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Tilting at Windmills

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March 8, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

SUPER PREDATORS....Schools are safer than they used to be, and Jeffrey Seals, a security guard at Montgomery Blair High School in Maryland, gives technology part of the credit:

Seals and Vice Principal Linda Wanner agreed that today's kids are more serious strivers than those of the '80s. They also said parents were more involved now in their kids' school lives, more likely to show up promptly when summoned.

Why's that?

"They've all got cell phones," Seals said.

Really? Cell phones have made parents more responsible? Who knew?

The rest of the article is about why the predicted "super predator" crime epidemic of the 90s never materialized, and it's worth a read. The basic answer seems to be: maybe because the crack bubble burst, maybe because of a good economy, maybe because of some other stuff. Basically, no one knows. After all, Canada's teen crime rate is down too, so the cause probably isn't anything exclusive to the United States.

My guess: the question isn't so much why crime rates came down, but why they went up for a short period. Perhaps the 80s were the aberration, not the 90s.

Kevin Drum 2:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (91)

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Comments

Schools have rules against kids using cell phones at school, but I wouldn't let mine go without one

Posted by: Ace Franze on March 8, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

"My guess: the question isn't so much why crime rates came down, but why they went up for a short period. Perhaps the 80s were the aberration, not the 90s."

I guess you don't subscribe to the Freakonomic theory that you can statistically correlate the legalization of abortion with the decline of crime (ovesimplified, the economist who wrote the book found that fewer unwanted children meant there were fewer criminals twenty years later.)

Posted by: A. Signalstation on March 8, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

The new Freakonomic conundrum:

If a fertility clinic is on fire, and you can only rescue one juvenile criminal or a petri dish with five law-abiding embryos, which would you choose?

Posted by: Grumpy on March 8, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

I know that the Freakonomics' argument has been at least partially debunked (here). But some of it is certainly a factor. And the large decline in poverty under Clinton is certainly a factor.

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on March 8, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Quick question: if schools are safer than they used to be, why does Montgomery Blair High School in Maryland need a security guard?

Why do we need a military?

Posted by: Neo on March 8, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Fear is the mother of violence. Wait, the legacy of the Bush administration is still brewing.

Posted by: bill on March 8, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Quick question: if schools are safer than they used to be, why does Montgomery Blair High School in Maryland need a security guard?

We just did a comprehensive survey of student attitudes about safety for re-accreditation. Comparing, in a non-scientific way, the results in 2005 against the results ten years earlier (pre-Columbine) we found that fewer students were scared, but those who scared are really, really, scared.

Don't know what it means, but there it is....

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on March 8, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

on edit.

...those who are scared are really, really scared.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on March 8, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody notice where this 'tip' came from? A security guard at a school.

Many school districts today have their own police department. I am not talking about city police officers assigned to sschools - I am talking about school districts which have their own entire police department - including a Chief of Police, squad cars, a dispatcher, and sworn officers.

I don't think this is a good thing.

Posted by: Monkey See on March 8, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

"Quick question: if schools are safer than they used to be, why does Montgomery Blair High School in Maryland need a security guard?
Posted by: Cheney"

Solid Republican logic!

Posted by: Ace Franze on March 8, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

What happens to a dream differed? That's your answer.

Posted by: Paul on March 8, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

If the average wage is going up why is my wage going down?

If 17 is less than 20 why is it greater than 15?

If I'm so smart then why can't I get laid?

Posted by: Tripp on March 8, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

It could have something to do with the priest aging.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 8, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe it's inversely proportional to the prevalence of violent video games. Hell, it's hard to release your anger playing frogger and donkey kong.

Posted by: toast on March 8, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II I thought that too.

Posted by: Neo on March 8, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

If a fertility clinic is on fire, and you can only rescue one juvenile criminal or a petri dish with five law-abiding embryos, which would you choose? Posted by: Grumpy

The receptionist with the nice tits?

