In order to prevent children from growing up in environments that produce deviant behavior we can take certain crucial steps while they are still receptive to social molding. Through the plan of intervention that I propose, we are assured that the next generation of our society?s children will not be plagued by the problems described by the theories of Labeling, Differential Association, Social Control, and Strain. The program I propose involves inserting highly-trained mentors into our elementary, junior high, and high schools. The objective is to have these mentors, or role models, develop a personal relationship with their students, and through that relationship they will provide the guidance, support, and counseling that each student requires.
As there are no funding limitations, it is possible to have the abundant amount of mentors that is necessary. With each mentor dedicated to his group of about 10 students, an ample amount of time and attention is guaranteed to each student. The mentor, who must first pursue a college education in the areas of psychology, sociology, and child development, as well as specialized ?mentor training? will be well-suited and educated to help guide the children into good social standing. Each mentor will first be introduced to their group of children at the beginning of each educational institution (i.e. elementary school, junior high, high school), and then stay dedicated to that group for the remainder of their stay at the institution. The point of this aspect of the program is to provide time for the mentor and group to develop a trusting and respectful relationship; hopefully, a bond will develop between each member of the group, as well as between each member and the mentor.
From the theory of Differential Association, we learn that people are often pushed into deviant behavior as a result of the deviancy of the people around them ? bad influences. The mentor program resolves this problem by providing a constant source of ?good? influences and guidance, from both the mentor, and the other group members. If one child within the group begins adopting socially deviant behavior, the others within the tight-knit group or the mentor will become aware, and intervene to prevent further deviancy. By associating with the members of the group, who are led by the mentor, each member of the group is guaranteed to stay away from other, negative, influences. Also, since each school, in each district, will adopt the program there will be much fewer sources of negative influence (aggregate). This can also alieviates the problem by providing external Social Control. However, internal Social Control is also provided through the constant reassurance and support that the mentor provides. By spending ample time with the group each day, both in and out of school, the mentor becomes a living example of morals and good judgement that the children may emulate and internalize. This is especially crucial if the child?s parents are absent or just do not provide this important training.
The program also fights the negative labels that are assigned to people, which as we know from the Labeling theory, can lead to an internalization of those labels, consequently producing deviant behavior. This is done through the daily meetings between the mentor and children, both on an individual basis ? for discussing more personal matters, and as a group ? to provide a forum for discussion and sharing of thoughts and emotions. Often the labels that are so destructive are not even true; hopefully, by shedding light on the matter and by sharing each other?s feelings, or labels, the children will be able to realize that those labels are untrue or can be overcome.
The social problem presented by the Strain theory is a much harder one to overcome. When examining this problem and seeking a solution it is important to realize that every person feels a certain amount of strain, regardless of their social standing, and that is normal. Although strain is a problem that will probably not plague the younger members of our society, it is important to encourage students to talk about their feelings of strain from the point they are old enough to be affected by it. This means that the mentor must also help them find and take advantage of whatever opportunities exist for them. By simply making sure that they continue with school and try to do well, the mentor is providing the children with the greatest opportunity that they have: education. By ensuring each student graduates from high school, and by providing information about, and encouragement to participate in programs that help the child achieve their goals, the mentor is guaranteeing that the level of strain felt is kept to a minimum.
The ?Mentor? program herein proposed is based upon the model of parents. The mentor is not designed to replace the parents, but instead to supplement whatever job they perform. The most crucial part of the mentor program is that each group of children ?grow up? with the mentor and eachother; this provides a strong sense of belonging as well as instilling the important concepts of trust and ethics in their character. The students graduate together and with their mentor, hopefully keeping the bond they have built for many years to come.