Of all the great SOF shows I've listened to this is the first one I've written to you about I wanted to reinforce what Dr. Brown said about what he'd observed studying murderers.
For several years I taught writing in New York City schools as a writer-in-residence. I became good at working with students in what are called District 75 schools. Those are schools (often no more than a floor or two in a larger school) for special needs children. "Special needs" means many things, one of which is schooling for children who are profoundly emotionally disturbed. Becuase I was not a Dept. of Education employee I wasn't privy to the students personal records and so I knew nothing of individual students' classifications; I only knew what I saw and worked with.
Many of the classes I taught were comprised solely of boys -- angry boys, boys with a fury easily provoked by the slightest provocation, boys who, it was obvious to me, once they left these classrooms lead by compassionate and caring teachers were destined for jail and often death. The longer I worked with students like that (and while there are many girls in these schools, they are overwhelmingly populated with boys) the more I came to belief that the emotional brittleness I witnessed was often a byproduct of these boys, these children seldom having played. They did not know how to shrug off accidental physical contact, of the reality of winning one day and losing the next, of the difference between teasing vs. being humiliated when they did something foolish or wrong. They had a hard time with the give and take we learn in playing games; it's one arena where we learn to share time, to trust that we will "get our turn". (I think that we witness a similar brittleness, a rigidity, in sexual abuse victims; as adults they are hypervigilant about all things physical.)
To follow from Dr. Brown's observations, I felt that these children were ill-equipped to weather conflict -- they had almost no experience, no practice in it. That's one of the things that play allows us, particularly males, practice in learning appropriate parameters for one's aggression. Without that practice, there comes the day where one of these boys feels disrespected, humiliated or threatened and then what?
Thank you for this program which prompted this reflection. The SOF team adds to the tapestry of what it means to be a religious, a devotional person in this world. Thank you for all that you do.
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