Saturday, January 6, 2007
These days, many people feel alone and disconnected from this world. Of course there are many groups and options to look to for peers and support, but how can these help certain segments where the entire group feels alienated. I'm talking about two ages that can be emotionally and psychologially difficult for most: 1) teenagers and 2) the elderly.
1) Few people make it through their teen years unscathed. Finding your individuality and purpose is challenging when fellow teens punish and ridicule those who stands out. Teenagers frequently respond to the resulting alienation by resorting to social disruption (crime or gangs) or personal destruction (drugs or suicide). These years are so important to our development and yet the most energetic and creative have a tough time finding an outlet or audience for their growth.
2) Growing old is mostly bad news followed by more bad news. With the exception of retirement and grandkids, things just seems to get worse every year. Your body falls apart, you friends die, and you lose the capacity and opportunity to positively affect your world. The few who are lucky enough to survive into old age are usually directed to retirement homes with little to look forward to every day. What a waste - those with the most to share can't find someone to listen.
The solution? Put the young and the elderly together.
Of course this has been tried before, but the teens involved are mostly honor students voluneering for an hour or two at a time. The stories and advice our experienced citizens have to offer does not add much to the most confident and purposeful kids.
The teens who need advice, perspective, and gentleness the most are our destructive ones. Instead, they are further alienated by being directed to detention, suspension, expulsion, juvi, bootcamps, and/or jail. What good does it do to shove all these troublemakers together? None. Our society's solution to troubled youth has to be one of the least well-thought plans (if you can call it that) in modern history. Our local leaders and politicians should be shamed for abandoning our children who need our help the most.
Luckily help is no more than a bus ride away to the closest retirement home. Politicians may not have a word of help to offer our kids, but I know some people who have more than a few pieces of advice. Some retirees lived troubled lives when they were younger and will be able to make a connection. Others may be frustrated at their inability to connect with their own grandkids, so why not offer an outlet and learning experience with somebody else's?
If our troubled teens would learn nothing else, it would be that there are problems worse than theirs, and at least they have the ability to change their direction. Our elderly would be given another chance to make a positive difference in this world, with our most volatile and precious assets.
Comment suggestions:What activities could our teens and retirees do together? or anything else.
Saturday, December 9, 2006
Do you ever get the feeling that nobody gives a crap about your problems? Of course nobody really cares about your more personal issues (like your love life or visa bill), but we all share frustrations with this hectic world that are really unnecessary. What about these problems our high-paid leaders can't figure out:
- A broken criminal justice system that can't reform or rehabilitate and is nowhere near fair
- Utility providers who offer horrible customer service because they operate in relative monopoly
- A lonely world where few find the social validation or comfort we all need
One day most of our problems will be solved by innovation, creativity, or technology. The reason some very simple problems haven't been solved is because every suggested change will help some and hurt others and we have no institution that combines power with fairness. This is supposed to be our government, but fairness and appropriateness were forgotten by Uncle Sam a long time ago. Most of our economy is directed by companies which only care about themselves, and most individuals have little say in the organization of our country.
We must create an institution that combines power with fairness. I say we rest most of this power with the kindergartens of America. Not saying that the snot-nosed kid down the street should be directing our criminal justice system, but our youngins have not been corrupted yet and have little to bias or gain from their opinions.
It could work like this:
- People post their complaints about whatever online. http://www.kids-solve-problems.com/ is available as of today. Netnanny or something could pull the ones that aren't kid-appropriate.
- Every morning in kindergarten class each kid would be randomly assigned someone's complaint (there will probably be thousands of complaints and millions of kids). They are given five minutes to respond. They don't have to know how to read or write; text-to-voice then voice-to-text software would be used.
- Throughout the day, adults can view the suggestions online and vote 1 to 5 on the responses and also flag the ones that standout as very creative.
- That night, the local news can highlight the responses with the most "5 votes" or "creative" flags. The local news could use some help coming up with unique and up-lifting stories.
- Each week a few of the best responses would be forwarded to congress and each congressperson would be responsible for promising which way they would vote on that suggestion if it ever came up. They could also be forwarded to the richest fat cats in America as a suggestion for what to do with their money once they buy too many ivory back-scratchers.
The best part about this system is ideas float up the power spectrum, rather than the current US model, where products and wars are shoved down the power spectrum. I know it isn't perfect. Many topics would be off-limits, and complex solutions would be few and far between. Even if we don't find one good solution, at least our kids are prepared for a lifetime of creativity and problem solving, if not, backseat driving.
And we all know, even if nothing gets done, our five year-olds will still get more done than the US Congress.
Comment Suggestions:A problem along with a five year-old's solution, or anything else.