Aug 8, 2008, 05:16

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It has been reported that the canary was used by early miners as an early warning system for when the air was becoming toxic. When the canary started showing distress, the miners knew that even though the air seemed fine to them, the canary showed there was something seriously wrong and the miners had to take immediate action to escape.

In a sense, the existence of the rapidly expanding network of private residential parent-choice schools and programs for struggling teens is a canary for how our society raises children. The very existence of this private network is a reflection of the distress from which many young people and their families suffer. Those parents lucky or dedicated enough to pay the tuitions for schools and programs in this network are escaping from an environment that is the equivalent of the early miners' toxic air.

Consider this! Virtually all students enrolled by their parents in this private network have had multiple failures. Many were failing school for a variety of reasons, while others have undergone extensive therapy or placements in mainstream residential treatment facilities without success. Some are troubled and angry by disintegrating families. Most placements in these private facilities are done by the parents specifically to remove their child from negative self-destructive decisions and a negative environment in order to see the return of their happy optimistic child from earlier times. The fact that parents will pay the high tuitions required to try to save their child's future shows how desperate these parents are.

Placements in the schools and programs in this network are just the tip of the iceberg. Most parents with seriously struggling teens either cannot afford the tuition or cannot bring themselves to make this desperate decision. For every child enrolled in this network, there are probably dozens who are suffering with little relief or with inadequate interventions.

If families were healthy, if mainstream schools were able to meet children's needs and if treatment facilities and juvenile justice facilities were effective, the network of private parent-choice residential schools and programs would not exist. There would be no need for this network, and there would be no demand for it.

That this network does exist, and is rapidly growing, is a strong sign that our society is not successful at meeting the needs of many of our young people. We are the canary pointing to a society that seems to be failing at meeting the needs of many of our children.

Since this network of schools and programs was created by parents fleeing failing institutions of society, what might that tell us the parents are looking for? They are looking for:

  • A place where the adults are in charge, rather than huge public institutions where the children live primarily in their own independent culture

  • A place where the best aspects of character such as self-discipline, accountability and responsibility are taught, rather than stand by while their child learns some perverted and self-destructive idea that anything goes, or "if it feels good, do it"

  • A place where their child can receive the individually tailored and caring help he/she needs, rather than institutions that see children as basically the same and interchangeable, or that treat a diagnosis rather than the child, or just punish behavior that is socially disapproved

  • Adults that can be respected and trusted as positive role models

  • A place that values mature adult virtues rather than enduring their child getting sucked into some self-indulgent adolescent pop culture

That thousands of parents make a considerable emotional and financial sacrifice for the chance of exposing their children to a positive environment is a very strong case that our society is failing too many children.

With all its strengths, weaknesses and human failings, this network of private parent-choice residential schools and programs is the canary telling us that something is wrong in our society, and that we need to do something different in how we as a society raise our children.


August 14, 2008

"It has been reported that the canary was used by early miners as an early warning system for when the air was becoming toxic." This is true. If the canary did not fly out, no man would go in. Now reported, and confirmed. I rather like the play on words, mine/mind, you have my permission to use it. Be of good cheer Lon old buddy.....

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