Thursday, June 28, 2007


The past few days I have spent my mornings at the Illinois Center for Violence Prevention at a training on how to integrate violence prevention in social service agencies. I found some of the information to be very interesting, some to be entirely too obvious to talk about, and some to be downright strange. I thought I would highlight a few of these things.

One of the statistics mentioned was that last year there were 9 shooting deaths in the entire country of Canada (Not Fearing Change questioned this and she is WAY correct. I found 172 in 2004 and that was the most recent data I found in a 1 min search. I would think it has stayed in that range. Still far lower than the US but what kind of training center so grossly misrepresents?). While I don’t have the exact numbers, I would imagine there are more than nine each day in the United States (I would hope there aren't close to 200 gun deaths a day in the US but we could get there in a month easily). Obviously Canadian gun laws are far stricter than those in the US but, if you ask me, the number of lives saved is far more important than having the liberal gun laws that we have today. I firmly believe that if our founding fathers knew how the second amendment was being applied in modern society they would be enraged. One of the main goals of the training was to change the view of violence as a social issue to a public health issue, thereby ensuring more funding and widespread concern about violence in general.

Violence is a health issue. It is a killer and, if the state of Illinois can spend 9million on enforcing seat-belt laws, they can certainly spend a few billion on violence prevention training and education for the people who most need it. Everyone needs to be aware of these things but, like all education, it is important that we start early. Back when I was in grade school we got to middle school and were suddenly old enough to learn about EVERYTHING. We learned about sex, we learned about drugs, we learned about isms of all kinds. We didn’t learn about violence. At the same time, most of us already knew about these things. If education is going to work you have to teach children as soon as possible. Our facilitator recently worked with a group in the Netherlands to incorporate violence prevention education in their schools at every level. Last I checked the Netherlands was nowhere near as violent a society as ours. Yet, the society that needs the most education is getting the least.

Some of the things that I found too obvious to talk about were the numbers and types of violence that get reported in comparison to larger sample surveys done. It seems common sense to me that most of the violence that occurs doesn’t get reported. One of the reasons for that is that I feel the Center for Violence Prevention had a broader definition of what could actually be violence than I would. Sure, I get the difference between physical, emotional, and psychological violence. But I’m not going to report every person who I see yelling at their child in the supermarket because I am not trying to get in a fight. I realize that there are times when being a casual observer is not an option, but I also have common sense and understand what is and what isn’t my business.

The biggest thing that I found downright strange was our discussion of sibling violence. Yes, I know that getting violent with a sibling is wrong but our facilitator seemed of the mindset that there is no such thing as “they’re just being kids,” and I disagree with that. My sister and I fought. We didn’t fight a lot; we didn’t ever put each other in the hospital. When we did fight we would get in trouble and be punished accordingly. We knew fighting was wrong. It seemed tome that our facilitator thought that the world wouldn’t be ok until there was never a case of a sibling hitting their other sibling. Sure, that world might be ideal, but I don’t think it would be realistic. My sister and I now have an excellent relationship and we look back to some of the things that happen and can agree that they were instances of kids being kids. Maybe I am wrong about that. It just seems like that is what happens.

Staten Island Ferry, David Weinstone- This song got downloaded when I made a CD for someone who was moving to NY. I tried to include songs about all the boroughs. I never listen to this song and don’t have any other music by this artist. I maybe should because this song is ADORABLE.

Se A Cabo, Santana- Every time my students want to listen to my iPod (and I let them in my office) they ask me if Santana is Juelz Santana who raps some mostly horrible crap. I then hang my head in sadness.

Lag Time, Ani DiFranco- The guitar in this song is amazing. I wish I could attach it to the post and, even though I probably could, I don’t know how to and I don’t care enough to try.


Katrina said...

Great post, I could go on and on on many of the points you made. But I won't cause it'll get too boring.

Suffice to say that I agree with many of the things you mentioned. The kids need to be taught about violence, that's for sure.

Eve said...

I was mugged at gunpoint in Montreal, but never in Chicago where I grew up. Go figure.

notfearingchange said...

I question the number 9. I can get you better breakdown of statistics if you would like. Send me an email and we can discuss.

Violence, however, no matter where SUCKS.

Danielle said...

