Play It Safe

A couple weeks ago I attended an active shooter training at work. The Honolulu Police Department did an excellent job in educating and encouraging us to consider strategies and tools to help make the school a safer place in the event of an active shooter. While it was a very good and relevant training, I thought to myself how unfortunate it is that we even have to think about these things.

Later that week Emily and I watched one of our favorite shows, Alone, on the History channel. Ten people are dropped off all alone in the wilderness, this time in Mongolia. The participants run their own cameras and a couple of them are filming in the middle of the night with night vision. They are in their sleeping bags while rumblings and calls of what sounds like large animals are right outside their make shift shelters. In seasons past that fear for personal safety has push contestants to “tap out”.

The idea of safety is interesting. It really is a construct of society. In some ways an illusion. A social psychologist named Azim Shariff developed a theory that religion, and specifically God, was the creation of man to enforce accountability on people as communities began to grow too large to oversee. His study on the effects of a belief in God and cheating show that belief often curbs the temptation to cheat. In effect, the creation of a God creates with it a sense of safety. I must add, while this may be  accurate and astounding data, it falls short to disprove the existence of God.

With recent and growing concern over gun control, I have been so torn by both sides. When you look at it, they are promoting two views of safety.

On one hand you have George Young Jr. of Hilo, HI. He sued the State of Hawaii because he was denied an open carry license. By the laws in Hawaii he is technically able to obtain a license should he prove the need. As an older man who has years of fire arms training in the military and law enforcement, he feels the need for protection. Having a weapon makes him feel he can keep himself safe.

On the other hand you have others that say laws that allow the government to control the individuals ability to own a firearm will minimize danger. In this perspective people are trusting that the government will keep them safe.

In any event, safety is a matter of perspective. We think about the past and wonder why things aren’t like they used to be. It was much safer then, or was it? It’s what you believe is keeping you safe. This is true with kids. Jonah talks about lava and robbers. Are this real threats? Well, in some regard, yes. Our job as parents is to help Jonah and our girls feel safe.

Do you feel safe? It’s all a matter of perspective. Safety is in many ways a construct of the mind. Even in Christianity people may feel safe in their belief in God. With a true understanding of Biblical teaching, safety is assured for the believer in eternity, not in the flesh. Does that mean that God doesn’t protect our physical bodies? No, He can, but it’s not an assurance.

Perhaps we sometimes need to set aside certain realities and just “play” it safe. -jason

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Unarmed and Dangerous

Since 2018 there have been too many reports of school shooting in this country. The exact number of school shootings is debatable based on the nature of how a school shooting is defined. Check out this link on Snopes. Regardless, one school shooting is one too many. No matter who you are and what you believe, this has to be heartbreaking.

Seems the most widely suggested solution is gun control. The collective voice of the media champions a loud cry for the government to establish laws on gun ownership in America. Whether or not gun control would be a good idea, I see problems in the  petition for gun control. The focus on government intervention.

It’s similar to the area of social services. These services can range from public welfare to Special Education in schools. The support from the government is a good thing, when appropriate. Unfortunately, there is little done about accountability for those who receive these services and people begin relying on the “system” and that is a problem.

Let’s consider special education. In 1993 a lawsuit was filed against the state of Hawaii for inadequate services for kids in special education. Through that the Felix Consent Decree was established and major reforms in special education came about. Today, the Department of Education is overwhelmed by lawsuits, fear based policy and reactionary operations because of the large number of families with children classified under special education. There are many who need the help and support, yet there are just as many, or more, taking advantage of the system.

As a Behavioral Health Specialist in the school system, I estimate 95% of the issues I deal with are family related. Of those, more than half rely on the system to “fix” their child. More than ever families are relying on the government to ensure their child’s success. That is just not realistic. The family is the most important factor in a child’s growth and development.

This is the need I see beyond gun control. Families working hard to raise their children. A society and culture that promotes strong parenting and family living. I have heard many arguments on gun control to Japan. They have strict gun laws and also close to zero gun violence. Sounds convincing. Then you consider, they send their elementary-aged children to commute to school alone, sometimes over several miles and over an hour commute. When I was growing up that may not have been so significant, but in today’s American society, that is appalling. So perhaps there is something deeper in Japanese culture that we need to explore.

Again, I am not making a suggestion for or against gun control. I am making a suggestion for us to make a culture change. Focus on family. Not your child’s vocational success or athletic aptitude, but their character. Let’s not focus on showering them with gifts or the latest trends, but with love. Do not forsake discipline, but do it compassionately. There is no perfect parent out there, but it’s hard to go wrong when you give it your best effort. We must not rely on the government to create a better world for us, we have to take action and do it ourselves. If we fall into a mindset of government to run our world, they WILL run our world. When we as families, come together, focus on a communal society and raise our children the best we can, the government will be what it’s supposed to be, a support for our society.

The way I see it, the problem is not that people are armed, but that our children are unarmed. They are unarmed with the love and protection, they are unarmed with life skills, they are unarmed with solid character, they are unarmed with compassion and empathy, they are unarmed to cope with the challenges of life because we have failed to arm them with these things. We have failed to offer the support within our families and within our community of human connection. Family, that’s where it starts, that’s where they get the training and equipment for life. We are failing them.

Our children are unarmed…and dangerous.  -jason

What’s In It For Me?

My transition back into the Department of Education has been, well, a little rough.

There could be many variables that have caused me to feel this way. One aspect of this job that I am learning and growing in is the age group. I have worked previously in two high schools and a middle school. Now in Elementary school, I am having to discover new strategies.

When I arrived, the previous Behavioral health Specialist had a store in place. Students could earn tokens to purchase items in the store. They earned tokens by achieving expected behavior. This is not a new concept for me. I have heard about this system used in homes and in schools all round the country for behavior modification. The reasoning is that incentives will give children/youth something to work toward so they will learn to modify their behavior to obtain the reward. This is a very common strategy used by behavioralist of various fields.

I’m not completely against this. I see how it is effective in some situations. The field of autism seems to have benefited greatly from the practice of token systems. Behavior modification has proved successful in this setting. In life in general there are some incentives that people work toward. In the restaurant business servers will put in the extra effort in expectation of a higher tip. Interestingly, when I worked at Alan Wong’s Restaurant tips were pooled. For many that was not a desirable system. No matter how hard you worked, you received a set percentage of all the tips collected. Some might expect that would cause servers to work less. Instead, the effect it had on the community of workers, was accountability. Co-workers will get on another worker that was not “pulling their weight” in the community.

An article that I came across highlighted the dangers of reward systems. It’s one opinion of many, but worth considering. The author suggests. “Priming kids to expect rewards for good behavior can harm their social skills in the long term.” The theory suggests that rewarding core social behaviors (responsibility, courtesy, respect) will build a mindset that will always leave them asking, “what’s in it for me?”

While I am not completely against reward and incentive systems, I believe we need to consider how it is implemented and what we might be teaching our youth. Something we are trying for our kids is to have them complete set chores with no payment, but just as a functioning member of our family. Once those are done, there may be other tasks that they can get paid for, but not until their set chores are complete. There are things you just have to do. Responsibility. On top of that, there can be incentive if you choose to put in the extra effort.

There is a shift in our society. There is a word that I hear floated around in many circles, “entitled”. With the practice of a reward for everything and for everything a reward, we can tend to produce entitled adults. Doing things just because it is the right thing to do becomes an exception. We are inspired by acts of kindness, because it is increasingly rare. Social norms are lost as we ask ourselves, “What’s in it for me?” -jason