3.20.2009

What's the Opposite of Civic Pride?

I had a conversation the other day with one of my teachers about the stark differences between the four schools that I work at. Three of my schools are located in a predominantly Latino town and one is in a very upscale predominantly white seaside town.

Of course there are going to be major differences in the cultural norms between them, one is incredibly affluent, the others are maybe a generation removed from the third world. One is rife with Mercedes Benz's, BMW's, Lexus' and Range Rovers, the other is rife with pimped up and out Hondas, dropped and chopped pick ups and gaudy blinged out lower end rides. There are expensive cars to be sure but they are likely owned by thugs and decked out in stupid shiny add-ons, an overloud stereo thumping crap music and the thug posture driver (where he sits halfway into the center of the car with his cupping his chin and his red or blue baseball cap pulled down low).

Anyway, lots of cultural differences. But one that just annoys the hell out of me is the seeming utter lack of civic pride in the Latino town. Graffiti scrawled everywhere, dogs that take a shit in the middle of the walking path and ignored by owners and litter. Litter is everywhere. I've witnessed people throw trash on the ground when they are less than fifty from a trash can.

And I do not get it, I do not understand why you would intentionally trash where you live. Even animals don't shit where they sleep. It depresses me to see trash blowing down the street, caught in the trees and piling up where the wind deposits it like a plastic and paper snowdrift.

Last week, when I was at this school I'm at today, I watched a young boy, about 8, peeling an orange and intentionally flinging the peels left and right. I stepped outside and told him to not throw his trash on the ground because there was a trash can nearly right in front of him. He glared at me like he'd just as soon stab me but he picked up the peels and then walked through the playground to a trash can a couple of hundred feet away. I stood and watched him the whole time and he kept looking back at me checking, glaring, and then he'd walk further and further away. He did eventually throw his orange peels in the garbage and then glared in my direction some more. He's not learning to disrespect his school in a vacuum, he's learning that from his parents, he's learning that from his friends, his older brothers and sisters. This attitude is being impressed upon him from without and he's learning that its okay to litter.

And it makes me sad really because the town is, basically, messy and dirty because of this attitude that throwing trash away is uncool and that tossing your garbage on the ground is acceptable.

At the affluent school there is a long standing program where each kid picks up five pieces of trash on the playground when they head in for recess. Many times they can't find five pieces of trash because they've done a good job of cleaning it up already. A teacher tried to do the same thing in the Latino town and got so much backtalk it was ridiculous, kids demanded to know why they were being asked to do the janitor's job, that they didn't put it there so why should they clean it up, that they were students and it was someone else's responsibility.

The attitude shows in how much trash there is all over the school grounds. I could go out in the playground area right now and pick up a couple of hundred bits and pieces of trash and barely make a dent. A dent that would be obliterated by the next recess and retrashing of the grounds.

Until this cultural mentality of civic dis-pride is overcome, the town will remain lower class, it will remain dirty and unwelcoming. Of course, the gang bangers and generalized jack-assery doesn't help either. But the trash thing just seems like such an intentional fuck you to authority and its really a fuck you to any sense of civic pride.
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