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Texas liberals: Rejoice and joy in the now. And remember: Guns don’t kill killdee people kill killdee. Young Guns The case of Robert Sandifer, the 11-yearold suspect in the death of a 14-year-old in Chicago who was, in turn, gunned down by a couple of ancients of 16 and 14, is much more than a case of ain’t-it-awful. Believe it or not, this boy’s stunted, twisted life may yet be of great use to this nation. If his case helps us break out of the sterile, polarized debate about crime that has us spending more money on prisons than on schools, then young Sandifer will have come to the aid of his country in such a way as to rank him right up there with Patrick Henry. Ask, as Russell Baker did, what in the recently passed federal crime bill would have helped Sandifer? Answer: Not a damn thing. Maybe more cops on the streets to keep the gangs down. It certainly would have helped if teen-age and even 11-year-old delinquents didn’t have access to guns. But Sandifer wasn’t even old enough for the midnight basketball leagues. Those who still think whipping a kid will make him act right should note that that was Sandifer’ s problem to begin with. By the time he was 3, the child had been so badly abused, beaten and burned with cigarettes that social workers removed him from his mother’s care. He was already vicious more punishment would only make him more vicious. He was bounced between his grandmother’s and various state homes. The only family he had was his gang. Right there, we have a large cud to chew on. Those who insist on “family values” may be contributing to the crime problem. Social-service agencies, as a matter of policy, work to keep families intact. Abuse, neglect and cruelty all have to reach staggering proportions \(Sandifer had scars all over away from abusive.relatives. There have actually been calls for a return to state-run orphanages for abused and neglected children, but one would have to hesitate long and hard before endorsing that concept. Those such as writer Andrew Vachss who know a great deal about abused children consider “state-raised” to be the vilest epithet in the book. Certainly, changes in adoption law, including making it easier’ for foster parents to adopt, would help. Hawaii has a successful program to help teen-age mothers learn to parent that cries out for the honor of imitation. Slightly more this country are still unplanned, so a better system of birth-control clinics is obviously needed. \(That fact should be of special interest to those Americans preaching populaFrederick Goodwin of the National Institute of Mental Health made himself mildly infamous by comparing inner-city violence with primate studies showing that young males were more violent and sexually active when they had to compete for scarce resources. The notion that people were being compared with monkeys set off a predictable furor. Goodwin, resigned to being misunderstood and willing to act as a lightning rod just to get debate started, now halfseriously proposes licensing people for biological parenthood according to the same criteria used for adoptive parents. In the September Atlantic Monthly is an excellent piece summarizing the latest research on the old conundrum of nature vs. nurture. The rather archaic phrase “temperament” is now back in vogue in everything from sophisticated research to the sort of astrological chart system called the Enneagram. I have yet to talk to a parent who is not convinced that children come whooshing out of the womb equipped with personality. It is how that personality is nurtured that makes all the difference. Those who are upset about comparisons in primate research will be even less delighted to learn that David Lykken, a psychologist interested in temperament, uses his own experience as the owner of a bull terrier as a takeoff point for the nature-nurture debate. His dog, bred to be a fearless, tenacious, fighting machine, needs careful raising. “Harsh treatment would render the feisty animal vicious; permissiveness or neglect would produce an uncontrollable bully.” Athena, the world’s smartest puppy and an incurable social butterfly, and I have been attending dog obedience school. Last week, she learned to program the VCR; next week, she shall play Mozart upon the cello. One of the things that has changed about dog training since my last dog and I flunked out of obedience school 20 years ago is that negative reinforcement is now considered almost entirely useless, even with “dominant dog personality.” Could it be that we know more about how to train dogs than how to raise children? The real crime of “the crime problem,” says Lykken, is that “across the land, but mainly in the inner cities, thousands of children aren’t being brought up but only domiL ciled with parents who are indifferent, incompetent or unsocialized themselves. We’re running a crime factory that turns out little sociopaths.” If he’s right, more prisons are not the answer. And if stable, caring families are the answer, then the fact that males with a highschool education have suffered a 50-percent drop in real wages during the last 15 years is a large part of the problem. We desperately need to start looking in the right places for answers to crimeand perhaps Robert Sandifer can help. This is Texas today. A state full of Sunbelt boosters, strident anti-unionists, oil and as companies, nuclear weapons and power plants, political hucksters, underpaid workers and toxic wastes, to mention a few. . M. ” la p :1 1 > .s.aE , IP tl \(N ‘ . t~J . ir 1A *”” ivo , tr r BUT DO NOT DESPAIR! rd ,,,,, THE TEXAS. 10/ server TO SUBSCRIBE: Name Address City State Zip $32 enclosed For a one-year subscription. Bill me for $32. 307 West 7th, Austin, TX 78701 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13