Tanisha N. Mills
Honors English 12, C.A.H.S.
In today's society, there are many factors that play major roles in the lives of young people. Although many negative influences, such as sex and violence, plague our youths, some positive factors, like education can give the power to overcome virtually anything. It is my personal belief that the decisions one makes concerning sex, drugs, and violence can affect the level of success in one's life.
When sex permeates public media (television, movies, magazines, billboards, etc.) without discretion, it is difficult, if not impossible for teenagers to keep an objective point of view about their sexuality. Sex is often shown without responsibility or consequences attached; and this falsified image is what appeals most to today's youths. The best way to lessen the statistics concerning teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among youths is to EDUCATE! No longer effective is the method with which our parents and grandparents were raised: the "Don't ask, don't tell" mentality. Simply ignoring this issue will not make it go away; the more one learns about something, the better they will be able to use personal judgement in making decisions.
Violence in another negative aspect of everyday life for youths, and their respective communities. One of the reasons why it is so common is its glorification in the media. (Notice a pattern in how behavioral attributes are impressed upon teens.) Critics and ratings reveal that music and movies with unreasonably high violent (and sexual) content make the most profit, and consider teenagers to be their most valuable customers (simply because the movie-going and music-purchasing audience is comprised mostly of them).
Seeing the violence that is going on in our islands is not enough: we must learn to look deeper into the underlying problems that cause our youths to lash out in rage. When children are taught from young to retaliate when they are hit first, instead of telling an adult or just walking away, they conclude that this is the only effective way to resolve conflicts. This mentality stays with them throughout adolescence and, if not corrected through discipline, manifests itself through physical aggression. Before this point is arrived at, we, as a community, need to reach out and embrace our teenagers, teaching them how to use conflict-resolution skills, personal judgment, and above all, brotherly love instead of engaging in violence.
As solutions to the last problems, I stressed emphatically that "Education is the key". Of course, this seems to be just another catchy slogan for teachers to use, but how potent it is! Note how it is not specified what education is the key to. In my mind, this signifies endless possibilities that I can possess, once I have obtained my own education. What I have come to realize is that like any other subject-matter, one must be educated about it to use it in the most effective way; and this is directed especially towards youths. "How does one educate about education?", you may ask. By stressing its importance while it is being obtained. If young people are not given substantial incentives to hunger for (an example being the traditional "thirst for knowledge" bit) they will not be able to maintain sight of what it is they are being educated for. Show students who, and what and where they can be tomorrow through hard, honest work in school today. Realistically speaking, the teacher can not be more motivated for the students than they are for themselves, but if just one can realize what potential can be unlocked from inside through education, then all of their efforts were worthwhile.
All in all, teenagers of any era will be bombarded with decisions and influences that may seem intolerable at times. Sex and violence being the most prevalent in the 90's seem to have engulfed our young people in a cloud filled with random acts of violence, increased sexual activity and teenage pregnancy. Yet every cloud has a silver lining, and in this case that lining is education. I will not lie to you and say that it can cure all (sex and violence-related) ills, but when utilized to its fullest, the benefit of being an educated individual has been shown to surmount countless disadvantages. Indeed, "education is the key to ANY door that one chooses to open.
Ivanna Eudora Kean
"Discuss How Your Decisions on Sex, Violence, and Education Can Affect Your Future"
"If I had to do it all again, everything would be much better. I still can't believe I did such a thing, but I did and so I'll live with the consequences." These are the regretful words of Mr. Brady Jones, a thirty-five year old convict who raped and murdered his much younger girlfriend. Unfortunately, many people are condemned to a life of treachery and depression because of past mistakes. It can be seen that one's decisions on sex, violence, and education can greatly influence one's future. Moreover, making correct moral choices on each of these issues, in addition to obtaining a high school education, may ensure a positive future for any person.
A perfect example of this can be found in the following scenario -a true story of a Virgin Island resident-. while a student of the St. Croix Central High School, Anita always made the honor roll. She was very shy, and no one ever thought she was capable of "breaking the norm." Anita's reputation suddenly changed when her parents found out she was pregnant. A huge argument evolved and Anita decided to move to New York along with her child's father. She never received her diploma and so she endured hardships when trying to find a job. A few years later, Anita's parents heard news of their daughter's death. Anita was fatally beaten by her boyfriend, and her son was nowhere to be found.