Posted by: Jeff II on March 8, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Our little city is booming right now but crime seems to be up and some criminals seem ridiculously desperate (high speed chases, poorly thought out bank robberies, police forced to shoot crazy folks). Rising rent costs, growing income disparity, increasing cost of living, laws limiting meth precurors, illegal immigrants taking over marijuana and meth production, etc. all probably contribute to crime here.

Posted by: toast on March 8, 2006 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Quick question: if schools are safer than they used to be, why does Montgomery Blair High School in Maryland need a security guard?

Why does an office building need a security guard? MBHS is huge -- 3300 students, 300 or so staff and faculty. I'd think it bizarre if they *didn't* have security staff.

Posted by: tavella on March 8, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think other countries are as fortunate. What are the rates like in Europe?

Posted by: tbrosz on March 8, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

The receptionist with the nice tits?

bingo! You guys are finally getting it. There are thousands of innocent unfertilized eggs in a dame with nice hooters.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 8, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

MBHS is huge -- 3300 students,. .
Posted by: tavella

And therein lies your problem. The first college I attended was smaller than that.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 8, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Why do the doors at 24-hour Wal Marts have locks, hmmm?

Are you tolerant if you tolerate everything except intolerance?

What happens to a photon when it hits a semi-reflective surface?

If you had a friend named Cliff would you jump off him?

Posted by: Tripp on March 8, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

If you can lay 1 1/2 eggs in 1 1/2 minutes why the heck aren't you on Letterman instead of wasting time reading this stupid question?

Posted by: Tripp on March 8, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the excessively detailed depictions of psychopaths in the media have actually had a deterrent effect --?

Posted by: cld on March 8, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Psychographic change from one generation to the next. The echo-boomers aren't the same people as Gen X/Y.

Posted by: Roxanne on March 8, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Two things - an aging population and locking up a boatload of people.

Posted by: Tripp on March 8, 2006 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

If the schools are safer why is a school security guard telling me this?

Posted by: Matt on March 8, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Psychographic change from one generation to the next. The echo-boomers aren't the same people as Gen X/Y."

Might be something to that - we've went from the era of birth control to the era of fertility treatments. Also, more kids will have been in daycare or preschool before kindergarten - they've been socialized in groups from a very early age.

"If the schools are safer why is a school security guard telling me this"

Poor conservatives - an anecdote always trumps the data with you guys, doesn't it?

Posted by: Urinated State of America on March 8, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Ronald Reagan and George H W Bush drove crime rates up with their social and law enforcement policies.

Clinton's policies brought those rates back down.

Posted by: Sen. Hillary Clinton on March 8, 2006 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

*Yawn*

Posted by: Doofus on March 8, 2006 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Gore/Obama '08 on March 8, 2006 at 2:40 PM

Levitt's reply to the WSJ/Economist argument can be found about half way down here, in his blog's December archive:
http://www.freakonomics.com/blog/2005/11/
As I read it Levitt asserts that Foote and Goetz challenge only 1 of the 5 thrusts of the argument, and then only when they change the specifications. Levitt signs off by saying he's going to address the challenge more comprehensively later but I've been unable to find it.

Posted by: Minnesotachuck on March 8, 2006 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

And therein lies your problem. The first college I attended was smaller than that.

It can be a problem, it can be an advantage. The opportunity for more diverse and challenging classes versus the comfort of a smaller community. In the case of MBHS, it's an advantage; it's one of the finest high schools in the country.

Posted by: tavella on March 8, 2006 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

On the question of why the "super-predator" wave never hit?

Probably because the whole "super-predator" thesis was BS. The whole theory fit into the right wing's strategy to scare the beejus out of people. It sounded plausible because of the constant stream of crime stories from stations follwing the "if it bleeds, it leads" theory.

But in the end there was no evidence that a tidal wave of vicious criminals were on their way.

Sounded cool though.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on March 8, 2006 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

It can be a problem, it can be an advantage. The opportunity for more diverse and challenging classes versus the comfort of a smaller community.

Yes, of course. That's why all private high schools are so large. There aren't probably more than a handful of communities in the country willing to spend the money for the extra resources needed to make a school that large work.

In the case of MBHS, it's an advantage; it's one of the finest high schools in the country.
Posted by: tavella

Directing me to a web page from the school newspaper really convinced me!

