“Pathways” is the popular word today for fixing broken, adolescent and unsuccessful people.
Here are a few examples.
At the federal level are the Pathways out of Poverty Act, the National Institutes of Health Pathways to Prevention program and the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention Pathways courses.
At the state level are Gov. Phil Bryant’s Mississippi Works Smart Start Career Pathway, the Mississippi Department of Education High School Graduation Pathways and the Mississippi Community College Board’s Academic Pathways and Career Pathways.
Outside of government are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Pathways for Student Success, the Boy Scouts of America Pathway to Adventure Council and numerous addiction and homeless programs named Pathways.
We have so many intended-to-help positive pathways, yet we have so many not following them. They follow destructive pathways — pathways to gang membership and crime, pathways to drug and alcohol addiction, pathways to sexual predation and abuse, pathways to mental illness and disorder and pathways to homelessness and poverty.
It seems we have far more pathways to fix people than in past generations, as well as far more people who need fixing.
Therein lies one of our dilemmas. We have become terrific at analyzing symptoms and creating pathways to treat them, but mediocre at eliminating the destructive pathways that spread the symptoms. It’s like treating small pox but not wiping it out.
Indeed, the sorry fact is our society now embraces much of what confounds us. Entertainment media (movies, TV, internet, magazines and novels) glamorizes gangs, drugs, sex and anti-social behavior. Politicians revel in stressful discord rather than sensible solutions. We have an economy that idolizes profit with little concern for the consequences — harmful behaviors, rampant layoffs and income inequality.
In so many ways, we no longer condemn but celebrate that which leads us down destructive pathways. And we do this in the name of freedom — free speech, free markets and freedom of choice. Never has freedom been so miscast!
If we cannot wipe out destructive pathways, the only alternative is to get broken, adolescent and unsuccessful people to choose positive pathways.
But just getting folks to show up is often a problem, revealing our other dilemma. Too many lack the motivation to try, much less stick with the positive pathways available to them. That old saying “where there is a will, there is a way” must have a corollary that says “where there is no will, there is no way.”
If we cannot get people to turn toward positive pathways and away from destructive pathways, then our positive pathways become useless pathways.
Still, there are proven methods to help with motivation. Providing more year-round stable, caring, educational environments for young children, more outreach and intensive case management for at-risk youth and adults and creating more living wage jobs for at-risk individuals are examples. There are more.
Investing in methods that help motivate people to choose positive pathways is just as important as providing them those pathways.
Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.