This is why kids don’t believe adults . . .

February 9, 2010

So I was doing some web-surfing, and I ended up finding about a computer game that was designed by a team of conflict resolution "experts" and interactive gaming professionals. This was funded by a federal grant, the idea being to teach children – at a young age – how to resolve conflicts peacefully, giving them the opportunity to play a game to do so.

The idea was intriguing to me – a good one, I thought. (*1) While I’ve been trying to come up with possible curriculum-adjustments to change the culture of our schools, this seemed like a great way to do it – without having to spend all the time and money to train teachers to properly carry out a curriculum. Instead, they can just put the kids on the computer and watch the learning happen.

Except . . .

Except, well – the game is a joke. (*2) An absolute joke. Poorly-executed in trying to mimic how kids actually talk to each other, which shatters a kid’s belief right at the outset. But even worse – the illustrations of "handling the conflict" and the end result are complete B.S. and simply representative of a fantasy world. (*3)

In a nutshell, the game shows a conflict. The kids can choose to resolve it "negatively" or "positively." The negative is something like just yelling at the other person or threatening them, or something like that. Then a voice says, "well, that didn’t work too well – that was wrong, how about you try another way?"

So the kid chooses "positive" and the character asks "that’s not nice, how would you feel if somebody teased you . . . etc." The "mean" character says, "yeah, you’re right – I’m sorry." And suddenly the conflict is resolved, the kid is rewarded points for choosing the "right" way.

And . . . um . . . that’s it. That’s what the freaking "experts" came up with. They got paid money for that. They continue to get grants to become even more knowledgeable about "conflict resolution.

If I need to break down why that’s so ridiculous and upsetting to me . . . well . . . I’m just not going to do it, because then you’re all beyond help.

And this is just one more shining example of how the cycle of systemic oppression works in our country. Tell me if this sounds familiar:

We’ve got a problem. A big problem. In this case, violence – specifically, youth violence. Who is most affected by this problem? Well, youth in poverty (which then further disproportionately affects youth of color). Okay. Facts established. Somebody sees this, or some version thereof, and decides to do something. Fantastic.

Whoever that person is somehow gets the government on board with a great idea – let’s try to reach kids where they’re at and design a video game that can give them positive experiences with non-violent conflict resolution. It’s a really good idea. The government puts aside some money for developing this game to get into the public schools’ curricula, and off we go.

Some panel or group of "board" or something chooses who they want to develop this game. Or maybe people bid on it. Whatever. At some point, some "leading experts" are chosen, and the game is developed.

Up to now, it all sounds fine to me. But the game is a ridiculous waste of money. So what happened? The idea was so good and we even got the leading "experts" involved . . .

Well – the "leading experts" seem to be completely cut off from today’s youth. Either it’s a generational thing, or a privilege thing, or something, but whatever it is, it is clear that these experts really don’t know what real life looks like, anymore. Instead, they stick to the dominant cultural party line: if you tell the other kid why they’re wrong and ask them "how would you feel if . . ?", then they’ll feel sorry. This, of course, is a middle-to-upper-class way of thinking. It’s generally a "white" way of thinking. It’s definitely a privileged way of thinking.

Because, of course, non-dominant cultural groups know that trying to stand up to and "talk things out" with the dominant group usually ends up in you getting dismissed, laughed at, ignored and/or crushed. For the privileged, dominant group – well, sometimes you can "talk it out" and have things work your way – because you have all the leverage. On a world-stage, you’re the bully. If you’re a rich, white, able-bodied heterosexual male, you can have all sorts of "peaceful" resolutions – because of the unspoken threat your power represents, standing right behind you.

In a kid’s setting – this sort of privileged, fantasy-world five-minute peaceful chat just doesn’t work. For any kid. The situations are so much more complicated than that – they involve insecurities, environmental stresses, home-life, cultural conditioning, identity-development – you can’t just have one, simple solution. Every single instance is a little different, and any true, non-violent solution takes time.

But you can’t program that into a game. And that doesn’t sound nice in a paper. So, somehow, these "leading experts" retain their positions and keep feeding us this same old ish – because they can, due to their influence and status as "leading experts."

In the meantime, our kids learn to ignore us when we say that violence won’t solve their problems. Because they’ve seen how we say they can solve those problems non-violently, and our solutions are such clear lies. They try out our "solutions," get crushed, and they’re scarred.

Kids continue to fight with each other, adults continue to tell them that "fighting is bad" without taking the real time to actually help a kid deal with their complex issues, and the "leading experts" earn enough money to live in a nice house.

And we wonder why so many kids learn to distrust authority at such a young age.

So – again – it comes down to representation. Until this country can learn what true diversity looks like – instead of thinking one or two "token minorities" in a sea of homogeneity covers it – this kind of thing will continue to happen. A good idea will get passed to those with no real-world understanding or experience, and another ball gets dropped.

Diversity of thought. Diversity of experience. With no outright majority. That’s the only way.

Because, honestly, Mrs. and Mr. "Leading Expert," how would you feel if somebody made all the decisions for you without ever experiencing life like you do?

Hmmm . . . somehow I don’t know if that sentence would be enough to change things . . .

(*1) Here’s the article in which it was first presented to me (makes it sound good, no?): http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2008/1208-cool_school__where_peace_rules.htm

(*2) Here’s a quick demo of the reality: http://www.rtassoc.com/gm_coolschool.html

(*3) The name should have tipped me off, but I was hopeful . . .



  1. This is for your commentary on Racailicious I think you are a whiny little prick and no matter how you spin it that is EXACTLY why you are upset asshole!! Well boo-fucking-hoo awwwww Asian dude is all bent out of shape because WHITE GIRLS give him no play well woopty-doopty crybaby so the hell what! Maybe if you all didn’t keep acting like white people particularly women were the end all be all and always kissing white people’s ass it wouldn’t keep copming back to bite you on yours. In any case I feel NO sympathy for you you get what you pay for you snotty little bitch and now you are paying the price BRAVO! And next time some Asian person says ‘if this were the blacks’ you can pretty much guess how much of a crap I WON’T be giving for whatever the FUCK is pissing you off.

  2. Ok I don’t know if you got my reply e-mail but yes I would LOVE to start a dialogue that’s what I would have preferred from the beginning. I just feel there are those Asian people who thumb their nose at black people which is ok but then why the FUCK are you whining to me about your problem then?! And I know not every Asian person agrees with pricks like Kenneth Eng or Michelle malkin but there are enough to make me not trust any of you and write angry comments like above. I don’t mind having someone else’s back but I prefer to be ASKED not told especially when it’s from someone who is suspect to me anyway. So if you want a real discussion I’m up for it and you can e-mail me back.

  3. Have to agree. Even in a solely white/middle class world space, adults SUCK at designing ‘educational’ games for kids. It seems like many adults have a hard time even taking younger people seriously.

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