Apostles of Hatred Find it Easy to Spread Their Message by Leonard Pitts, Jr. – A Personal Reflection

Reading through the essay titled ‘Apostles of Hatred Find It Easy To Spread Their Message’ was a moving experience for me. As I completed reading it, I was left with mixed feelings of pity, anger and a sense of helplessness. I agree with most of what the author had to say in the essay. The essay concisely captures the circumstances that led teenager Jeff Weise from Minnesota to go on a shooting rampage in his high school. There are several sentences in the essay that was effectively constructed. These include the following: “I won’t subject you to a treatise on why these people are abhorrent. If you don’t already know, you need more help than anyone can give you in a few inches of newsprint”(9)….We recognize that while change is a challenge, it is also a condition of life”(12)…Makes you sorrow for the boy even in the midst of your anger at him”(15)”. But the one that made me reflect and think deeper is this: “We recognize that while change is a challenge, it is also a condition of life”.

A basic Internet search on the subject led me to realize that this is not the first such shootout and unlikely to be the last. These indiscriminate shootouts have become so regular in the United States that it is easy to get desensitised to them, leading us to a feeling of despair and resignation rather than spurring us to remedy the situation. Considering that juveniles of the country are not mature enough to take complete responsibility for their actions, I realized that the onus lies with school and government authorities in taking preventative actions. In cases such as Jeff Weise, where parents have failed to provide adequate support, it is the responsibility of the government agencies and school authorities to fulfil the role of foster parents and help mould the child to socially acceptable standards. In the sentence that made a profound impression on me, “We recognize that while change is a challenge, it is also a condition of life”, I would like to place emphasis on the word ‘change’ and further assert that it is the duty of school and government authorities to bring about this change for the better. If the psychology of teenagers like Jeff Weise are not changed to socially acceptable standards, the American society would gradually disintegrate and collapse. The rest of this essay will foray into various preventative measures that the governing authorities can undertake and thereby significantly reduce instances of juvenile crimes.

Researchers Emily A. Mann and Arthur J. Reynolds have conducted comprehensive studies on juvenile behaviour in Chicago. They investigated the link between early educational intervention and its impact on juvenile delinquency. What is now referred to as the Chicago Longitudinal Study collected data pertaining to 1,500 children from low socio-economic group (Mann & Reynolds, 2006). And their results show that state-sponsored preventative actions are very effective indeed:

“Preschool intervention was associated with reductions in the incidence, frequency, and severity of juvenile delinquency by age 18. Childhood classroom adjustment, special education placement for an emotional or behavioral disorder, and school mobility were also predictive of delinquency outcomes, as were gender and family and environmental risk status. Findings demonstrate the importance of early intervention and schooling factors in reducing delinquency and highlight the benefits of early intervention as one mechanism for delinquency prevention.” (Mann & Reynolds, 2006)

This assessment is backed by research studies by numerous other scholars. Peter Greenwood had collected these supporting evidence in the form of data and statistics in his book Changing Lives: Delinquency Prevention as Crime Control Policy. In this Greenwood notes how the country’s institutions have let its children down by not heeding to proven intervention programs. Instead there has been an increase in the severity of punishment and expansion in juvenile detention facilities across the country, which does little in the way of reducing juvenile crime. As Greenwood succinctly notes in his book,

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