Posted by: Jeff II on March 8, 2006 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

The 'super predator' idea was cooked up by social conservatives in order to lock up lots and lots of young ethnic people. It worked, turning the US into a near police state, with more people imprionsed here than any where else.

Where were the Democrats when all of those African American children were being locked up for a very long time for possession? They were voting for harsher mandatory prison terms. Electoral expediency means never having to say you are sorry.

Posted by: Hostile on March 8, 2006 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

The high school from which I graduated in 1975 had about 1,200 students, some of them pretty tough and delinquent-y. We didn't have any security guards. Neither did the other two high schools in the city, both of which were at least as large as mine and, if anything, tougher (the city in question wasn't Beverly Hills, to say the least). Yet nothing bad ever happened. During my four years in high school there were no stabbings and certainly no shootings. I'm reasonably sure that there weren't any at the other two high schools either, and keep in mind we're talking a combined student population around 4,000. Fistfights weren't at all uncommon, but everyone viewed them mainly as a rite of passage and the combatants rarely got more than a couple of days' suspension.
Today, of course, it seems as if all high schools have security staffs, and even sometimes outright police forces as another comment has noted. Fistfights are treated as catastrophic events, with the fighters subjected to severe discipline, mandatory psycological counseling, and sometimes criminal prosecution. Are we raising a generation of wimps? I certainly think so.

Posted by: Peter on March 8, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

I think that there is something to the cellphone argument. Cellphones, pagers, and email have helped drive an interruption-driven approach to life as opposed to a planned-out approach. I'm not at all surprised that parent's are "more likely to show up promptly when summoned."

Posted by: Mike B. on March 8, 2006 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Our society, itself, has changed (for whatever reaons). Remember 15 yrs ago gang turf wars were on the upswing. Corporate raiders were trying to latch on to anything that wasn't nailed to the ground. "Me first, I deserve it" was the watch phrase. Donno why or how it changed, it just did. Maybe just a swing of the ol' pendulum.

Posted by: Keith G on March 8, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Directing me to a web page from the school newspaper really convinced me!

Are you stupid or something? The point was the list of achievements. But if you need it spelled out with numbers.

Posted by: tavella on March 8, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

And no, I didn't go to MBHS; I went to an even better high school, Yorktown High School in Virginia.

Posted by: tavella on March 8, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Are you stupid or something? Posted by: tavella

The answer is B) or something.

Talk to the hand tavernella.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 8, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

We don't have a cellphone, neither does our kid, and we all show up promptly when called.

Attributing the decline in crime to locking up a "boatload" of people is probably refuted by the similar decline in Canada where they didn't do that.

Posted by: David in NY on March 8, 2006 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

The receptionist with the nice tits?

bingo! You guys are finally getting it. There are thousands of innocent unfertilized eggs in a dame with nice hooters.

Posted by: tbrosz

I would have voted tbrosz off the island a long time ago except that once every coupla weeks he comes up with one like this. (Also, I'm partcularly tolerant of people with consonantal combinations like sz in their names. Anybody who has to spell their name every time they say it deserves some consideration.)

Posted by: David in NY on March 8, 2006 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK
Quick question: if schools are safer than they used to be, why does Montgomery Blair High School in Maryland need a security guard?

Maybe they are safer in part because schools like Montgomery Blair have realized they need security guards; maybe, conversely, they needed more security guards before. Maybe your question is stupid.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 8, 2006 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

I'll bet the bigger kids still stuff the little ones in lockers and 'pants' them, though.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on March 8, 2006 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

You know what they say about high school : kick someone's ass the first day, or become someone's bitch.

Posted by: tron on March 8, 2006 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

The '80s was the decade that glorified greed and materialism. This was just trickle-down Republicanism.

And what are the kids scared of? Physical attack, robbery or terrorism?

Posted by: Mimikatz on March 8, 2006 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

Montgomery Blair?

Those math nerds are really, really dangerous.

