Education: Sociopaths and Psychopaths by Kyle Phoenix

 I've had the privilege of teaching for almost two decades now, since I was a teenager.  I term it a privilege because most people, particularly men of color that I meet in my travels are often frustrated with their work.  Not the concept of working but the kind of work they do.  Interestingly enough people who are satisfied, deeply invested in, consider their work a vocation and not a task tend to live longer (Frank McCourt, etc.).  The other high correlate to overall life satisfaction within relationships is a couple earning the equivalent of over $50,000 a year a piece (or the breadwinner making $100,000).  It really helps if both are synonymous.  Teaching when done at a high level can satisfy both but in the vocation of teaching, one generally moves around a lot career wise  learning one's trade.  In my teaching breadth I've consulted, worked for non-profits, the government, charter schools, public schools, universities, the prison system, rehabs, churches and even 12 Step programs.  In that time I've met some wonderful diamonds of intellect.

I've also met monsters.

They've been staff, student and client alike.  Pedophiles, rapists, murderers, abusers, self-destructive, narcissists, users, professional victims, scammers, crackheads, whores, malcontents and even once or twice, people who were comfortably evil.  (One even called himself Satan.)

What I teach, I'm still learning to quantify.  One of my foci is the acceleration of learning for adults.  That means I spend a lot of time studying how and what people learn and at what speed.  This also means that I will probably at some point have to get a direct Masters in Psychology because I spend so much of my time understanding people or seeking to understand them.  I also spend a lot fo my time translate this understanding to students and administrators of all ages.  That means I spend a lot of my time getting into people's heads real fast, sorting around, poking and peeping, asking strategic questions and listening on several deep levels. I'm also attentive to body language, micro-expressions, micro-aggression's, language usage, syntactical expression, identity exposure because I generally have to justify something or explain something or when I'm really having fun, unpack racialized entitlement and privilege.

I know that I'm reasonably good at it.  I don't think I'm great.  In fact seeking to become less intuitively good and more learnedly better is why I'm pursuing another 6 year Masters.Doctoral stint at university.  I'm often struck by, as I learn how to identify different kinds of people, how many of them are gummy bears (my slang term for a casual inspection of someone who's off their rocker.)  The funniest thing about those who are gummy bears is that a psychological team I was working with sat me down in meetings where I had to present evaluations of adults and insisted that I learn all the proper terms.  Instinct while good at spotting the odd is useless in the helping of it.

A sociopath is defined as "...a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood." A psychopath is defined as someone is a personality disorder that has been variously described as characterized by shallow emotions (in particular reduced fear), stress tolerance, lacking empathy, cold-heartedness, egocentricity, superficial charm, manipulativeness, irresponsibility, impulsivity, criminality, antisocial behaviors such as lacking guilt and living a parasitic lifestyle.
  • I had one student who was infected with every know STD (HIV, herpes, gonorrhea  chlamydia  etc.) on the planet and made it his life's mission to infect as many of other Black and Latino men as possible. 
  • Another group that I was facilitating for eventually came to the conclusion that they were being run like a cult by a megalomaniac.
  • This one young man regularly beats young women while hooking with men.
  • Another, in fact several  have had long term, from their toddler years to mid-twenties sexual relationships with their mothers and fathers.  Sometimes I've even met the parents before and after learning about the abuse.
  • A brilliant young man, a true intellectual genius once divulged me while holding a knife how he'd perhaps killed before.
  • Several students have been ex-convicts (and currently imprisoned) and told me of gangland warfare, melees, mayhem and violence that stagger the mind when confronted with the seemingly good student in front of me.
  • Another student told me about his involvement in a murder several years ago.  The wild part was it was a famous murder here in New York and he was telling me because he needed my help to write a letter to the State's Attorney.  At least he was writing, right?
  • A young man, who was a porn star, once explained to me how he was involved in a double homicide and I had to stop him and explain to him the Law & Order Rule: only tell your lawyer and priest, because they have legal and hopefully ethical confidentiality.
  • I've had enough Black and Latino students who've done pornography to not only fill several hours in movie but cater to at least three different sexualities and four gender identifications.

