Sometimes The “Victim” Is A Killer

When Mark Ossenheimer founded New York City’s Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation, he ran a tight ship. The Dean, Hector Diaz, took a stern position on discipline, and the students took him seriously. And the school thrived.

But fashions change, particularly in education where movements based on Utopian theories of behavior come into favor. And UA Wildlife was not immune.

New York was in the vanguard of a nationwide movement, spurred largely through federal coercion, to undo traditional discipline in favor of a progressive or “restorative” approach.

At UA Wildlife, meaningful consequences for misbehavior were eliminated, alternative approaches failed, and the administration responded to a rising tide of disorder and violence by sweeping evidence of it under the rug.

The restorative approach was that instead of punishing students for bad behavior, students were rewarded for good behavior. The theorists delighted in riding unicorns on rainbows. The students, for some odd reason, remained stuck in the real world.

But by the 2016-17 school year, most of the old faculty had fled. Only 19 percent of teachers said order was maintained, and only 55 percent of students said they felt safe. Rumors of weapons were omnipresent, and fights were a matter of weekly, if not daily, routine.

The new, untenured Dean, was constrained to live with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s progressive ideals. And the students quickly realized they were in control.

The kids quickly realized their teachers could get in trouble for getting them in trouble. Vasquez shared a video he took of his classroom. Two girls are standing in front of the class, talking loudly. When Vasquez asks them to return to their seats, one yells, “I’m gonna stand right here! You not tellin’ me nothing! Mr. Primus not tellin’ me nothing! None of them teachers tellin’ me nothing! So I’m gonna stand right there!” The other girl chimes in, “I’ll take you to court!”

In some circles, this reflects strong students standing up for their right to assert their entitlement. In others, this means the inmates ran the asylum. But for student Matthew McCree, it meant death.

At UA Wildlife, the “restorative” approach accelerated the school’s disintegration. “Instead of suspending the kids, they made this group called the Warriors,” says one teacher. “It was all the kids that needed discipline, and they did this social justice program, and it kind of backfired on them.”

Abel Cedeno started bringing a knife to school. He was bisexual. He was also armed. His mother called the school to warn them to no avail. He was just another “warrior” until one day a fight broke out in class.

“So [Cedeno] was going to leave the room and they threw a paper ball in his direction. I guess to go in the garbage, and it almost hit him or it hit him. And he turned around and he was like, ‘Who the f- -k threw that?’ Right? So, Alex says, ‘I did it.’ But then Matthew stands up and he’s like, ‘I did it.’ Right? And [Abel] goes, ‘All of y’all in the back are pussies.’

“So Matthew starts coming around. Mr. Jacoby tries to push him back, he’s like, ‘No, you don’t have to do . . .’ Then, Matthew like just literally passes right by Mr. Jacoby and starts going toward him. That was when Abel pulls out the black switchblade and he was like, ‘Pull up, run up, run up.’ Right?

“Then Matthew. I don’t know if he saw it or not. But as soon as everybody saw it in the front, they started backing up. And we were, like, screaming, ‘Matthew, don’t do it!’ And he still kept going. He landed mad hits on him. And then that was when he got stabbed.

And like that, Abel Cedeno killed Matthew McCree. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen on the Happy Island. And so a narrative was swiftly born that, well, it didn’t.

Vasquez connected me with eight of Matthew’s teachers and six of Matthew’s friends. They say he was not a bully but a very “respectful kid” and “wicked smart.”

A bully? That’s what the narrative demanded, and so the dead kid, the respectful and “wicked smart” kid, became a bully. But it wasn’t just because it’s trendy these days to believe that bullies deserve to be killed. There was a kicker.

On Sept. 27, 2017, Abel Cedeno, an 18-year-old sophomore who had been bullied for his sexuality, snapped. Cedeno says he was being mocked by two boys; he pulled a black switchblade out of his backpack and stabbed them, killing Matthew McCree, 15.

Remember, Abel Cedeno was bisexual, and so the social justice narrative, like its “restorative” educational approach that gave rise to a school without any control over the worst impulses of its most undisciplined students, seized control.

A bullied bisexual student who “snapped” and murdered the student who bullied him is the sort of story that brings tears to so many eyes. It’s the sort of story that raises calls that something must be done to protect these poor students, that harsh and terrible consequences must befall the bullies who torment them. That it’s a lie changes nothing. Once the narrative is out there and the tears and passion flow, there can be no solution other than adoring the preferred identity and condemning his bully.

Matthew McCree had a right to live, even if his sexuality didn’t match that favored by the unduly passionate. Abel Cedeno may be bisexual, but that doesn’t entitle him to a fictional narrative and a free pass on murder. And had UA Wildlife not indulged in an experiment in social justice insanity and, instead, maintained some control, some discipline over its students. Abel might not have been able to carry his switchblade into school and Matthew would still be alive.

14 thoughts on “Sometimes The “Victim” Is A Killer

  1. Skink

    SHG, you’re far better at understanding this stuff than am I. I struggle with the logic, however flawed, that compels the conclusions driving these types of decisions. My struggle clouds my processing of this type of logic, so I apologize for wandering.

    Some lawyers steal from clients. We call them assholes, then later “former lawyers.” The latter is because the Bar gets them, even if it’s just eventually. The rest of us cheer that result because we want assholes to be former lawyers. We just know everyone is better off without them. That conclusion is inescapable.

    But what if the Bar decided that thievin’ leading to disbarment was the wrong tack? What if lawyers that didn’t steal from clients were rewarded with a 10-hour reduction in the CLE requirement? We know that wouldn’t work because it doesn’t address the problem of lawyers stealing from clients. It would just give the rest of us free CLE hours.