This tragedy demonstrates the issues about which I will speak. First, Anita made the fatal but common mistake of becoming sexually active at a young age. Today's generation of teenagers have taken sex to a whole new level, and this is quite unfortunate. The number of sexually active teens is soaring, but many still fail to see the serious threat in this adverse situation. The phenomenon not only means that the number of teenage pregnancies will increase, but that the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases will be on the rise as well. most importantly, and perhaps most sadly, this fact means that more people will be dying in the future, people that I know, and people you know as well.
Additionally, Anita's situation contains elements of violence. As the rave of violence continues to increase, it is becoming more imperative that community leaders respond. Throughout our island and the rest of the world, the destruction of violent acts is evident. we view violence in the media everyday of our lives. Rapes, murders, bombings, and riots all dominate the days, news reports. For each of these crimes that are committed, many people are hurt. Both the victim and his family, and sometimes even the culprit and his family, will be scarred forever.
Such scarring usually affects one's education more than anything else. Both sex and violence are interrelated in the subject of education. Each may be directly hindered if one fails to acquire a developed education. For example, in the Bovoni area where I live, many of my former classmates now hang out at home all day, instead of going to school. They entertain themselves by sitting on the corner wall and then later moving on to a gambling game, which often culminates in a fight. If these youths had instead stayed in school, they may have been constructively occupied in a classroom, or earning a living through a worthwhile career. when I asked one of my friends why he didn't want to go to school, he shrugged and replied, "I don' know. School jus stupid!" What a shame, I thought. Now we'll never know his potentials.
It is very importan
t that one be taught good moral values at an early age. Teenagers should not engage in sexual activity because not only is it dangerous, but it may hinder their future family life. Refraining from sex will ensure one's safety from STDS, as well as prevent accidental pregnancies. A student's concentration should be on achieving his academic endeavors; sex will only interfere with one's goals. If possible, one should attend college in order to ensure a lasting career before one decides to start a family. In this order, the task will be possible both financially and emotionally. Additionally, an educated man is less likely to become involved in violence than an uneducated man. Hence, by promoting education we will, in turn-, decrease the occurrence of violence.
Clearly, a person's decisions on the issues of sex, violence, and education can be a major factor in the determination of his life's outcome. I have found this to be true and so I have vowed to conform to my values. By doing this, I expect to have a successful and fulfilling future. I then challenge you, the young people of the Virgin Islands, to make correct choices as well. Remember, your life is precious and you are given only one chance to live it. The choices need to be made now for the future or there will be no future!
"Dreams Shattered: Obstructers of Achievement"
Without a doubt, success in our lives today is a result of winning the battle against drugs, premature sex, and violence. Most of us can easily identify the following scenarios within our own West Indian society.
It is just another typical night in the Parker home. Mommy is out partying under the pretense of working late. Grannie is watching the kids, who are parked in front of the television for a "Blockbuster night." They are engrossed in the latest movies filled with sex, drugs, and violence. Daddy has not been seen for years.
Meanwhile, at the Smith's house there is a party going on. The men are out front playing dominoes while the women are cooking in the kitchen, mixing drinks, and catering to the male egos. As the night progresses the men get louder and louder. Suddenly Uncle Louis, who has had a little too much to drink, cracks a bottle on Cousin Joe's head. All the children just happened to be watching and will imitate the 'comical" scene for days.
The Hernandez home has definitely seen happier days. Tonight, Mamie and Pappi are having another major fight. The house echoes as Pappi storms out the door, and Mamie begins to cry. Paying no attention to their children, she runs quickly to the phone and is soon lost in a deep conversation with an unidentified male. Mr. Hernandez comes home much later that night with whiskey on his breath, cheap perfume lingering in the air, and lipstick on his collar. Little Ricardo Jr. sees everything and comprehends nothing. But very soon, as he gets older and by the time he reaches the age of seven, he will understand all too clearly.