Natalie, posts such as these are the reason I gave you that Thinking Blogger Award. I had no clue about Canada 9 deaths in a country that is second to Russia in size is a big thing. You are so right when it comes to educating children about violence and it never occurred to me that as you I received information about everything taboo except for violence. One day when I was watching a documentary on tv my oldest 6 came in the room and snuggled under the covers and wanted to watch the program with me. It was a documentary about 9/11. I instantly knew that I wanted him to learn about the present day and become aware even at 6 and I would be right there to ask him questions and answer his inquiries. As you can imagine it affected him and we worked through walking to school he asked me why did those men fly into the buildings and kill so many people? My first thought and answer was they had too much hate in their heart. I wanted to steer away from using terms like bad people, bad men. Little ones are looking for the labels of the world around them. Funny thing is I said black heart and today speaking to him about hate and the color black, I had to absolutely stop. I asked what color is good and he said white and black is bad. Well I had to end that as well. I suddenly realized that using the word black to describe evil, bad, dirty is not a positive thing to do since we use the same word to describe people. This is how violence ends, by actively questioning ourselves and our responses to life and sharing our knowledge now. My son's teacher was so surprised when he boasted of helping me vote, saying he is so aware. My answer was why wait.

Sibling violence, man, me and my sister would play fight all the time, all the time. I invented a special move and got her good, counting back more than 16 years ago and still won't let her forget it. I can see hateful aggression but occasionally fights with siblings are inevitable since we are so close to them. The barriers are thinner between siblings compared to friends. So when it goes down it will go down.

Long comment but a good post will do that.

As always, sweets!!!

Mom said...

Wow -- so much here. So much to think about, comment on. Have you heard about the schools that prohibit any form of touching? Such extreme over-reaction is going to kill us as a species. Human beings need to touch, and to be touched.

Also, it is human nature to react violently sometimes and there's no healthy way to "snuff" that out that I'm aware of. Part of the process of teaching/socializing children is teaching them to deal constructively and safely with their scarier feelings and violent impulses. We need to do a much better job of that, as individuals and as a society. It would be a scary place if kids never-ever misbehaved (including behaving mildly violently, like hitting or yelling -- extreme violent behavior that injures or kills is never OK, IMO). But it's the job of the adults to teach and correct the behavior and the attitudes that led to the behavior.

Michael Moore talked about the relative lack of gun violence in Canada in (I think) Bowling for Columbine -- good stuff. One of his contentions was that (very unreasonable) fear is promoted in Americans and that this contributes greatly to violence.

paz y amor said...

I actually think occasional fighting between siblings is a good thing, considering that most people who fought with their siblings as kids have really good relationships with them. After you fight, you kiss and make up and somehow you're a little closer to each other.

Honestly, (and I have the same thoughts about public education) I think the only way to reduce the amount of violence in the US is to change American culture. Violence is related to everything else the US population seems to be about these days- a quick fix. Rather than think/talk out issues, people are just apt to act and get it over with. Wrong answer.

paz y amor said...

By the way, Ani Difranco is my GIRL!

Mrs. Loquacious said...

Good points. I must add, however, that just because Canada has fewer gun-related deaths doesn't mean that it doesn't have a high rate of violence. In my western Canadian city several recent murders have been stabbings, beatings, and the like. We are (as I had expressed previously) now exceeding Detroit in our per capita crime rate.

I think I want to move to a pacifist, relatively crime-free nation. Any ideas where?

Johnny Yen said...

Thank you for your excellent post.

In the past year, I have lost one of my closest friends and one student to gun violence here in Chicago.

I was just reading an article in the New York Times about Oakland, one of my favorite cities. In 2006, Oakland, a city with a population of 415,000, had 148 homocides. Compare that to all of Canada in 2004, as you mentioned, with 172. Canada has 33 million people.

Most of the perpertrators and victims, as the article points out, are young black or latino males. There is an absolute need to educate. The assistant principal at my school and I were talking after my student was murdered in December-- the rate is catostrophic-- tantamount to an epidemic. A culture of violence is ingrained in a lot of young people. It's going to take a lot of work to undo it. The nearly-half-trillion dollars spent on this war sure could have paid for a lot of counseling, alternative schools, cops and treatment programs.

Sling said...

This was some interesting stuff natalie.
I grew up with 4 siblings,and we fought constantly.None of us grew up to be especially violent.I think it's unrealistic to expect children not to act out from time to time.

thethinker said...

Great post.

The thing about not learning about violence -- so true. And you're right, the education on sex & drugs did not come until middle school. It was never discussed before then. It just sort of happened all at once. And unfortunately, by that time I already knew a few girls who were having sex (and getting pregnant).

The education needs to happen earlier. It's such a shame that it doesn't.

CS said...

