"Gangs of toddler thugs terrorise kids and teachers"
“Children as young as two and three are forming gangs of "thugs" - swearing at, biting and kicking other kids and teachers….”
This headline and story is from New Zealand, but it isn’t a bad place to inaugurate this blog. Gangs elicit fear and are the stuff of media stereotypes whether they are in Auckland, Chicago, Capetown, Moscow, or anywhere on this planet of fear. The mass media “cues” and reinforces deep, unconscious beliefs in the public, what are called “implicit stereotypes” or mental schema. These are common beliefs that may or may not have much to do with reality.
This story and the image which I pulled from the web reinforce the folk wisdom, or "implicit stereotypes," that some kids are just bad, whether from genetics, poor parenting, or having an evil disposition. In countries like the US, it evokes racialized fears of youthful black “super predators.” These stereotypes lead to a simple policy conclusion: lock ‘em up and throw away the key or execute them as soon as we can. Thus we end up with our present policy of mass incarceration and capital punishment.
This is an example of what is called the “fundamental attributional error” — attributing causality to the innate dispositions of people, rather than examining situational factors. One way to think about this is to look at places that produce child soldiers who do carry guns. The horrors of civil war and the forced recruitment of children to kill for one side against another in countries like Sierra Leone can hardly be blamed on the children. The arming of factions and ethnic groups is recognized as the result of the drive of adults for profits and power. Kids are clearly the victims.
But that is also the case in the US. It's not “toddler thugs” we should fear. Maybe someone should ask what was going on in that classroom that two year old kids would be kicking a teacher?