Posted by: David in NY on March 8, 2006 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

In regard to "super predators," please see the new Amnesty International report on life without parole for juvenile criminals.
http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/document.do?id=ENGUSA2005101205002

Posted by: Grandma on March 8, 2006 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

The causes of crime are a mystery. Listen politely to all the explainers and just nod your head and walk away.

The safest times in this country were the period after the Civil War to just prior to WW1. There was terrible poverty. Terrible distrust among the huge influx of immigrants. And yet: low crime. Why? Who knows? Pray that we can meet at the Book of Life on judgment day and right after we find out about The Immaculate Reception, we can turn to the page on the causes of crime.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on March 8, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Can't tell you how proud it makes me to see my alma mater featured in an article on crime in the schools. But this guy Seals wasn't there when I was there--it was a different bouncer, name of Jackie. I tried not to give him any work.

Posted by: Tad Brennan on March 8, 2006 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

If you had a friend named Cliff would you jump off him? Posted by: Tripp on March 8, 2006 at 3:13 PM

Only if all my other friends or the kewl kids were jumping off him.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on March 8, 2006 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK
Many school districts today have their own police department. I am not talking about city police officers assigned to sschools - I am talking about school districts which have their own entire police department - including a Chief of Police, squad cars, a dispatcher, and sworn officers.

I don't think this is a good thing.

Yeah, I mean, transit systems and park systems have had their own law enforcement agencies for quite some time, but its not like the law enforcement environment of a big city school system are distinct enough from that of the community at large that it makes sense to have a specialized force with expertise in the environment, rather than just getting whoever the city police department chooses to assign.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 8, 2006 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

What were the teen employment rates in the 80s and 90s? That's usually highly correlated with teen crime rate.

Posted by: catherineD on March 8, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Even Japanese schools (oh you country of a 95% conviction rate and low-low crime) have security guards at all their schools. They are experimenting now with using robots that would scan students ID cards and let the teachers know that a student has arrived. A guard is just something people expect, like a principal.

Posted by: DC1974 on March 8, 2006 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Even Japanese schools (oh you country of a 95% conviction rate Posted by: DC1974

That would be a 95% conviction rate of crimes that they actually bother addressing. A lot of theft, sexual assault, and misdemeanors go both unreported and uninvestigated. Probably more than half the traffic accidents involving injuries, for example, are never reported but settled privately with cash. Furthermore, Japanese criminals are weird in that they confess a lot of the time. And I don't mean Andy Sipowitz-hitting-you-across-the-head-with-the-Manhattan-phone- book sort of confessions.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 8, 2006 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

The prediction of "superpredators" in the 1990s was a classic case of Boomer projection.

Crime began to rise precipitously in the 1960s, just as the Boomers were coming of age. As the Boomers entered every new age category, it rose there too (even in 1990s).

Conversely, as Generation X came of age, crime began to fall among young people (even before the harsh penalties of the 1980s were enacted) and as the second wave of Generation X (born in the 1970s) came of age, it fell precipitously.

Nevertheless, Generation X (rather than the Boomers) was derided and villified by the Boomer media and political elite as dangerous, antisocial malcontents, and suffered the brunt of the Boomer-led "war on crime."

Something similiar happened with drug use (and abuse) and educational performance. Drug use rose exponentially among the Boomers, and test scores fell. Drug use began to fall as the first Xers entered adolescence and continued to decline among young people until the last Xers reached adulthood (rates have risen slighly among the Millenials). The children of the 1970s were the most drug free teenagers of the last forty years. Nevertheless, Xers were maligned as drug addled, antisocial malcontents.

With respect to academic performance, almost every measure of school achievement that fell with the Boomers began to reverse itself as the first Xers entered grade school. This is especially surprising, given that the great defunding of schools was just beginning. Academic performance has levelled off since the last Xers entered adulthood, and unless the recent trend of Millenials not entering college at the same rate turns around, Nevertheless, Xers were dismissed as putting "a nation at risk."

Generation X is poised to be the most educated generation in American history (in addition to being one of the most belittled, abandoned, criminalized, and underemployed). Owing in no small part to the selfishness and myopia of the Boomer elites, they are the first generation in American history who will do less well on average than their parents.

