In everything Kelly Ann Ramsey does, she’s operating directly from her value system. This includes how she perceives what she sees on television, in the movies, what message she hears in current music, and on and on. She looks at culture through the lens of reality, and breaks it down to its impact on an individual’s neuro-programming. She questions how what is playing on a child’s TV is going to affect their psyche, and how it is going to change their behavior, their brain. What happens when a child hears vulgarity, witnesses glorified violence, a sex scene, and so on?
To Ramsey, if it isn’t educating or enriching somebody, it’s merely entertainment, a time-waster. What disturbs Ramsey about what she sees in children’s cultural inputs is the disregard for decency, deference, rules, a lack of personal discipline, childish emotional displays. Pure entertainment.
Babies first get what they need by crying, and children will continue to use emotional displays for personal benefit until properly disciplined. Kids are fascinated by emotional displays, such as end zone celebrations in the NFL, violent outbursts on an NBA court, a Spice Girl throwing water on someone because of a silly comment. Their malleable brains think “if they can do it, and they’re rich and famous, then why can’t I?” They don’t realize that they are being psychologically manipulated and marketed to.
According to Andrew Huberman, a neurobiology professor at Stanford University, “Campaign strategists and certain media are taking the opportunity to engage us in a form of strategic neurobiological warfare.”
Looking through the lens of reality at the NFL, for example, they have the Play 60 in-school curriculum, created in partnership with the American Heart Association, so they appear to have kids’ best interests at the front of their minds. But they also have heavily-tattooed players who twerk in the end zone when they score a touchdown, or beat their spouses, or have permanent brain damage from colliding into each other on a consistent basis.
The NFL doesn’t care about your child’s brain, Ramsey does.
“I also watch Project Runway, and I like Heidi Klum. But we need to re-think Victoria’s Secret commercials. They, too, are a disgrace,” Ramsey declares. “After the election, I’d like to pen a letter to Klum, too.”
The fourth item in the assignment folder is the one which leaves Ramsey’s litigants’ mouths hanging wide open — The Rules.
There are technically ten rules in total, but rule number four contains a litany of impermissible behaviors, including, but not limited to, no TV in their bedroom and all use of television must be intelligent, no Facebook or social media, no music about sex, drugs, money or violence, and no friends in the house if parents aren’t home.
In “Why We’re Living in the Age of Fear”, Neil Strauss writes, “Instead of having to turn on the TV or radio to see what’s going on, the news comes to us. Between our phones and browsers, most of us are plugged into a nonstop feed of headlines and opinions that are responsive to our specific interests and fears.”
A Dedication To Discipline
In an increasingly autonomous world, there is great temptation to simply enjoy the day-to-day distractions of our time. The key to harnessing our true power as individuals, history has shown, is in our commitment to constant education and self-improvement in all aspects of life, seeking balance along the way. Kelly Ann Ramsey honors that history every day in her courtroom.
“I’m not suggesting that all of our children need to go to the Maxey Boys Training School. I’m not suggesting that at all,” Ramsey insists, “but there have to be real consequences for bad behavior, and that has to start as a child.”
Ramsey gives an example of when she had to be firm with her own daughter, Alexis.
“I was taught as a young child: No means no. Alexis was taught that same lesson. I thought about that discipline the day I found her on the other side of the road…she had done something wrong, when I briefly turned my head, the bad behavior was immediately addressed, and she received a permanent life-lesson.
“I once caught my daughter on the other side of Rutherford,” she continues. “She was maybe four. She was swiftly and firmly disciplined. Years later, a neighbor knocked on my door to tell me what she observed about my daughter: when all the other kids ride their bike in the street, as soon as possible, they turn the corner where the parent can no longer see them, but not my child — Alexis would continue to ride her bike on the sidewalk, circling the block, whether or not I was able to see her. The neighbor asked, ’How do you get your daughter to do what she is told to do?’ Simply put: I expect that of her.”
As a Juvenile Court Referee for over twenty-three years, Ramsey has seen her fair share of parents who neglected to properly discipline their children and hold them accountable.
“You can’t allow your child to go spend the night at their best friend’s house when they skipped school on Tuesday and got all Fs on their report card,” she admonishes. “One has to come to understand that privileges and responsibilities are parallel lines. Going to your BFF’s house is a privilege, only acceptable if you’ve done your job of going to school and receiving the grades you’re capable of.”
Ramsey practices what she preaches.
