do I seek God in prayer?
-Do I seek to love Him with my whole heart and through the actions of my life?
-Have I been involved with superstitious practices or have I been involved with the occult?
-Do I surrender myself to God´s word as taught by the Church?
-Have I ever received communion in the state of mortal sin?
-Have I ever deliberately told a lie in Confession or have I withheld a mortal sin from the priest in Confession?
-Are there other gods in my life? Money, Security, Power? In what ways can I bring Christ’s lordship to the forefront of my spiritual life and my earthly desires?
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
-Have I used God´s name in vain: lightly or carelessly?
-Have I not taken the resurrection or Christian hope seriously?
-Have I been complacent towards the duty of charity, or neglected being a peacemaker?
-Have I insulted a sacred person or abused a sacred object?
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord´s Day.
-Have I deliberately missed Mass on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation?
-Have I tried to observe Sunday as a family day and a day of rest?
-Do I take seriously my own need for rest and spiritual communion with God and others?
4. Honor your father and your mother.
-Do I honor and obey my parents and the Church?
-Have I neglected my duties to my spouse, children or neighbors?
-Have I given my family and friends a good religious example?
-Do I try to bring peace into the lives of those around me?
-Do I care for the aged, the infirm, and the unborn with corporal acts of mercy?
5. You shall not kill.
-Have I had an abortion or encouraged or helped anyone to have an abortion?
-Have I physically harmed anyone?
-Have I enjoyed or approved of violence thoughtlessly? Have I supported a war without cause or too passionately?
-Did I give scandal to anyone, thereby leading him or her into sin?
-Have I been angry or resentful?
-Have I harbored hatred in my heart?
-Have I mutilated myself through any form of sterilization or self-harm?
-Have I encouraged or condoned sterilization, artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization?
-Have I carelessly approved of war or armed conflict?
-Have I participated in or approved of euthanasia?
6. You shall not commit adultery.
-Have I been faithful to my marriage vows in thought and action?
-Have I engaged in any sexual activity outside of marriage?
-Have I used any method of contraception or artificial birth control in my marriage?
-Has each sexual act in my marriage been open to the transmission of new life as well as the communion essential to proper sexuality?
-Have I been guilty of masturbation or other sexual selfishness?
-Do I seek to control my thoughts and imaginations?
-Have I respected all members of the opposite sex as persons, or have I thought of other people as mere objects?
-Am I a seductive person, or do I live in such a way as to keep myself and others from temptation?
-Do I seek to be chaste in my thoughts, words,actions?
-Am I careful to dress modestly and carry myself with dignity?
7. You shall not steal.
-Have I stolen what is not mine? Have I returned or made restitution for what I have stolen?
-Have I been guilty of excesses in either socialist/communist or capitalist practices?
-Do I waste time at work, school, and home?
-Do I gamble excessively, carry on too strong a social life, or work too much thereby denying my family of their need for me?
-Do I pay my debts promptly?
-Do I seek to share what I have with the poor? Do I give to the Church?
-Have I cheated anyone out of what is justly theirs, for example creditors, insurance companies, big corporations?
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
-Have I lied? Have I gossiped?Have I ruined the reputation of another person with slander?
-Do I speak badly of others behind their back?
-Am I sincere in my dealings with others?
-Am I critical, negative or uncharitable in my thoughts of others?
-Do I keep secret what should be kept confidential?
-Have I injured the reputation of the faith by living it insincerely?
9. You shall not desire your neighbor´s wife.
-Have I consented to impure thoughts and desires?
-Have I caused them by impure reading, movies, television, conversation or curiosity?
-Do I pray at once to banish impure thoughts and temptations?
-Have I taken my own relationships and friendships seriously as my opportunity for service and love?
10. You shall not desire your neighbor´s goods.
-Am I jealous of what other people have?
-Do I envy the families or possessions of others?
-Am I greedy or selfish?
-Are material possessions the purpose of my life?
That’s about it. After this, which you can do at home on the way to mass, in the Church while you wait your turn, or any time during the week, you might want to say a prayer. For some, the act of contrition prayer will do. For others, the liturgical prayer before confession will suffice. I personally enjoy St. Symeon the New Theologian’s prayer before confession:
O God and Lord of all! Who has the power over every breath and soul, the only One able to heal me, hearken unto the prayer of me, the wretched one! And, having put him to death, destroy the serpent nestling within me by the descent of the All-Holy and Life-Creating Spirit. And vouchsafe me, poor and naked of all virtue, to fall with tears at the feet of my spiritual father, and call his holy soul to mercy, to have mercy on me.
And grant, O Lord, unto my heart humility and good thoughts, becoming a sinner, who hath consented to repent unto Thee, and do not abandon unto the end a single soul, which has united itself unto Thee and has confessed Thee, and instead of all the world has chosen Thee and has preferred Thee. For Thou knowest, O Lord, that I want to save myself, and that my evil habit is an obstacle. But all things are possible unto Thee, O Master, which are impossible for man. Amen.