He pointed out that the young men from the two projects had much in common: “They were the same young men. They live in the same geographical area.” They differences between them, he said, “don’t exits except in the minds of the people who are fighting. So they are fighting over nothing, really nothing.” But the feud had given them a “feeling of purpose,” and “unless we are able to impart meaning into our children’s lives, then this drama is going to keep playing again and again and again, and people are still going to die.”
La Violencia in Colombia. Drug trafficking in Naples. Cycles of gang retaliation in Harlem. In these past few weeks I have steeped myself in stories of individuals and communities for whom choosing a life of criminality is the most rational act. As Mitt Romney follows George W. Romney into a life of business leadership and political power, so Sandra Ávila Beltran heads a multi-national cartel out of Mexico, as did her uncle Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo. And so for groups where licit opportunities exist, education is viable, a social and economic reward stands to be gained. For groups where there are no opportunities above board, where there is no meaning to be found in the acceptable outlets, more money, more purpose leads to another life. As an enforcer in Antioquia. A pusher in La Scampia. A teenage assassin in Manhattanville.
Education is about finding purpose, developing the social, emotional and intellectual wherewithal to pursue and perhaps even fulfill it.