Making Children More Violent

Philosophy — Sean Bonner @ 9:28 pm
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Let me admit right away that this is a totally half brained, ill conceived stab in the dark of an idea but I thought I’d jot it down just since it was on my mind. I’ve been thinking a lot about Derrion Albert and now Michael Brewer and listening to pundits asking why children are getting so much more violent. Endless speculation abounds so I’m throwing in my own as well. Contrary to the popular thought that there needs to be more restrictions and more oversight, I’m left wondering if that isn’t part of the problem. Take for instance this six year old sent to reform school for 45 days for having a weapon in school, thus violating the zero tolerance policy. Except that the “weapon” was a cub scout folding dining set which had a spoon, fork, and a knife. Doesn’t that seem a bit extreme? These “zero tolerance” policies basically make it clear that no matter what you do you are going to be treated as if you did the worst possible thing, so once a kid decides to take that step and break the rule, there is really no motivation to not go all out. I don’t know if I’m expressing that idea clearly or not, and I don’t think it’s a conscious decision, but when there are clear stages of punishments for varying degrees of rule breaking people tend to not push things as far as they can.

Take this for example – Speeding. Everyone knows if you go 10mph over the speedlimit, it’s illegal, but you probably won’t get pulled over. Go 15mph over the speedlimit and if an officer sees you there is no question you are getting a ticket. 25mph over the speedlimit and not only will you get a ticket, you’ll get a much larger ticket and probably some points on your license. 100mph over the speed limit and you’ll probably be arrested and charged with reckless driving and a whole host of other things and probably have your license suspended. Because of this, if someone decides they are going to speed they probably keep it in check to some extent, sticking in the 10-20mph range. If there was a zero tolerance policy on speeding and anyone caught even 5mph over the speed limit would end up behind bars it would probably stop some people from going over the limit, but for others they’d have no reason to stay under 25mph and would just go all out because fuck it, who cares it’s all just as bad.

That’s my thought with this – I think kids think, maybe subconsciously, that no matter what they do they are going to get the worst punishment available. Whereas previously something that might have resulted in a fist fight now is amplified to all kinds of horrific levels because kids don’t have that inner judgment voice telling them not to cross the next level.

I can’t help thinking this is a lot like our approach to terrorism – we react and make rules after the fact to try to prevent some specific thing that already happened from happening again, rather that looking at the cause of the problem and trying to solve it at it’s source.

Again, I know this rant is poorly focused and all over the place, but I just keep seeing these articles and really think people are looking at the situation from the wrong perspective.



  1. I’d say, even as a first order approximation, having a “zero tolerance” policy on ANY aspect of the rearing and education of children is absolutely retarded.

    Then again, perhaps I’m a wee bit unusual in that my mother was an 1st-6th grade teacher for over 20 years and my father (Korean War veteran, mechanic, bow hunter, eagle scout, chef, etc.) taught me about firearms and knives beginning at 10 years old.

    People, especially children, differ widely in their approaches to learning and their responses to external physical and social stimuli. Learning to respect and control individual “dangerous” items is critical to establishing the more generic mental disciplines of self-control, personal responsibility, and delayed gratification.

    Comment by Keith Williams — October 14, 2009 @ 9:53 pm
  2. I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said here, but I think the answer might be even more simple: kids are getting violent because they don’t have an outlet for their energy anymore. They aren’t sent outside to play until suppertime because that isn’t SAFE OMG and there must be a parent present at all times OMG and most adults don’t have time to supervise their children 24/7 so the children stay indoors more. And then when they go to school they are spending more and more time in the classroom sitting still and less and less time having recess even though it is a PROVEN FACT that children learn better if they have regular free play (complete with exercise and fresh air). Our society’s obsession with safety and test scores is ruining children’s lives. The zero tolerance (or zero common sense as I like to call it) crap is just adding to it.

    Comment by Annika — October 14, 2009 @ 11:03 pm
  3. I have to agree with Annika. I’m only 24, so “back in the day” really wasn’t very long ago, but I used to play in the dirt, I’d fall off playground equipment, I was in the Scouts so I played with Swiss Arm Knives without supervision, and everything was fine.

    Now, as Annika says, children are coddled and kept safe, continually vaccinated and not allowed to fall down and scratch their knees, and, frankly, are becoming weak and pathetic. And then people are surprised when they act out.

    Comment by Ash — October 15, 2009 @ 1:33 pm
  4. I like the “range design” because that’s what life is. Zero tolerance is bad for sure.
    In France it’s been the case since president Chirac after 9/11 against Paris suburbs young people. They would arrest and put them in jail for the 400 blows. They would be put with older and big criminal people (no room), get out after a short period and be worse in the streets, having the feeling that they are definitely lost and criminals now, being models for the youngest brothers and sisters.

    Well done zero tolerance, well done.

    Comment by Harold — October 18, 2009 @ 2:03 am
  5. we’re more worried about eating free range chickens, than in raising free range children

    Comment by dancinpete — February 10, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

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