Neglected values

December 18, 1991

Do not be disappointed over the fact that when city school Superintendent Walter G. Amprey talks about the problem of violence among young people today, his prescription is for a searching discussion "values" instead of calls for metal detectors at the schoolyard gate. The violence is already endemic because of what has happened to our values; at least Amprey doesn't pretend that what we need is merely a technical quick fix.

The truth is, school violence is not confined to city schools, or schools in poor communities with large minority populations. These are merely the stereotypes that mask the extent of a more general failure. Across America, in city and in suburb, among middle-class and underclass, young people are now bringing weapons to school in unprecedented numbers -- because they feel threatened, because they want to impress a friend, or merely because it's the "cool" thing to do. Last month the Centers for Disease Control reported that one in five high school students at times carried a weapon to school.

We will never buy enough metal detectors or hire enough school security guards to eliminate this deadly scourge. The only hope lies in changing attitudes: in helping young people see that there are better ways to resolve conflicts and win respect. And that means talking about "values," something that has been sadly neglected in recent years. Let us begin now, for the hour is late.

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