Thursday, 22 August 2013

The senseless death

of Christopher Lane, a young Australian playing baseball in the United States, is something that should not have been allowed to happen.
The reports say he was killed by three teenagers who said they were "bored" so they went out to kill so they could watch someone die. I find that almost but unfortunately not quite incomprehensible. Those three teenagers should not have been bored. They should not have been riding aimlessly around in a car. They should not have had access to a gun. They should not have been or done many things.
They made a decision and they have to face the consequences. A lot of other people also made decisions and now have to face the consequences. What will matter now is the decisions they make in the future.
Last night the Senior Cat and I watched a repeat of a short segment on the SBS Global Village programme. It was worth seeing again. It was about "El Sistema", a music programme for underprivileged children and youth which was begun by Jose Antonio Abreu in Venezuela in 1975.
Abreu began with eleven children and eleven instruments in a garage and it has developed into 125 youth orchestras across Venezuela, orchestras of underprivileged youth playing classical music together. Yes, grit your teeth as the four year olds scrape a bow across the catgut. It's a start. Then watch a girl of about twelve play a clarinet with real skill and, just as importantly, a real understanding of the music. That's progress.
Those children and young people are going to be too busy to get into trouble. They are busy doing something that has an outcome.
I might be wrong but I think that's the difference between being bored and not being bored. If you are doing something that has an outcome there is no time to be bored.
Many of our local programmes for teens are about entertaining them but not about teaching them to entertain themselves. There is an expectation they will be entertained but not that they will learn to entertain themselves.
I think most people would agree there is a difference between playing the football match and going to watch it. The first is surely doing and the second is being entertained. Sport is a major part of Australian culture but, if you are not in the team, it is entertainment rather than activity for many.
Perhaps we need to move on from sport and on from providing pop/rock concerts and venues where "kids can hang out". We need to cease the "clubbing" culture and ask young people to be responsible for their own entertainment while giving them the skills to be able to do that.
The Senior Cat has a series of pictures drawn by someone who, like him, was a member of the church youth group he belonged to when he was a teen. They show some memorable incidents. One is of the night they were carrying a bed across a bridge. They were stopped by the police. What were they doing with the bed? It had been a prop in a skit which was part of a variety concert and they were returning it to the owner.
Now it is unlikely the bed would be needed. The variety concert, organised entirely by them, would not have taken place. Adults would supervise such an event now. And, even if it had taken place, the bed would be loaded onto a trailer because someone would have a car.
What would happen though if we taught, really taught, children and young people to be responsible for entertaining themselves without the electronic gadgetry which is now used as a substitute for "doing"? I suspect that, for a while, many children and young people would be lost. They would need to be taught how to entertain themselves.
Abreu said "Music has to be recognised as an agent of social development" and I think he was right. It teaches independence and interdependence, team work, coordination, social cohesions, creativity and much more. All arts, crafts, literary and musical pursuits can help the young learn these things.
Perhaps it is time to start teaching them, really teaching them. Then there will be no time to be bored and Christopher Lane might still have been pitching a baseball.

1 comment:

Judy Edmonds said...

And of course, Christopher Lane was a prime example of someone who must, as a child and young man, have been the very opposite of 'bored', having been so involved in sport and study. I agree that it is appalling that so many youths today do not feel able to tune into worthwhile activities - and they do still exist. My children have been involved with activities through our local Uniting Church for many years, and they are now turning into leaders for the younger children. Other children we have known through school have immersed themselves in sport, or music, or art, or drama, or other youth groups - but we still have groups of bored youths roaming Melbourne with the potential to be almost as destructive ('almost' because it is so much harder to acquire guns here than in America).