There have the minor offenders who are just garden of the mill self-destructive narcissists; the self-purported perfect husband who cheats so much on his husband that there's a website about it; the non-profit manager who sister died of AIDS so he now practices destructive homophobia within the teenage group he manages; the young man whose mother has him operating as a pimp....for his sister; the mother who turned into a prostitute because her father was her mother's pimp---and likes it; the administrators and non-profit managers who steal money, one even from a man who was having his first child and needed the job---which the manager cancelled as revenge against another manager; the racial champions publicly who denigrate and destroy other men of color privately.

I am an optimistic person though.  Yes, my work often involves people who are bluntly sinners.  However I adhere to the original definition of sin.  It's an archery term, that means missing the mark.  Most of them are trying to do better.  Or at the very least are honest about their transgressions.  I'm then confronted with my own morality about what to support the measurement of the greater good, the decision of the lesser of two evils, the reticence to give advanced lessons to people I know will only use it for harm.  The hardest part of being a teacher I've discovered over the past handful of years is maintaining the idealism that existed two decades ago, when I was blind and happy and thrilled to be trusted as an intellectual guide.

I am now comfortable with the sill of being able to see who won't make it. Who will fail.  Who I can mitigate to some reasonable level of productivity; who I can help through the basics of an Associates degree but who, due to psychological gummy bear stuff, won't go too much further.  I am saddened that just by the nature of the populations I've worked with so far so many are Black and Latino men.  I have a list, it's a request form for books from the Department of Correction integrated library system.  It is ASTOUNDING!  For several years I was the Teacher's Asst. at a university teaching several classes a semester in Black Literature, my parents were both in the Black Panthers and deeply college educated during the Civil Rights era so I personally have read, taught, have a pretty impressive litany of literature  particularly racial literature.  This list though---it's the equivalent of two doctorates and the student who gave it to me had it for 7 years while in prison.  He'd tried to read several of the books but lack of foundational education made it more of a pipe-dream than reality.  But he kept the list and shared it with me when he got out.

I mention the above because he also shared with me a startling truth: certain books are banned from the prison system.  They're considered too dangerous for prisoners to have a hold of.  Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Greene.  Essentially anything that teaches mental offensive and defensive stratagem.  Marcuse, Davis, Fanon, Gramscii.  Anything that teaches critical interpretation of self, reality, systems.  You might say to me, one, what does this have to do with sociopaths and psychopaths that you've come across and two, why this clever prison diddy?

One, yes, even I can understand the editing towards a population though I think it's censorship.  I can understand it because for all the sociopaths and narcissists and psychopaths I've met and taught, I have to sometimes weave through the true power in texts or I have to omit a book because I realize in the fertile mind of someone who's gummy bears they would wreck even more havoc.  I've spent many a day and night thinking about students and what opportunities to ultimately give them because I can see what a predator they are.  It weighs heavy to thrill at knowledge sharing and then be dampened by the maturity to see that some would be far too dangerous f I were to teach them the full applications of an intellectual tool.

Two, education is dangerous.  Radically I try to impress this upon people, particularly people of color.  One student, in her forties, from West Africa once literally blew my mind in a classroom.  She had about a 3rd grade education and suddenly out of nowhere in a discussion said: "What education is is similar to the invasion of Iraq.  You're trying to invade my mind and reshape it with a form of mental warfare,"  I was young them teaching a GED class and suddenly I realized that she was right.  Taken further though I now understood why education is denied to people overtly historically and now covertly with the overwhelming availability but lack of access of information from the internet that I watch people use.  I see why only 25% of Americans are college educated and why a recession can knock so many people on their financial asses.  I see why a housing boon and bust occurs with mortgage scams, because people can't read critically nor do long term analysis with math.

But here's why this should matter to you.  If we suspect that we're being used by banks  politicians, the media---it's mainly because they're more educated and therefore control the resources to do the manipulation.  The inversion of keeping certain thought forms away from certain populations, whether that be criminal, racial or the willing (the sleeping masses) doesn't mean that those self same manipulators aren't absorbing the materials and stratagems that Angry Birds and American Idol have distracted you form being aware of.  In fact it means that a lot of your past times and lack of intellectual engagement tools are to distract from the people who may've been my students, someone else's or simply taken the thrill of knowledge to the self edification level.  Edify they have.  Next time you complain at a someone on television in power, ask yourself what do they know (schooling, math, critical thinking, etc.) that you don't?

I've learned over the years that a lot of sociopaths and psychopaths love education and there's only so long teachers like me can do workarounds on them.

Thank you for reading,
Kyle Phoenix
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