Posted by: The Blue Nomad on March 8, 2006 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

No - the Super Predators became Republican Politicians and white-collar criminal CEO's.

The reason crime statistics went down is because less people are robbing liquor stores at $200-a-pop, and more people are robbing taxpayers and shareholders at $20 Million-a-pop.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on March 8, 2006 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

So, Blue Nomad, are you an X-er or a Boomer?

I think I can guess, given that diatribe.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on March 8, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Nomad, so true, so true.

Not much point in starting an intergenerational flame war, but facts are facts.

Posted by: Tulkinghorn on March 8, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

I remember Jeff Seals, and Jackie, too, from fifteen years ago. Seals was, indeed, the size of a refrigerator. Even with them we had, my senior year, at least one attempted rape in a stairwell, a stabbing, and an off-campus shooting in retaliation for the stabbing. Or maybe the stabbing was retaliation for the shooting. And we had gangs, too. Several of my Jamaican friends told me stories about dealing crack (although, as with all stories told by high-school students, I could never be sure if they were true or not). We also had vietnamese gangs and latino gangs.

Which is not to say that the school was all bad. It was a math-science magnet (the founder of RottenTomatoes.com was either my year or one year younger), and there were plenty of National Merit Semifinalists and half a dozen Westinghouse finalists every year. But the "math nerds" were bussed in from the other side of the county to reverse white flight, and almost attended a separate school from the rest of us.

It was a very different school then from when Ben Stein, Connie Chung, and Goldie Hawn went there in the late sixties. Although it is bigger and in a different building than when I was there, it still seems pretty diverse (via the list of names on the school newspaper site) and hopefully Jackie and Mr. Seals are able to nap a little more often than they were back in 1991.

Posted by: aaron on March 8, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

aaron--

So Jackie was still there into the '90's? That's more than ten years after I saw him in the late 70's, and he was there in the early '70's when my brother was. It's hard for me to imagine a H.S. bouncer having that kind of longevity--not an easy job, you'd think, or a job for the middle-aged. Except that Jackie was extremely cool, and clearly wanted to give people a chance to chill out before he had to break heads. Saves on the wear and tear.

Yeah, like most large H.S's, it was in effect a number of schools sharing the same campus--the jocks, the gangs, the car-mechanics, the AP crowd, and so on.

Still, as you say, I would be glad to hear that the job of bouncer has gotten easier and less stressful.

Posted by: Tad Brennan on March 8, 2006 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Well, X-ers, in 10 years, maybe less, the world will be your oyster as all the Boomers retire or die, leaving huge gaps in the rolls of faculty, administration and other leadership slots that you've been frozen out of due to demographics.

It will be too late for me, born in 1956 on the downhill side of the Baby Boom. I've faced competition and standards throughout my career that colleagues even 5 years older than me did not.

I don't know that I'd blame this on the bad character of Boomers, particularly. They want the good jobs, just like I do. They just got there first.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on March 8, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

My school had a few more than a hundred students. Our janitorial staff did double duty as guard staff - someone had to open and close doors and such for classes to keep equipment 'safe'. ...Not that anything ever was stolen, but it could happen...

But these schools have thousands of students.

That they have a 'police department' when they have more students than my home town...

No so surprising.

What's the 'superpredator' though?

Posted by: Crissa on March 8, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

Lest that last post seem too pessimistic, there was one really good thing about being born in 1956. I didn't have to go to Vietnam.

Or get a deferment or anything. Mine was the first year that there wasn't a draft, 1974. There was a lottery, but no draft. Actually, I think my lottery number was in the 200's so I probably would have been OK anyway.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on March 8, 2006 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

The safest times in this country were the period after the Civil War to just prior to WW1.

...What brings this delusion on, anyhow?

During this timeperiod, having ten percent of your workers die on the job was 'acceptable'...

Posted by: Crissa on March 8, 2006 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

I have a friend who is now a vice principal at one of our best public high school who when she started out as an inner city school teacher carried a cell phone (one of the few back when only the very rich and senior business folks seemed to carry them).
She would threaten kids with calling their parents right then and there. She claimed it worked exceedingly well. Kids didn't worry about detention or principal visits just don't call their mama.

