Saturday, November 19, 2005

Make Youthful Risk-Taking a Positive Force

This post is more a proposal than a simple explanation. My proposal answers the question of what we can do about crime and deviance among young people. Car surfing, bungee jumping, gang activity, drug use, and car theft (to name a few things) are all connected. They all involve risk-taking. And they are disproportionately the activities of young people, mostly young males.

The negative consequences of so many forms of youthful risk taking are so obvious I'll not spend any time on them here. Likewise, I won't go into the facts about crime and deviance among 13-24 year olds. What I want to do is consider this question: How can we, as a society, do a better job of helping young people direct their urge for risk-taking into productive activities?

Many productive activities seem like good choices for programs by nonprofits and local governments. Here are a few possibilities:

1. Team sports - try something exotic
2. Adventure racing - something like a local version of the Discovery Channel Eco-Challenge?
3. Starting small businesses, legal ones :-)
4. Community service projects - organic developed projects, not top-down initiatives
5. Creative projects - the usual stuff
6. Games - computer games, building and racing stuff, orienteering competititions, and others

All six of those ideas have been used before. The point is to be systematic using these programs to channel risk-taking behvior in positive directions. It would be better to "grow" a solution out of local conditions and interests instead of saying "Young people need to start doing _______ so we will start a program."

So that is the basic outline of my idea. I'd be shirking my duty here if I did not point out some of the resosn why we may not want youthful risk-taking and criminal behaviors to go away. The truth is that these behaviors are valuable for many of us, so we do not want them to end! Undesirable risk-taking behavior has several benefits for society:

1. Providing material for books, articles, television, and radio.
2. Less behavior would mean less work for law enforcement personnel, and fewer jobs
3. Ditto, but for corrections jobs.
4. Same as 2 and 3, but for counselors and therapists.
5. Creating ammunitiion for culture critics, church leaders, and politicians
6. Providing work for some social activitists - they want to "fix" the conditions that produce criminal and deviant behavior by young people

Lastly, combatting crime and deviance (binge drinking, casual sex and such) provides a feeling or importance to some activists, pundits, and politicians. They don't want a source of meaning in their lives to go away!

Next: The impact of ideas about our economic system.


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