I agree completely that we are far too lax with our gun policies. And we are far too violent a culture. It's everywhere - news, entertainment, advertsing. I do think sibling aggresssion is "normal" in the sense that children do act out and it isn't catastrophic if they have an occassional fight. But I also think the degree of it is related to how acceptable violence has become. My sibs and I fought a lot, but it's what we saw growing up. Yes, we get along now, but it doesn't necessarily follow that it was our fighting that has lead to better relationships. I think we just matured somewhere along the way. My own kids argue but aside from occassional wrestling or a little shove now and again, never realy "fight." They know it wouldn't be tolerated and they have no role model for physical aggression of any sort in the home. Still, I wouldn't advocate calling human services everytime a kid hits their sibling (I do think a little parent training owuld come in handy, though.). Anyway, interesting stuff.

Gledwood said...

Hi Natalie ... I don't think I've been here before... I dropped by via friends of mutual friends blogs... VIOLENCE ... well the more we can stop of that the better our world will be! Keep up the great blog! And come to mine sometime: gledwood2.blogspot ~
see you there hopefully
all the best 2u
"vol 2" ...

Evil Spock said...

Allowing ourselves to kill each other is cheaper than providing healthcare.

Phil said...

Great post.

The Wife and I try to make violent influences a high priority, as in, the amount on tv, etc., is not shown to the kids. It might be our cultures biggest problem.

In your experience, what methods work the best?

Natalie said...

Katrina- It is a slippery slope what you can and can’t teach in school but I would think violence education would be pretty welcome. Even putting stories about it in reading books and then discussing the stories or something would be better than nothing.

Eve- I was mugged once in grade school by “big kids” at knife point in Minneapolis. Never had a problem in Chicago or NY

NotFearing- I thought the number sounded strange when she said it but then figured I’d go with it because she was the expert. That’s what I get.

Danielle- It is hard to think how to best teach the young about these hard to talk about subjects. At the same time, you knew it had to be done and took control. It’s nice to see you backed off about the good bad color associations. That one can be tricky and is so deeply ingrained. I don’t have kids so I’m no expert but it seems you can’t speak in generalizations with children although it is tempting to do. You have to spell everything out for them. Keeping them sheltered at home can only work up to a certain point because what they hear outside the home is not as censored.

Natalie said...

Mom- A complete ban on touching is a little Orwellian. There needs to be a balance in everything. I agree that it would be scary if kids never did anything mildly violent. I would think exhibiting those feelings and learning how to deal with them is an important part of “normal” psychological development.

Paz- I agree that learning how to make up after a fight is a huge part of growing up. Being able to have something bad happen and still be ok with someone is a learning experience. I also think that there needs to be a huge psychological shift if we are going to see real change as a society. There is too much of the if it happens all the time it is ok mentality as well as the quick fix mindset. There is a lot of work to be done. And Ani totally rocks!

Mrs. L- I haven’t heard of many truly crime free nations. I think some of the Scandinavian countries are pretty ok though. I agree that gun violence isn’t the only kind of violence by far. It does tend to overshadow some of the others because of the higher instances of death. I totally hear what you are saying though.

Johnny- It’s so scary that some cities have as much as an entire country. I agree that the culture of violence is highly pervasive with young males of color, particularly in lower socio-economic backgrounds. Another stat she mentioned (although I should be leery of quoting her) was that IL has spent 90million on enforcement of seat belt laws in the past ten years. Not that seat belts aren’t important, but the laws haven’t done a lot to increase people wearing them. Maybe some of that money could have been put to some bigger killers like violence education/programs/enforcement.

Natalie said...

Sling- I completely agree. Some of that tension in the home seems necessary. My sister may bring up particular fights now and again but at this point we can laugh about it and ultimately have been brought closer.

Thinker- Stats show that people are having sex and using drugs at younger and younger ages but the education about them hasn’t changed with the times. Maybe people don’t want to admit that these things are going on so by not talking about it they assume it isn’t happening.

CS- I agree that a little shove is different from an all out brawl. Sadly the difference isn’t always taught. Even the little shoves need to be discussed and disciplined. I was just talking about parent training the other day. I was wondering how you find a balance between stripping people of their right to have children (not a right I necessarily believe everyone should have) and making sure people are well prepared to take care of their children. The caring for an egg in Health class doesn’t do it.

Gledwood- Welcome. Nice to have you stop by. I’ll have to come visit.

Evil Spock- So sad and yet so true.

Phil- As I don’t have kids I don’t have much experience. The students I work with are all “grown” (over 17) but I have found that talking with them has worked best. Just sitting down with the people who have been arguing and trying to work something out between them has seemed to help. Not to say that it always works but it has given me the best results. We had two students last year with high high tension between them and it finally erupted. However, the mediations we had beforehand changed the way the students felt after their physical confrontation. I don’t think they would have felt as bad about losing their control if we hadn’t talked. Doesn’t change the fact that they were both expelled, but one has kept in contact and has really made some changes so I feel it is a success. Kind of.