Posted by: carsick on March 8, 2006 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

Apropos of the cell phones as promoting safety, Salem Pax, a/k/a the Badgad Blogger, had a piece on th BBC this week in which he mentioned that one of the most profitable [legal] money makers in Iraq today is ../ cell phones. And the reason is that people are willing to pay high prices because they are the best way to stay in contact with family and report security incidents.

Posted by: J. M. Statius Muller on March 8, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

Some of the Gen-Xers will go on and on about this. Let's let a little light in the room.

When Boomers started school, they went to schools that were build before WW II, used textbooks that old, and often had teachers that old. Lots of us doubleshifted and froze in "portables". When we entered college we discovered curriculums that were simply baloney. These b-s requirements caused a revolution by students who wanted a real education.

When the GenXers went to school, they entered new schools with new books and new teachers. When they went to college they had an entirely different experience from the Boomers, with most of the b-s requirements gone, revitalized student governments helping with some of the basic learning tasks, and a lot of the deadwood swept away by the student rebellions of the 60s.

What would have been surprising would have been if the GenX test scores didn't rise.

Test scores don't tell the whole story though, as it is quite obvious from listening to embittered GenXers that they have no idea of what happened before they were born.

Well, those who don't learn history are doomed to repeat it- even with those sterling test scores.

Posted by: serial catowner on March 8, 2006 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

If I can defend the Gen-Xers (born in '66, so I am really in-between, culturally), they just know what they have experienced. What they have experienced at the hands of Boomers does not seem very fair to them.

Not to whine, but I am hardly alone among professional, well educated folks in the 30-45 age range who work for themselves because the process of climbing the ladder in (name your profession here) when it is stacked up in font of you can be pointless and depressing.

Are we all ingrates? To a degree. But no generation does a good job of being fair to the one that precedes it. And fairness and generosity of spirit ought to go in both directions. If anything, we have more of a duty to help out those younger than ourselves. Gen-Xers are often bitter for good reason.

Posted by: Tulkinghorn on March 8, 2006 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, it's remarkable that in one post today you lament the hackery of an analyst who poses Canada and Britain as models in order to shoot down "single payer" health care, but then in this post you cite "juvenile superpredators" as a serious crime theory. The depiction of '90s kids as superpredators somehow different than earlier delinquents and the predictions of a "ticking time bomb" of youth crime were both based on the most laughable analysis. Not only haven't these predictions come true, they've been thoroughly debunked as junk science to begin with -- something you'd know if you paid attention to the problems of poor kids (in school or the justice system). Makes me think you were right last about the Daily Howler: he has a point when he complains that liberals in general and the liberal blogosphere don't really care much about poor kids.

Posted by: ramendel on March 8, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

Well, frankly, Tulkinghorn is just being silly. Leaving aside the little fact that the economy of the 50s crashed, burned, and disappeared even from our memories (who now remembers the NYC or the Pennsy?), climbing the ladder has always been tough. Sheesh, you might think the economy of the early 70s was the land of milk and honey. Vas you dar, Sharlie?

If you think advancement is hard now, you should have seen what it was like then. After 25 years of teaching, during which she earned her Masters and Doctorate, my mother admitted to me in 1980 that she was angry that her school district had no female principals. In the early 70s, if you weren't a member of the sexual-racial-ethnic group that controlled the shop you hired into, you were lucky to even be able to keep your job.

I don't mean to deprive any GenXer of their bitterness. I just want the Boomers to reach in their memory banks when they hear this baloney from the GenXers.

Posted by: serial catowner on March 8, 2006 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

Sigh.

My mistake for trying to gently summarize concerns and a point of view to a Boomer. Hell, I even admit to being an ingrate, but that is not enough so save me from the wrath of a boomer scorned.

Posted by: Tulkinghorn on March 8, 2006 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Besides, it is time to get back to my superpredatory business...

