Last week, I took part in a symposium, where we tried to explore some of the strategies we can use to keep kids from joining Californian gangs. One of the strategies that was strongly endorsed was that of partnering with clerics, to keep kids from joining the gangs.
The partnership with the clerics (to keep kids from joining street gangs in California) is meant to work at some two levels. The first level is where the clerics work directly with the kids, to keep them from joining gangs. The second level is where the clerics work with the parents (of the kids) to keep the kids from joining gangs.
It is to be noted that kids who are well grounded in religion tend to be extremely unlikely to join gangs. But we have a situation where clerics often make religion unattractive to kids from early on in the kids lives (by, for instance, being too hard on the kids). Therefore, as the kids enter their teens, they tend to disconnect from religion. They enter a phase of rebellion, during which they often fall into the claws of the gangs. This is, therefore, the area where partnering with the clerics would help in keeping the kids from joining the gangs.
It is also to be noted that the clerics tend to be major influencers of the parents – especially on social matters like that of choosing the right styles to bring up kids. But we have a situation where clerics tend to advocate for very conservative and strict (sometimes abusive/inhumane) styles of bringing up kids: like that which is based on “using the cane, so as not to spoil the kids”. The kids who are brought up in those ways (which are in turn endorsed by the clerics) tend to grow up with low self-esteem. And as they enter their teens, they fall into rebellion, which expedites their entry into the gangs. Therefore, by partnering with the clerics, we can advocate for more humane styles of bringing up kids. Those are parenting styles that would ultimately lead to kids with high levels of self-esteem and who are therefore not prone to joining the various Californian gangs.