Maybe I'm a little young to be saying this, but sometimes I just don't know what this world is coming to.

1) Several teenagers are charged with child pornography for sending nude photos by cell phone.

2) Seattle parents are shocked to learn there is no law prohibiting a teacher from having consensual sex with an 18-year-old student.

3) 13-year-old boys are charged with sexual harassment for slapping girls' butts.

Is it just me, or have we forgotten that there are ways of dealing with bad behavior other than the law?

Here are my prescriptions for the cases in question:

1) The kids who were "sexting" need to lose their cell phones, get grounded, and listen to a firm lecture about respect for their own sexuality.

2) The man who was having sex with an 18-year-old student needs to be fired, blackballed from the teaching profession, and ostracized by his community.

3) And the boys who were slapping girls' butts need to be told "Wipe that grin off your face," and suspended for a week or so.

There. Done. Was that so hard?

I guess there are two things that bug me here: in the cases with child offenders, I'm appalled (and in fact frightened) that we are calling in the law to deal with what is plain and simple social misbehavior. In the case of the cradle-robbing teacher, I'm amazed that people don't seem to understand that legal behavior can still be bad behavior, and can carry very real and very serious consequences.

It's as though we've decided to throw up our hands and take no part in managing the conduct of our own community. When someone does something we don't like, we just call in the law and ask them to take care of it.

But the law is bad at this sort of stuff, gang. It's good at separating us from those whose deeds truly place them outside decent society: the rapists, the murderers, the armed robbers. But it's bad at punishing those who make socially unacceptable decisions. And it's absolutely rotten at punishing kids.

So we need to roll up our sleeves and fall back on some other tools for modulating behavior: social censure, and public discussion of morality.

People often say it takes a village to raise a child. But I believe it also takes a village to safeguard that child into adulthood,
and to maintain his world as one in which he can be proud to raise his own children.


Becky said...

I'm with you. And I would add that in the case of the butt-slappers, their fathers (if they're in the picture--it was hard to tell) need to kick their butts up around their shoulders. I think the idea of registering these kids as sex offenders is ridiculous, but I'm not that thrilled with their "everyone does it" defence, which their mothers seem also to accept.

Jane said...

Yeah, fair enough. After all, the village can only do so much to correct kids' behavior if their parents stand in the way.