Posted by: Tulkinghorn on March 8, 2006 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

Ramendell

Re Superpredators

As I recall the thesis, it had a lot to do with the level of violence that young people proved themselves capable of in the 80s and their previous experience with the juvenile justice system (toughens them up but doesn't deter them). Also the impact of crack-addicted parents.

Such kids, by and large, are no longer in the school system (they get systematically excluded or drop out). But they can commit street crime.

A couple of factors in the 80s which made the 90s so frightening:

- rise and rise of automatic weapons. Weapons which the Mob would have craved in Chicago in Prohibition, like Uzis or Glock pistols, became widely available at the street level to common hoodlums

- increase in number of single parent, crack addicted families

- rise of youth gangs especially connected to endemic violence in the Central American countries (something like 1 in 4 el Salvadoreans wound up living in the US)

It didn't happen, and we still don't know why, although it wasn't Mayor Guiliani!

Posted by: John on March 9, 2006 at 5:05 AM | PERMALINK

Look at the time line....crime in schools went up when Dems were in power..that should say enough right there

Posted by: happy glimore on March 9, 2006 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

Likely just demographics: the 'birth dearth' which preceded our current Baby Boomlet

Big spikes in the 16-25 male cohort translate to corresponding spikes in the crime rate. Also wars...

On the 'very scared' meme: I was in Walgreen's last Sunday picking up a paper, when I glanced over to see what was occupying the valuable 'point of sale' retail real estate just before you get to the register. And there it was. A 'Parental Child Distance Warning Alarm' which apparently emits an ear-piercing shriek if one's child strays more than 15' away...

Well, that ought make going to Mall a real treat.

Sing along with Buffalo Springfield: "Paranoia strikes deep/Into your life it will creep/It stars when you're always afraid/Step our of line - the Man comes and takes you away."

Posted by: CFShep on March 9, 2006 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Tulkinghorn,

Do you honestly think it is easier to be recognized when part of a huge group?

We boomers got in each other's way. You view the ladder as clogged with boomers and fail to see the large number of boomers who got knocked off the same ladder.

I applaud your initiative in working for yourself. The 'victim' role is very unflattering even when it may be deserved.

So what is this 'super predatory' business you hint about?

Posted by: Tripp on March 9, 2006 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

You view the ladder as clogged with boomers and fail to see the large number of boomers who got knocked off the same ladder. Tripp

Just so. Falling for the MSM 'Boomers = Yuppies' drivel.

Posted by: CFShep on March 9, 2006 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

I got to thinking about this last night, remembering all the great education boomers got so they could get those good jobs.

If you're old enough, you will remember learning how to make carbons with a typewriter, learning how to use the slide rule, or maybe you learned how to use a speedball pen, a maline board, or how to run a turret lathe or do a sand casting.

GenXers will pretty much need to find a museum to learn what any of the stuff in the last paragraph was used for.

Being someone who does know what that stuff was used for, I am less than amused to find I need to learn how to play video games if I want to comprehend and use the tools of the modern office or retail outlet.

So, enjoy your latte, but remember- you couldn't do that before those bad ol' boomers decided life could be a little better around here.

Posted by: serial catowner on March 9, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

When Boomers started school, they went to schools that were build before WW II, used textbooks that old, and often had teachers that old. Lots of us doubleshifted and froze in "portables".

You don't seriosuly think that the decrepit schools and "portables" were swept away before the Gen X crowd went to school, do you? (If sot, I can be charitable and assume that you were not from the rural South.)

Posted by: ct on March 9, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK
You don't seriosuly think that the decrepit schools and "portables" were swept away before the Gen X crowd went to school, do you? (If sot, I can be charitable and assume that you were not from the rural South.)

Or any of the districts I've seen schools in in California. Or, I suspect, much of the rest of the country.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 9, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

That doesn't change the fact that huge numbers of schools were built between 1955 and 1970, huge numbers of new teachers were hired, and direct federal aid to schools was widely extended in the late 60s.

Posted by: serial catowner on March 9, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Serial: When Boomers started school, they went to schools that were build before WW II, used textbooks that old, and often had teachers that old. Lots of us doubleshifted and froze in "portables".

