To Youth Motivation website

Mindset of Street Gangs

What do astronauts and street gang members have in common?

Both groups are highly motivated. Both had role models, at an early age, of the person they wanted to be. Both attached a dream to their role model. The astronaut's dreams lead them into the world of aviation. The street gang members dreams lead to imprisonment.

Why do some people's ambitions lead to self-destruction when the same skills can be used to develop a motivating career and productive lifestyle?

It is important to note here that all of us follow our dreams. Some of us have weak dreams that offer limited motivation - others have powerful dreams that are highly motivating. For most of us, our dreams are positive, for others, their dreams are self-destructive. Street gangs have very powerful, self-destructive ambitions, usually related to criminal activity. Our mind is a powerhouse that searches for ways to fulfill our dreams, whether they are right or wrong.

Street Gang Members are Super Motivated!

  • Gang members are highly intelligent and ambitious. They want to learn and be recognized as an achiever. They reject the classroom method of education; therefore, they are straight "F" students.
  • Street gangs are teams that share knowledge, which is a powerful form of education. In this case, they are learning how to be efficient criminals. Our education system does not recognize teams' as an education tool.
  • The education system drives young people into gang environments by defining a group as failures and reminding them in every classroom, 5 times a day, 5 days a week that they are failures. This produces low self-esteem. Street gangs are organized in a way that produces high self-esteem. This makes them attractive to classroom failures. We all like to associate with people with high self-esteem, including young teens who do not consider the outcome.
  • Role models of gang members are people serving time in prison. A person in prison is an achiever, from their perspective. They actively seek criminal opportunity. They want to be caught, see their picture on TV and in the newspapers. Their peers recognize them as an achiever. This is a positive status symbol in the street gang world. They care less what society thinks of them.
  • Young people, admitting to crimes they did not commit can give them instant status recognition among their peers. Serving prison time, guilty or not, is an achievement, from their perspective.

The above-stated elements are that of a super achiever. The problem is, these people embraced criminals as their role model and attached a dream to them. This leads to self-destruction. Because negative influences got to these people first, our society is putting highly motivated, ambitious people in prison. If these people were inspired with positive goals, at an early age, they would be helping to build a better world. We are talking about millions of intelligent minds wasting away in prison, because of self-destructive dreams, people who could be living highly productive lives.

Education's policy of using standardized tests, for measuring education efficiency, is increasing the number of students who give up and join the self-destructive group. The 30% student failure rate is the result of a "one system for all" policy. The academic based education system will never meet their needs no matter how much money is spent. There needs to be alternate education opportunities. Instead of pressuring students to adapt to the system, the system should adapt to the students' by recognizing individual learning personalities and offered learning opportunity that is in harmony with their learning personality.

Every individual not only has a social personality that is different from everyone else, we also have a learning personality that is different from everyone else. Our learning personality is the combination of natural talent, personal interest, current opportunity, social environment, character, motivation and how the brain processes information. Anyone can develop a productive skill if their learning opportunity is in harmony with their learning personality.

The education system requires every student to be an intellectual. If they don't measure up to intellectual standards, they are labeled failures and considered dummies. Through self-fulfilling prophecy, the labels prove to be correct. Because the system conflicts with learning personalities, 30% of our teenagers drop out of high school. If our society wants to solve the street gang problem, we have to recognize learning personalities and expose young people to positive role models in a different type of learning environment, where academics is a byproduct. Project based education can achieve this goal through self-discovery.

Some Notes

  • Just because students get straight "Fs" in the classroom does not mean they lack intelligence, motivation or ambition. Goal driven "F" students need exposure to positive role models. Today, only "A" students have opportunity for exposure, or they are the one's selected when opportunity is offered.
  • Labeling a student a failure 5 times a day, 5 days a week, builds low self-esteem. Motivated people will not accept this; they will find an environment that will give them high self-esteem. For many, opportunity is found in street gangs. These people have a love to learn, but not in the classroom.
  • Some teenagers accept the label that they are dumb, stupid and a failure. Self-fulfilling prophecy proves educators right, "people who do not master academics will be losers."
  • For many failing students, the classroom is their enemy and/or prison from which they feel there is no escape. Through self-fulfilling prophecy, they become misfits who believe they are NOT wanted at home, in the classroom or by fellow students. To them, there is not much difference between a prison with bars and a classroom without bars, either place is a reminder of not being wanted. With negative feelings like this, there is no motivation to learn.
  • All of us admire highly motivated people with positive self-esteem. If young students can't find it in the classroom, they need to be exposed to other forms of education where they have that opportunity.

A One system for All is NOT Feasible

Society creates opportunity for the intellectual learning personality. They are coached all the way through their school years to their first job. Their natural talent, interest, and ability are in harmony with the system. For non-intellectuals, there is little or no coaching, their natural talents are out of harmony with the system.

People with an intellectual learning personality are viewed as high on the social ladder. People with a dexterity learning personality are low on the social ladder, therefore, their needs are ignored. High school students are taught, “blue-collar skills are something to avoid at all cost, they are beneath acceptable standards.” The teaching of social prejudice prevents non-intellectual students from discovering their natural talents.

The formal education system wants to believe that people who succeed in life played by the formal education rules. To reinforce this belief, they put up barriers that many non-intellectuals cannot overcome, mainly academic requirements. For example, in high school, to take vocational courses, students must have a “C” average or better. Students who could benefit, who could discover their natural talent, are not allowed to take vocational courses. Educations' policies prove educators right, students who do not comply to the rules become failures in life.

It is easy to understand why educators take this view. The formal education gave them a vision, helped them discover their natural talent, and helped them develop it. They are intellectuals and their natural talent is in harmony with the system. Where does this leave the dexterous talented student who is not allowed to take vocational courses?

My resource on street gangs is based on a seminar I attended titled "Understanding the Gang Mentality" by Deputy Richardson, Richland County, SC, Sheriff's Department Gang Task Force. It was held in Columbia, South Carolina, USA, December 7, 2001. At the end of the lecture I was so shaken I had to sit in my car and calm my emotions down before I could drive home. No lecture has ever had an impact on me like this did. I think what got to me was, these same gang members could be living successful productive lives if they had learning opportunity in non-classroom environments such as teams.

People Doing Jail Time are Heroes

From The Wall Street Journal, Opinion, Friday, July 18, 2003. Commenting about the NAACP July 14 convention in Miami with 2004 presidential candidates.

"Al Sharpton brought the audience to its feet by bellowing that he was the only presidential candidate to have done jail time."

People doing jail time are role models for many of our youth, not people or programs in the public education system.  Teenagers adapt role models from surroundings that inspire them.

In the News - June 16, 2003

The Massachusetts education system mandates that high school students pass MCAS test to qualify for a diploma. 92% of the students passed the test and this is considered a success story. This leaves 8% who did not pass. If we add 8% to the 30% who dropped out, we have 38% of our teenagers without a high school diploma. If the test can pressure more struggling students drop out then the MCAS success story can jump to 99%. That will leave 50% of our teenagers without a high school diploma. Is this success? What is the goal of education anyhow, for statistics or help students discover their capabilities?

In Houston, Texas, high school students, that drop out, must sign a statement that they are transferring to another school. The results - Houston has the lowest dropout rate in the nation, statistically. High statistics increases school funding. For this reason the goal of education is based on enhancing statistics, not what is best for the students.

Students are not numbers, they are individuals.

To Youth Motivation website