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were lies!” the group may respond, “Well, that’s his problem, so why did you make his garbage yours?”  By helping others with similar problems, youth develop a sense of control over their own destiny.

4.  Ecological programs also use self-governing groups to implement behavioral programming (Lewis & Lewis, 1989).  Any member can call together a problem-solving group.  These groups often are led by youth.  The group helps the member learn new strategies for avoiding the problem, thereby encouraging responsible behavior in all members.  Rhodes (1992), a co-founder of the Re-ED model, has developed a life-impact curriculum that empowers children’s thinking so they can “reconstruct their own reality.”

The German youth work pioneer Otto Zirker once observed that when surrounded by  walls, young people make wall climbing a sport. Faced with authoritarian structures, youth willingly enter into the counter-control game. Adults who struggle to manage behavior by power assertion believe that they are engineering an orderly environment. The reality is more often a submerged negative subculture marked by chaos and disorganization (Wasmund 1988).

In their study of effective alternative schools, Expelled to a Friendlier Place, Gold and Mann (1984) challenged the common practice of employing highly developed codes of conduct to manage behavior.  Although these rulebooks make some adults feel secure, they are likely to by ignored or outmaneuvered if front-line staff and youth do not own them.  Effective alternative schools are able to adapt flexibly to the needs of youth rather than make every decision “by the book”.  The emphasis shifts from rule violators to teaching values that foster inner control.  Such is the case at Thomas Harrington School in Harrisonburg., Virginia, where one rule applies equally to all students and staff: Respect people, respect property (Raebuck, 1960)

Independence for many youth is thwarted by inflexible and uncompromising structures.  At the Jefferson County High School in Louisville, Kentucky, success with at-risk youth comes from flexible schedules (school is open from 8:00 am to (9:30 pm, 12 months a year), a promise of success, treating students with respect, and awarding a regular high school diploma.  The Director of this school, Buell Snyder, said, “I only hire teachers who agree to treat students with respect at all times, and I discard those who, despite their best intentions, infantilize or ridicule students” (Gross, 1990).

Fostering Generosity

 I would have liked to tutor something or been a peer counselor. I could have helped someone and benefited from it myself if I had been given the chance to participate. – Sondra

A central goal in Native American child rearing is to teach the importance of being generous and unselfish.  Children were instructed that human relationships were more important than physical possessions.  Describing practices a century ago, Charles

EDMS 512, Hood

Summer 2006

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