    Now, I know some folks are thinking, “Skink, that can’t happen; you’re just making crazy shit up.” But it could happen. We’ve seen worse. It could happen using just the type of thinking employed at this school, and that’s my struggle. What kind of logical thought progression leads to these conclusions? I see this stuff and react that it’s obviously stupid and no thinking person could believe it could work. But that’s where it ends for me. I can’t find the nuts-and-bolts of the logical process that leads to decisions like these. I can’t create a syllogism that doesn’t look like a Fubar poem.* Can you?

    Like nearly everyone here, I’m trained to employ logical thought to solve problems, but doesn’t everyone follow the same approach? We may do it at a heightened level, and maybe that’s my problem. It could be that it’s so logically flawed that I can’t find where the flaw occurred–kinda like working back from the conclusion that I can stand on a cloud. I obviously can’t, so there’s no need to go further.

    Sorry for the ramble, but considering this stuff really fucks with my ability to make sense of it.

    *No offense to Fubar. I dig that stuff. But this kind of thinking ain’t poetry.

    1. SHG Post author

      Consider what would happen if you employed logical thought, but subject to irrebutable presumptions based upon extremely wishful beliefs that would render the desired outcome an impossibility if any of the presumptions proved less than perfect.

      1. Patrick Maupin

        Two and a half decades ago, when I started a new job and was getting the lay of the land, I found that one of my new co-workers, Fred, was brilliant and knowledgeable, and would, half the time, make batshit-crazy technical decisions. In digging in to some of those, I found the kind of wishful beliefs you describe. But Fred was nothing if not earnest and honest, and he was brilliant enough that when I said “Fred, assume A, B, and C. What happens if I do D?” he could actually do it. He could set aside his magical beliefs and accept my given assumptions and give me very useful information.

        Even then, Fred was unique, but these days, he would be a unicorn. How many could set aside their indoctrination long enough to really, truly use their logic capabilities on real facts?

        1. SHG Post author

          It requires a very smart person to set aside his assumptions for the sake of a viable outcome. There aren’t too many people who are that smart.

          1. Nemo

            Dudn’t take a world’a smarts, just gotta be willing to be honest with yourself.

            Of course, the “just” there is pretty laughable, because being honest with yourself is not only hard work, it’s often painful and is at best uncomfortable otherwise.

            Sucky stuff, but it’s the only way I know of to keep your smarts from making you dumber.



  2. Noxx

    McCree would still be alive if he had stayed in his seat instead of jumping at the opportunity for violence.

    No his killer shouldn’t get some sort of “pass”, and yes the school should maintain better discipline, but just as Cedeno isn’t entitled to a fictional narrative because he’s bi, neither is McCreery because he’s dead.

    Each time you decide you’re going to start swinging, you’re betting your life that everyone’s playing by the same rules. It’s not a sure thing.

    1. SHG Post author

      Kids fight, especially when the grown-ups pretend they’ll be angels if given freedom from consequences. They fight. They don’t kill. Especially in a classroom.

  3. Skink

    I get that it’s rigged for an outcome. What the outcome is in this case, I don’t know, but it can’t be that bad behavior is stifled by rewarding good behavior with some unknown carrot. This type of behavior modification might work between parents and children, but not otherwise. And that it continues in spite of failure doesn’t change the obvious for me. It can’t work. That’s the outcome, and it doesn’t matter what thought lead to the system that created the outcome. Yet, I struggle because I try to understand the process of thought. I can make a decent argument that my desk chair is a throne, but I can’t conjure an argument on this topic leading to anything but a result of this type because that outcome is deemed.

    So, what is the nuts-and-bolts process that leads to an inescapably bad outcome? The negative outcome serves no one, even the most progressive thinker. No one applying any form of thought could think this was a good idea because it plainly wasn’t. The “this is why it will work” part of the argument, which must be included, I just can’t see.

    Maybe I’ll figure it out while doing my chores. I don’t want to harm your bandwidth with this kind of ruminatin’.

  4. Nemo

    I don’t see any good actors here, but the issue I have is that the worst actors here are those behind the policy changes, and those that supported the changes. I doubt any of them are honest enough with themselves to admit that the policy they loved created the conditions for this tragedy, because it was based on wishful thinking.

    Be easy enough to find out who still believes the policy works or is workable, though. All that’s needed is a wave of public pressure to go back to the way things were, and they’ll be on the front lines arguing against the idea.

    Progress is all well and good, but if your unspoken (especially to yourself) assumption is that progress requires that things never go back to the way they were in the past, you are going to drive down a lot of dead ends and take a lot of wrong turns in the process of finding the next New & Improved idea to pursue. It ruins a lot of lives, but at least you’ll never have to admit that you’re lost, so long as someone’s drawing new maps to follow.



  5. the other rob

    “And had UA Wildlife not indulged in an experiment in social justice insanity …”

    This is what worries me. I read this, along with the Post article, this morning and got pissed off. Like very pissed off, the kind of pissed off that you get when you’re pretending to be angry but really, deep down, you’re afraid.

    1. SHG Post author

      What makes these forays into social justice engineering in education most problematic is these students get no second chance to be students again under a viable educational regime. They get one shot, and trying out some inane theory predicated on a nonsensical premise of human behavior that fails will prove devastating to their future.

      1. the other rob

        Everybody is the protagonist of his own life story. I forget who said that, but it has stuck with me.

        The thing is, you and I see these kids as people, while the SJW bureaucrats see them as things. The late, great, Sir Terry Pratchett once had a character opine that there was only one sin – to treat people as things. That probably came from somebody else that I haven’t read.

        My seeing these kids as victims and my having empathy for them will, of course, be of fuck all use to me if they decide to kick down my door.

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