“It’s the same thing with me. I can’t afford a manicure or a pedicure or a new hairdo before the gas, water and electricity bills are paid. I can’t go on vacation if I can’t make the house payment. I can’t buy a boat if I can’t afford my child’s education.” She finishes, “Children cannot afford to watch television and play video games if they are failing in school.”
And when the defendant in her courtroom protests?
“‘No way. Here’s the Kelly Ann Ramsey Rule List. You’re gonna follow these rules,’” Ramsey would order, “‘and when you get done following these rules, then you have earned your privileges.’ You can’t tell your children to finish their dinner or they won’t get any dessert, yet, give them the dessert notwithstanding,” she states.
Ramsey often gave out more than one copy of her rule list: “One for the refrigerator, one for the bathroom mirror, and one on the entrance to the child’s bedroom door.
“You have no idea how many people, both throughout the years and while out campaigning, come up and tell me ‘I still have your assignments.’ It makes me proud.”
Shaped And Scarred
Kelly Ann Ramsey says she saw all types of kids from all walks of life come through her courtroom, and that she took care to judge them equally under the law.
“I have a very interesting perspective on race,” she says. “My father never ever allowed me to identify anybody with race. Period. You couldn’t say ‘Oh, you know that black guy that I work with?’ My father would have went nuts on that statement. To identify someone, and call out their ethnicity, was impermissible at my house.”
Ramsey can’t stand racist jokes, or most “jokes” for that matter.
“I have been told…by more than one man,” Ramsey reveals, “that I have no sense of humor.”
She lets out a big laugh.
“I just hate stupid humor, slapstick,” she continues. “I don’t get stupid humor. I don’t. On the other side of the coin, I think George Carlin was fantastic. He had something to say, important things, and he delivered it in a way that made total sense to me.”
Hypothetical: If two people each have a dollar bill, and they exchange those bills with each other, neither of them are any worse off, but they’re not any better off, either.
Now, if a person has wisdom, and they are able to communicate it in a way you can understand, and you use that wisdom to improve your station in life, you are both better off, and nothing was lost except the time invested to communicate the wisdom and act on it. This is called reciprocal altruism.
“The assignments that I give my children, all of the assignments at the top of the page say ‘Why did Referee Ramsey give this to me?’,” she explains. “I’ve received stunning answers back. Stunning. The answer that I liked the best is the one that says, after seven pages of a life story, the last sentence was ‘Thank you for seeing someone worth saving.’
“The fact is, that’s all I ever see in my courtroom — people worth saving.”
“I can still hear her speeches,” Bruder says in her letter to Governor Snyder. “Many times, court staff and caseworkers would sit in her courtroom, just to watch. Other judges, staff and attorneys brought their own children or other clients in to her courtroom for the wisdom and help delivered from Ramsey’s bench. I have heard clients say ‘I can feel her love’.”
Bruder is lavish in her praise for Ramsey, and cites example after example of her good work.
“She has a gift that I rarely see in other judges: the ability to understand and reach people and to help them make sound choices which result in a positive and long-term change to their lives. I have seen it during not just a few cases,” Bruder goes on to testify, “but more than I can count. While assigned to her courtroom, not a week went by that someone did not stop in to let her know that they were still drug-free, still crime-free, still in school or still employed. Many would ask for a hug before they left, often shedding tears of joy.
“Referee Ramsey understands, expects people to change, and then gives them the tools they need to do so. She expects people to seek the best in themselves, and models that behavior herself. Referee Ramsey expects the litigants to work hard and to bring a solution to their problem,” Bruder continues, “and she expects this of caseworkers and attorneys as well. Maybe this is how Ramsey gets the much-needed job done so efficiently and effectively….The citizens [of Wayne County] deserve a judge of this caliber.”
Ramsey awakens something in each of her clients, though she hates using that word, ‘client’. To her, they aren’t just another client, another file on the docket to be processed. They are a human being, shaped and scarred by the events of their life, just as she is, and as we all are.
What Ramsey awakens is the pure person one was, before they were manipulated, taken advantage of, hurt, abused, denied. By way of their guilt, she returns them to innocence with a firm-but-loving approach.
In “Why We’re Living in the Age of Fear”, Strauss says, “If we are to address the very real and numerous problems facing the country and the world today, we must do so without fear and anxiety, but with our heads clear and a sense of compassion for everyone, not just the people who look like or agree with us.
“The fact is: Anything can happen in the future. For some people, that’s exciting. For others, that’s scary. And even if both kinds of people are working toward a better world tomorrow, only one of them gets to be happy today,” Strauss concludes.
Ramsey would agree.