Thursday, July 22, 2010

More on this story. I wrote the following comment, but since what I wrote yesterday mysteriously didn't appear on the Bethlehem blog, I guess my instinct to post it here was correct. So here's my take today:

Careful, Teri — better get the disclaimers ready because the TU blogger “community” is already circling the wagons. It must be so hard for the clique to resist posting on this controversy — all those seductive hits and comments! But dissenting from the company line is not allowed. When censoring the commentary isn’t sufficient to extinguish debate (as is happening at the Bethlehem blog), then the next step is dismissing it with remarks such as “But not under any circumstances am I going to allow anybody to cheer on the actions Van Plew took, regardless of his intent.”

The mention of intent is ironic, given this from Madeo’s Albany Eye FAQ: The Question: You worked at one TV station and made fun of other TV stations. Wasn’t that unethical?

His response: That’s a question worthy of a master’s thesis, not a web FAQ. I don’t think you can judge ethics without examining intent —and take my word for it, I did not use the blog as a tool to drive up ratings.

I don’t need to write a master’s thesis to know that his ethics are clearly questionable, as demonstrated by his online persona, both at the TU and in the Albany Eye days, the Trey Anastasio fiasco, and his pressing charges in defense of his troublemaker son for an incident that should be handled between neighbors.

The Times Union’s reporting also raises red flags about “intent.” Why did they report so extensively on the homeowner’s background and neighborhood in the original story? And why did they later out the kid as Madeo’s son, so that his identity is now known? To generate traffic?

BTW, I too have never heard of “ding, dong, ditch.” It would upset me if punks were doing it my neighborhood (luckily better families live in my more humble neck of the woods I guess). Yes, many teenagers pull pranks and use profanity, and much of the time it doesn’t make the paper. Some also shoplift, drink, do drugs, destroy public property, do acts of vandalism, drink and drive, speed and text while driving, and take other foolish risks. They have to learn that there are consequences for their behavior, and this is a teaching moment opportunity. It is a warning sign — a chance to nip it in the bud before the kid’s behaviors escalate into a tragedy. Too bad the Madeos are choosing to convey the wrong lesson.

A later comment:

I think this is a productive suggestion. I do believe that farmwork is a good experience for kids. It has been a big part of life in my extended family, and having real “chores” builds character. This will only work with a dear friend or family member, though. I doubt farmers have time for a stranger’s or acquaintance’s kid with and attitude.

Last month I was picking strawberries and there was a woman nearby with her teenaged daughter and the daughter’s friend. The friend was not unpleasant, but the woman’s daughter was all about copping an attitude. Complained constantly, sighed that is was boring, said strawberries are bigger, better and cheaper in Price Chopper so why bother. Mom’s goal was only three quarts, with each picking one, but eventually the woman gave in after quickly picking a scant quart and promising to make waffles for the daughter.

Although I like the idea of community service, I am not certain of its usefulness as punishment. The stigma may turn people off instead of inspiring them to be lifelong volunteers and better people in the long run. But I am not completely opposed to the idea.

Some ideas for what works:

1) Modeling good behavior yourself.
2) Learning when to say No and sticking to it.
3) Television, game systems, computers, smartphones: beware. I like technology and have mixed feelings about these things, but taking them away for a time, and making the privilege be earned, can be effective. I also believe that television should be very limited for older kids as a general rule, and entirely absent in infancy/early childhood.
4) Being proactive about who are your children’s friends. Also being cognizant of when it is your kid who is the bad influence, instead of always blaming others.
5) Having something to do. It doesn’t have to be a myriad of activities, although activities can be positive, it can also be a job, but it doesn’t have to be that either. Responsibility at home works, caring for pets, the garden, washing dishes, mowing the lawn, doing laundry, otherwise helping out – cheerfully.

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