When it comes to combating tagging and graffiti, Michael Howard is an individual who had an idea to counter the blight with art. He said, “I figured if you address the root cause — that kids need to be creative, have their self-esteem nurtured and a safe place to express themselves and channel their energies into something positive that benefits the community — then you could reduce graffiti.”
At the time Howard had this idea, he was a teacher at the Juvenile Hall school in Orange County. While there, he launched Operation Clean Slate (OCS).
I may have read of this before but was reminded of OCS in the April 2011, Costco Connection.
The inspiration for creating Operation Clean Slate came to Howard while driving to Los Angeles. He’d seen graffiti many times, but this time he saw a way to deal with it.
I salute Howard for his dedication and effort. However, I disagree with the often misused term of self-esteem. The self-esteem movement, which started in the US in the 1960s was misguided from the start. Children do not need help nurturing a false sense of self-esteem.
Youth need positive choices to help guide them in other directions and this is what Howard offered. I doubt if he reached many gang bangers (children and teens that belong to gangs) that spend their nights marking territory with gang signs, but I’m sure he did appeal to the creative energy of taggers.
Street gangs are primitive and often dangerous tribes that exist in the barrios and ghettos of America. Most of these street gangs deal in drugs and violence. Some have been known to initiate young recruits by having them shoot and possibly kill someone (often strangers to the gang bangers) during a drive by.
Most youth that join gangs have no choice due to the pressure in the barrio or ghetto. Only determined loving parents involved in a child’s life stand a chance to keep their children out of these gangs.
I taught in a gang-infested area of La Puente and West Covina from most of 1975 to 2005.
Parents that live in the barrios and ghettos where these street gangs exist may consider contacting individuals such as Howard to see if he can help keep their children off the streets and away from gangs. Positive activities such as Operation Clean Slate are one way to do this—not wasting time building a false sense of self-esteem in a child that often leads to narcissism as an adult.
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