Ever present in our community are also those strong families, some of which are single parented, that teach their children all the right values and support their dreams. Like many other parents, they distinguish right from wrong; practicing what they preach instead of saying, "Do as I say, not as I do." Sadly even these children, who have, been taught their values at home, are at risk of deviating from right when they enter the school system and begin to feel the stress of peer pressure.
These parents are all products of a generation that faced many of the same issues as teenagers today. Sex, violence, and education were just as much apart of their lives, as it is for youngsters growing up in the 90's. Their parents' decisions concerning these topics, as well as the accepted male oriented West Indian society, have greatly effected the lives of their children. The consequences today, however, have fatal repercussions. To mention but a few: AIDS, a growing population of societal leeches, and gun mortality; all rampant in our community. Also lost, is the work ethic of past generations. Although our forefathers might have been janitors, street sweepers, shoe shiners, or maids; they did their job to the best of their ability and held pride in their work. Today this value has been replaced by the outstretched hand and the motto "What can the government do for me?"
With all these mixed messages in our society, growing up is a difficult time.
Although schools and numerous posters tell you to "Just say no", many of your peers and role models make acceptance contingent on one's involvement in drugs, sex, and ultimately violence. The "cool" thing is to do drugs, have early sexual relations, and fight for your new identity. Although girls are taught purity, society in general by turning its head, has taught guys to experiment sexually. This places a young woman in a difficult position. She sees a popular guy, but realizes that in order to be with him, she has to bend her own morals. Others start out with their best intentions at heart, but eventually get sucked into the world of passion, love, and betrayal that maybe their bodies are ready for, but they, themselves are not. What teenagers fail to realize until it is too late, is that "it can happen to them". Although you may want to believe that your partner will care for you, in reality he or she is just as young as you are. The consequences of your decisions concerning sex, even just once, can lead to pregnancy or worse. Bringing a new and innocent child into the world, realizing that it resembles you not so long ago, dawns too late. History will repeat itself, in yet another generation if we do not fulfill our responsibility to instill morals which help our children make the right choices.
Many youngsters are taught to defend themselves by whatever means possible. Sadly, often the wiser child who chooses not to fight, is taunted rather than respected. Violence becomes a troubled youth's demand for approval and outlet of his anger. Acceptance on the street and peer pressure contrast with family honour, until one's self esteem is so deteriorated and jumbled inside that fighting seems the easiest way. The consequences of violence are great. Unrestrained outbursts of inner turmoil may result in death, destruction, and 'permanent damage to yourself and others. Ultimately the stigma of a jail term, makes succeeding in life even more difficult. Your future employers will judge or misjudge you by your criminal record.
Academic achievement is affected by the consequences of your sexual and violent behaviour. A baby or a jail term indefinitely hinder advancement. Education is the key to success. Hard work can lead to scholarships and essentially give you the opportunity to see the world. This same opportunity, like a swinging door, can slam shut if you choose not to care about your schooling. Every person has a dream. However, only some people are strong enough to achieve it on their own. Others, need their parents, role models, and society to teach them how to succeed. These are the people that most often fall through the cracks. But, we must begin to question if it was really them failing society, or society failing them. Could they have been something great if someone had realized the little boy was dyslexic not retarded, if someone had given that "trouble maker" a little more attention and guidance, if someone had taught that pregnant girl how to protect herself, if someone taught young girls in general that they do not need a man to measure their own self worth, or if someone had taught that womanizer how to respect females? Even the strongest person needs guidance and support.
The decisions we make today will always affect tomorrow. Every event in our lives contributes to building the people that we will become. However, mistakes concerning sex, violence, and education as teenagers can completely alter the life we envisioned for ourselves. The most important lesson that we can
learn and never forget is perhaps the simplest, love yourself. If it is impossible to completely love anyone else and to be a person that can be loved, if you do not respect yourself first. Self worth, tolerance towards all people, and love are inner lessons. They are the basis for all aspects of life, from religion, marriage, and success, to true happiness. In order to attain them we must build a foundation not of arrogance or ignorance, but inner confidence. This base begins construction the day a child is born. It stays with them throughout life and is passed on from generation to generation. Loving yourself is the key to making the right choices and succeeding in the trials called life.