Violence—Are We Meeting the Challenge?
MUCH of Britain’s crime is committed by school-age youths. One teacher in Sheffield, England, said that she had taught a class of 15 pupils in a school where only 3 did not have a criminal record. In fact, even kindergarten children are now involved in classroom violence.
“Nursery staff are seriously assaulted by their pupils, and you can imagine the terror in the hearts of the other children,” said one Yorkshire teacher. She added: “If a first-school child can inflict this sort of injury, what are they going to be like at secondary level if we don’t do something about it?”
But why are children so inclined to be violent?
The Role of TV and Movies
More children are watching violent and sadistic television programs and movies, and many authorities say that this is a factor in the increase of violence. In Australia, for example, a survey was taken of the viewing habits of about 1,500 children aged 10 and 11. The Australian film review board rated half of all the films the children had seen as unsuitable. Yet, a third of the children said that they especially enjoyed the violent scenes.
One explained: “I liked the part where the girl chopped off her dad’s head and ate it as a birthday cake.” Regarding another movie, a child said: “I liked it when the alien ate the lady’s head and kept on burping.” Still another child said: “I liked where they chopped a lady up and all white spurted out of her.”
The researchers concluded that as a result of watching this type of material, both children and adults are developing an appetite for violence. They also said that parents are being intimidated or seduced by strong social pressures channeled through their children to allow their children to watch such films.
Britain’s Independent Broadcasting Authority conducted a study of the effect of viewing programs featuring violence. Two million viewers, or 6 percent of the total audience, said that after watching crime programs, they sometimes felt “quite violent.” The Times of London, in its report of the findings, said that children fail to understand that screen violence is not real and have the impression that murder is a “day-to-day affair.” Is it any wonder that so many children are inured to violence and have few qualms about perpetrating it themselves?
Schools and Parents
Some have attributed much of the blame for the increase of violence to the failure of schools to teach moral values. Of this failure, a report prepared in Britain by two inner-city teachers says: “This is a tragic situation and one that goes a long way towards explaining the increasing violence in our society.” But is it fair to blame teachers for failing to instill moral values in children?
A report by the British National Association of Head Teachers answers: “Standards of behaviour in school and in society are deteriorating but the influence which schools can have on society via the young should not be over stressed.” Since a child’s disposition is already formed long before he or she gets to school, the report said: ‘There is little a teacher can do to change that.’
Roy Mudd, deputy head at City of Portsmouth Boys’ School, likewise stresses that teachers who see their pupils for only a few hours a day ‘can do nothing to put added moral fiber into the school diet unless children have been taught the difference between right and wrong by their parents.’
There is no question about it, the foundation for wholesome moral conduct must be laid early in life by parents. They, rather than the schools, must primarily be involved in teaching their children moral values if a reversal of the escalating violence is to occur. Yet, neither parents nor schools are meeting the challenge of violence, or at least not enough of them are.
What About Law Enforcement?
Are law-enforcement officials meeting the challenge? In Colombia, South America, 62 judges are reported to have been assassinated because they refused to accept payoffs from cocaine traffickers. Likewise, in Los Angeles county, U.S.A., law enforcement was unable to prevent 387 drug-gang killings in 1987. Law-enforcement authorities in many such places are acknowledging that particularly due to drugs, they are facing an unmanageable crisis. But why can’t they meet the challenge?
It is because of the breakdown in law and order worldwide. In Great Britain, Surrey’s chief constable, Brian Hayes, explains: “In years gone by police would tell a group to move on and they would. Nowadays the police would be set upon.” The Sunday Times of London notes that society often has “inverted values, where the police are cast as criminals and the law-breakers are seen as heroes.”
Richard Kinsey, a lecturer in criminology at the University of Edinburgh, says: “In Scotland we send more people to prison than in any other country in Europe and two and a half times as many as in the south [England].” With what result? In 1988 Glasgow’s Strathclyde police reported a 20-percent increase in crimes of violence over a 12-month period. Wryly, Kinsey concludes: “We in Scotland have seen [that] the key in the cell door has proved useless.”
An Unmet Challenge
Illustrating the failure to meet the challenge of violence was an editorial in Britain’s Nursing Times. It said: “No one warns nursing recruits that they are joining a dangerous profession—perhaps they should.” The findings of the Health and Safety Commission, the editorial continues, are that nurses face “a level of violence and intimidation many times greater than the population as a whole.”
Among the most dangerous places for a nurse to work is in A&E (Accident and Emergency), as it is called in Britain. These can be particularly violent places on weekends when the usual hospital departments are closed. Awake! interviewed a former nurse who described work in a London A&E.
“The hospital was situated in a locality where there were many drug addicts, and we had a specific area of the casualty department set aside for them. There they could be left to sleep off the effects of their overdose, away from other patients. On occasion, as they came round, they would become very violent. It was a frightening experience.
“I have seen people admitted who have been badly injured in a gang fight and who continued their fighting in A&E. So often the violence can be turned without warning on the nursing staff. When I entered the nursing profession, a nurse’s uniform seemed to afford some kind of protection—but not so today.”
Violence has put all of us on the defensive. Statements such as, “Now nobody is safe” and, “It seems that you are not safe anywhere,” are more and more common. Parents watch over their children, afraid to let them out of their sight. Women live in fear of being mugged and raped. Elderly folk barricade themselves inside their homes. From every angle, it is a sorry picture.
This brings us to a vital question, What can we do when faced with violence?
[Picture on page 5]
Television violence can promote real-life violence