Random Readings 24-05-2007

My recent hiatus from reading as much as I had been has been a bit depressing. I’ve really missed reading two books a week. So, I’m back finally. I just finished Help at Any Cost and I’ll share my thoughts below. As much as I would like to continue reading two books a week, that’s probably not going to happen as Mandy and I prepare to move up to Massachusetts. Still, I’m going to attempt to read two books this week. We’ll see how that goes. I think if I’m honest though, after this week I’m going to have to drop it down to one book until we get moved and settled.

Help at Any Cost. This book was actually quite informative. It is basically laid out as a series of case studies that tracks what the author calls the “troubled teen industry,” specifically of the tough love variety, from the mid to late seventies until around 2005. The only caution I give is that one has to remember that although the author does cite statistics and the like, she still has an agenda. I’m not saying her agenda is wrong or untruthful, but it is there. This is not a book of unbiased research into rehab and other treatments for troubled teens, it is a book that is meant to expose the injustices that occur in such programs as a warning to parents and others.

However, even with those facts in mind, the book really is a decent read. I’d recommend it to parents as well as those who work with teens in non-parental roles. Some of the stories she relates are down right difficult. But by reading this book I’ve remembered one of the reasons I am involved with youth ministry: to help students who are going through their teen years and are struggling walking the road of life. In other words, normal teens. I make no bones about it, I’m not a therapist, nor am I qualified to be one to truly troubled teens – as a youth pastor I will need to know when to refer. But I do have a passion to love and help teens who are having a difficult time with life, as many teens do. So, this book has been great in helping me remember that.

The research in the book appears to be solid. There are plenty of notes and citations. This is always nice to see. I will hurl one criticism at the book; for as much as the author complains about the troubled teen industry only using anecdotal evidence, she sure fills the pages of her book with stories. Now, the stories are there for a purpose, and they do serve to engage the reader, and many of the stories are filled in with empirical evidence and such, but they are still stories. In fact, there are about three chapters near the end of the book that are basically one running story/case study of a trial in New Jersey that featured the KIDS program as the defendant. I would have preferred to have seen these pages taken up with information on alternatives to tough love programs or cold hard statistics on how people who were in these programs faired.

Coming Up:

  • The Scripture Principle by Clark Pinnock and Barry Callen. This is one of the books Mandy and I recently ordered. I’m excited to read it because the book supposedly represents a middle position between verbal inerrancy and “those who dismiss its [the Bible’s] authority.” I think it should prove to be an interesting read. Clark Pinnock is also a bit of a controversial figure in the circles I walk because of his involvement in the whole open theology issue.
  • A New Perspective on Jesus by James D.G. Dunn. Another book that Mandy and I recently ordered. I’m looking forward to this book. I’ve enjoyed what little of Dunn’s work I’ve read in the past and its been a while since I’ve read anything that he has written. Besides, I decided that I needed to take some time and read something to do with the New Testament again.
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2 thoughts on “Random Readings 24-05-2007

  1. I like Pinnock. I sometimes wonder if he’s the only theologian in the ETS who has actually read the OT.

    Another to put on your list (that I just picked up from my library) is Jesus in the Talmud. I’ve got no idea what it’s like. I hope to read this weekend.

  2. I used to work in the industry, and while I was younger then and haven’t researched any studies on the subject I really believe that there is benefit in being in an outdoor therapeutic setting. I think there are lessons that can be learned there that might come more slowly or less effectively in other environments.

    While also, I agree that no one can guarantee that a wilderness program or any other type of program or counseling will “fix” their kid I think there is some great benefit there. Kids cannot become healthy until they really want to. Personally I think that this is the opportunity that residential programs give to kids. None of them think they want to change initially, but given time, experience and becoming more aware of the ways that they are affecting their lives, many kids take the opportunity to stop destructive behavior and change.

    I guess the most important thing to me, is that these kids really need help. Some of their parents really need help too. Many of them are too overindulgent and are not helping their teens learn to take responsibility for their own actions. Some of this has become a product of our society, we blame restaurants we visit for making us fat and others for hot coffee that we spill on oursleves. Dumb things that blow up into million dollar lawsuits simply because even many of us adults have a hard time taking responsibility for our own actions.

    Parents can do a lot of research on their own about programs as well, I know that strugglingteens.com has some good info, and that http://www.eprogramsearch.com/ also list a bunch of information about schools for troubled teens. Sites like these as well as research into past news articles and checking with state licensing agencies can help parents get a feel for the quality and history of the programs they are enrolling their kids into.

    I’m not trying to say that the industry is perfect or that Maia does not have a point. I think that she does, the industry is not perfect. But I think that there is benefit in helping teens through residential therapy and care.

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