Searching for Answers: A Groundbreaking Conference Explores the Social and Cultural Roots of Violence Against Children
The presenters were 50 educators, clinicians, scholars and other professionals who have made key contributions to the study and prevention of violence. Keynote speaker Michelle Fine, a TC alumna (1980) and professor of social psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, set the tone for the conference with trenchant commentary on "The Politics of Institutional and Discursive Violence: Thinking Through the Practice of Blame."
The waning of affirmative action, together with government cutbacks in educational remediation programs and financial aid to needy students, among other factors "have all served to close off opportunities to poor working class youth - especially youth of color," says Fine. "These actions not only underlie the alienation and loss of trust that lead to violence, they are forms of violence themselves."
According to conference speaker Geoffrey Canada, violence against children, "in terms of both numbers and lethality, has escalated dramatically in recent years, but we're still not dealing seriously with it. Canada has created a broad array of innovative and effective programs aimed at providing educational and economic opportunities for inner-city youth and families.
A professor of Child Development at Cornell University and expert on child abuse issues, presenter James Garbarino has written or edited 17 books, including Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them, Raising Children in a Socially Toxic Environment, and Children in Danger: Coping with the Consequences of Community Violence. Through research, training, outreach and educational offerings, the Family Life Development Center, which he co-founded 25 years ago, addresses the risk factors in the lives of children, their families and their communities that lead to family violence and neglect.
"It is time for us as a people to 'put up or shut up' about violence," Garbarino says. "Are we willing to accept tragedies like Littleton as part of the cost of being an American, or are we willing to pay the price for a less violent society by depriving ourselves of violent imagery on television and in the movies, at least so far as children are concerned?"
Notwithstanding the conference's diversity of speakers, perspectives and disciplines, virtually every presentation in its own way addressed two fundamental questions: What are the roots of violence? And how can we break the cycle of violence? "We've got to understand why people - especially young people - become violent and self-destructive," says Peter W. Cookson, Jr., Director Center for Educational Outreach and Innovation, at TC. "Until we do, we will not be able to create life-affirming environments that are the basis of a just society."previous page