Violence is affecting our children and permeating our culture. The shocking news of affluent teenagers who murdered and tried to eviscerate a man, of parents abusing newly adopted Russian children, of a child abducted one half block from school and murdered, of guns in high schools with proposals of police supervision, of drug crimes and stray bullets hitting youngsters in poor areas, all point to one indisputable fact: our children are at risk. Is violence and aggression an atavistic trait, inherent in man's nature and immutable?
Famed scientist and Nobel Prize winning author, Konrad Lorenz stated that the aggressive "killer instinct" in man was less controlled than in animals. In the animal kingdom, aggression and violence are prompted by the need for self-defense, for establishing dominance in a geographical area, for food or for procreation. According to Lorenz, friendship, human love, rational morality and education are the great antidotes to violence.
Perhaps if we incorporate in the school curriculum, beginning in nursery school, the importance of friendship, of the responsibility to help each other, of love and caring, of belonging to the greater community of man, we have a chance to combat and overcome the violence we see around us. In visiting the Convent of the Sacred Heart and the Marymount School in Manhattan, I especially noted the emphasis on 'caring' between and among the grades. Older students were assigned to help younger ones; quotations taped on staircases and in hallways emphasized the value of caring; upperclass women when asked in hallways, "What's the most important value in school?" replied "Community."
What would your students answer? What would your own children respond? What would you reply?