Tsk.

Exhibits a common problem of being unable to distinquish the early cadres (1946-1954) from the vast hordes which followed us.

Our standing joke was: "Everything's fine, just don't look behind you."

Schools 'built before 'WWII' would have been fairly new - overcrowded, yes, but, new nevertheless.

We even managed, somehow, without a/c.

As for teachers, they may have been born prior to WWII but, sweetie, that would hardly have made them 'codgers' in the 60's...mostly early 30's to mid 40's. And, get this, they were, for the most part, actually literate and expected that their students would become so as well.

Imagine that.

Can't really just say 'Boomers' and make some wild inaccurate generalization. You're talking about 76M people spread over 25 years.

Posted by: CFShep on March 9, 2006 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK
That doesn't change the fact that huge numbers of schools were built between 1955 and 1970, huge numbers of new teachers were hired, and direct federal aid to schools was widely extended in the late 60s.

Nor that the population continued to at least in proportion to the rate that those teachers were hired, nor that "schools built between 1955 and 1970" may have been not all that much newer when Xers attended them than those "built before WWII" were likely to have been when Boomers attended them; even by the most broad use of "Generation X", 1955 was 5 years before anyone in that generation was born -- as far as the beginning of WWII from the birth of the boomers.

Nor the fact that as direct federal aid to schools increased, other demands on the states and state tax revolts in the 1970s and on drained local and state school funding.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 9, 2006 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Tripp,

Always leave 'em wanting more

Posted by: horatio parker on March 9, 2006 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

'"Generation X", 1955 was 5 years before anyone in that generation was born'

All due respect,sir, but most sources mark the Baby Boom as 1946-1964.

I know I have my copy of "Great Expectations - American and the Baby Boom Generation" - Landon Y. Jones around here somewhere.

Posted by: CFShep on March 9, 2006 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK
All due respect,sir, but most sources mark the Baby Boom as 1946-1964.

Right, but my understanding is that Generation X has (among many other uses) been used to refer to a group overlapping the tail end of the baby boom beginning in the early 60s. I was being generous and using the definition most favorable to the side I was arguing against.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 9, 2006 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

If it wasn't so totally electronic, it would be like being nibbled to death by mice.

I started school in 1955. The district had one highschool, one junior high, and about four elementaries. When I finished in 1967 the district had four highschools, about ten junior highs, and about 30 elementaries. Fer gawdssake, just look at some aerial photos or compare maps from one decade to the next.

Now, if the "baby boom" is seen as the births to veterans of WW II, and the civilians who awaited a peacetime economy, surely the tail end must be around 1959, which I understand, is the demographic statement on the matter.

My original point was that the nation made a huge investment in education and an eventual rise in test scores in the 70s was only to be expected.

As for teachers lean and long of tooth- how do you think I got so quarrelsonme?

Posted by: serial catowner on March 9, 2006 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

This discussion (I realize that by now I am probably talking to a dead thread) shows that the demographic category of "the boom" does not fit neatly with cultural identities and experiences.

My three siblings an i are spread across the 1964 end-date for the boom. There was a political shift as the youngest two came of age under Reagan, but the demographic pressures and such were not much different.

As far a inadequate schools and overcrowding, I expect a lot of that is a regional issue. Not to downplay the significance of it (for thos involved, it affected their world-view pretty strongly), but it is a waste of time to argue over whether it happened or not.

Posted by: Tulkinghorn on March 10, 2006 at 5:21 AM | PERMALINK

Right, but my understanding is that Generation X has (among many other uses) been used to refer to a group overlapping the tail end of the baby boom beginning in the early 60s. I was being generous and using the definition most favorable to the side I was arguing against.
Posted by: cmdicely

Point conceded. Of course, some in that tailend of the Boom had 1st birth cadre parents. That's pretty self-evident.

And really, 'all due respect' is not even tinged with facetiousness. I've privately awarded you both ears and the tail in too many of the dust-ups around here for it to be otherwise.

cfs

Posted by: CFShep on March 10, 2006 at 7:13 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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