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Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016

Your view: Teaching violence

Monday, January 26, 2004

Dear editor:

I applaud the straight talk and sincerity of Charles R. Jackson. I agree completely with his goals. I therefore regret that, having studied how people come to choose violence or nonviolence for the past half century, I have to say that all the evidence we have indicates that his prescription for creating nonviolence in our neighborhoods is unlikely to work. Children, any parent knows, pay a lot more attention to what their parents do than to what their parents say. Any adult has had the experience of hearing themselves sounding like their parents on a bad day. So you can tell your kids that violence is bad all you like, but if you try to get them to behave by hitting them, you teach them that it's OK for strong people to use violence against the weak--as long as the strong person believes he has a just cause. And who doesn't believe that?

America is one of the few civilized countries in which people routinely hit kids. It's illegal in a lot of countries, just like hitting anyone else. I suspect it has something to do with the Civil War, because the people who continue the practice are mostly the descendants of slaves or of slave-holders. It's not a noble tradition.

And, if it's OK to hit your kids when they are bad, why not your wife? We used to think that was OK, too.


R. K. Dentan, PhD