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New Teen Violence Report Gives Short Shrift to Fathers
Los Angeles, CA--In 2007, Jordan Manners of Ontario, Canada was shot and killed outside his school. This prompted Ontario authorities to study the matter of teen violence and issue a report. The Toronto Sun"s Lorrie Goldstein produced an outraged response to the report on November 23rd. However angry he may be at the study, it and he clearly agree on one thing – father absence has little or nothing to do with troubled teens or teen violence. The report is 468 pages long. Fathers barely appear at all, and when they do it"s in the role of straw men for the report to knock down. Page after page is devoted to the causes and roots of teen violence. Poverty and racism are discussed at length. The lack of parks and art spaces gets a fair amount of consideration. But the by-now-well-known fact that children of two-parent families are far less likely to engage in a whole range of destructive behaviors including violence than are their peers in single-parent households goes nearly unmentioned. Playground equipment, yes, but fathers? Not so much. When the report does get around to spending a couple of paragraphs or so on absent fathers, it"s instructive to see how it deals with them. According to it, the jury is still out about the importance of fathers in children"s lives. Now that"s something I strongly disagree with; studies in the U.S. are fairly dramatic in showing the value to children of living with two parents. But even if you believe that the data aren"t conclusive, is it appropriate to make NO recommendation about trying to connect fathers and children? What about enforcing visitation orders after divorce? What about shared parenting? What about fathering classes for young men? What about popular culture that consistently denigrates fathers? My guess is that the data on art"s effect on teen violence isn"t exactly overwhelming, but that didn"t stop the authors from recommending it in the report. So what has the Sun"s Goldstein so ticked off? Well, it"s a little hard to say. His response is long on outrage and short on substance. But it becomes pretty clear that he wants the cops involved. He gives an example: a girl comes to the school principal saying she was threatened with rape by a boy at the school. The boy says it was just a joke. What should the principal do? Goldstein seems to want the boy arrested on – you guessed it – the uncorroborated say-so of the girl. So there you have it - on one hand an exhaustive governmental study on the causes of and possible solutions to teen violence, and a major newspaper"s response to the report. The first finds father absence unimportant despite voluminous evidence to the contrary. The second ignores fathers and seems to advocate putting more males behind bars. Such is public discourse on the subject of fathers. [Note: Reader Robert Franklin, a retired business attorney, is joining the blogging team at www.glennsacks.com. All of Robert's posts are available here.--GS] [Note: When this blog post first appeared a couple days ago, it contained this erroneous sentence--"As far as I can tell, the word 'father' is nowhere to be found in [the report]." As Jerry, a reader, pointed out, the Report does make some reference to fathers, though overall it gives them short shrift. The error is removed in Robert's revised version above.--GS]