Friday, September 28, 2007

The Power of Gut Instincts

I think that we have gut instincts for a reason. It is probably the last subliminal vestiges of our animal ancestors and it has to do with senses that we no longer cognitively control or acknowledge. I have always regretted going against my better judgement or instincts. I think that reticence on the part of children with strangers is a normal protective system. But it's not popular. The shy kids are always the ones picked on at school, seldom recognized by teachers or parents. So programs exist to actively lure kids out of their normal hesitation. While extreme shyness can be crippling, I think we have gone so far the other way that our kids, especially our daughters, are becoming targeted by people who exploit ethnicity, poverty or status to manipulate young girls into actions that place them in danger. What is one of the first things a college freshman hears at orientation? It's a cycle of "accept everyone, learn new things, experience life." Back that up with a healthy dose of celebrity behavior on TV and in movies and you have a young student, on their own for the first time, deliberately avoiding the warning signals that should be going off in her brain to say no, to seek protection or to run away. This isn't an attempt to blame the victim, please don't get me wrong-that blame lies completely on the dirtbag that chose to take an innocent life for no good reason whatsoever.

But as parents and as educators, we need to ask ourselves if in our quest to raise young women and men who survive to adulthood, we aren't being just a little too naive with the concept of blanket acceptance for everyone. I know it isn't a word filled with positive vibes, but sometimes, being "discriminating" is a good thing. You don't pick a car that you know has a history of blowing up-that's being discriminating. You don't eat day old smelly fish-that's being discriminating. Yet when it comes to people, if you refuse to take an action a manipulative scam artist can trot out the race card, or the poverty card, or the "I'm a stranger here myself" card and the unwitting or unwise young person may just go along with what could be a very bad situation. This poor girl isn't the first one even in Denton to suffer such a fate. It happens more often than we really want to know. It used to be that at 18 you were considered an adult, treated like and adult and expected to make decisions like an adult-and the schools and society worked to make that happen in the years preceding graduation. Now we have high school seniors who have had 12 plus years of a social safety net. They get to college and assume all their contacts and activities have been checked out as safe. Life isn't like that. We need to make sure our kids know that before they walk out the door.

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