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John Eggers: A penicillin to help troubled youth?

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Often the answers to life's most challenging problems are finding solutions seldom used or even thought about. Who ever thought that a mold would result in the discovery of penicillin? Whoever thought that some hooks attached to a painted piece of wood would catch fish? Or, how about yellow arches attracting people to eat burgers?

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I have an idea to share with you about helping troubled youth but before I share it, let's talk about the dumb things that kids do. That's more fun.

We know young people do dumb things because we did them when we were young. Do you remember any dumb things you did? We weren't dumb, we just did dumb things. Our brains were not mature.

When kids do dumb things adults say, "Now there is a young person who needs some guidance." Or, "that kid needs to have his pants warmed." No doubt my Vacation Bible School teacher said something like that after she booted me out of VBS (fortunately it was the last day).

That wasn't as serious as the time soon after I learned how to drive I backed into another car and fled the scene. I had "bumped" another car a little and I didn't think I caused any damage--EMDASH--honestly. I should have investigated more closely but, remember, I was young and dumb. Someone got my license number and the police tracked me down.

I had to appear in front of a juvenile officer at the County Court House with my mother. Well, it wasn't one of my coolest moments in life and I believe they slapped my hand and told me to be more careful, which I was and I haven't done it since. It was embarrassing and the worst of it all it caused me to miss the only day of my four years in high school.

I recently heard an interesting lecture on troubled youth. A Doctor Ross Greene, an authority on behaviorally challenged youth, admitted that he has no time for punitive measures in working with youth. He believes such things as time-out rooms, detentions, suspensions, and expulsions do little good. He advocates trying to identify what youth are lacking and then proceed to teach them what they need to do to behave better.

Now that makes some sense, doesn't it? The reason why many young people do what they do is often because they don't know how to behave. Or if they do, it really hasn't made an impact on their brain yet just like getting out of the car to check for damage was not part of my brain.

I have found that kids that drop out of school, for example, often drop out because they don't know how to go to school. They don't raise their hand, they don't do assignments, they are often absent and they never sit in the front row. Kids that mistreat other kids do so because they have not been taught that they should be nice to others. Kids that do drugs do so because they have found no other natural "highs" like they would find in sports, art, music, a faith, or doing well on a test.

All of that sounds pretty logical and there is a whole lot of merit into the idea that rather than spending lots of time diagnosing the cause, as suggested by Dr. Greene, we should spend more time in teaching what the young person needs to know to change the behavior.

All of this sounds simple but I know it's not simple at all. Changing unacceptable behavior in young people is as challenging as finding morel mushrooms. I have yet to find any here in the north.

So, what is my solution? What if every young person was inspired by someone and tried to live up to his or her ideals? Think about it. Someone usually inspires people who are successful. Being inspired helps us live better lives.

To this day I am inspired by my Uncle Roger who was in the Air Force and later died from MS but never complained about it. I think about him every time I sign my name, John Roger Eggers.

We don't have to look far to find people who may inspire us. I am inspired by Dave Quam whose leadership brought us the Forestry Center at the fair grounds. Speaking of the fairgrounds, you have to be inspired by Paul and Sharon Hokuf and the county fair board who tirelessly work year after year to make the fair the best ever.

I am inspired by Michael Meuers who helps everyone learn the Ojibwa language; by the Friends of the Library who bring us the marvelous book sale every year; by Bill Beyer and his passion and determination for enlarging our food shelf; by Bob Kelly and the People's Church. Andy Wells and what he has done with the Wells Academy inspires me. I am inspired by my wife, Kathy, who wrote a personal letter to every U.S. senator decrying their inability to find a solution to the gun problem.

One way to help young people with finding someone who inspires them is to have them dedicate the school year to someone. Have them complete this sentence: "I dedicate this school year to . . . ." They could even say why they chose this person. Now and then remind them of who they dedicated the year to.

Young people need to find someone that inspires them so they can try to live up to that person's ideals. It's kind of like shooting for the moon. They may not hit the moon but they will hit a few stars. Could this be the penicillin for troubled youth?

JOHN R. EGGERS of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.

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