Human relations education offers best hope for violence prevention – Marshall Independent

We’ve had more than our share of mass shootings in the past year or so, and even one of them is too many.

Every time it happens it leads people to wonder how we could stop it from occurring in other places. One question that comes up is whether we need stricter gun laws.

They should be carefully weighed so as not to place unnecessary obstacles on law abiding gun owners. A gun is a machine like a car or a computer. Its goodness or badness all depends on how it gets used.

If restrictions are enacted, it needs to come with the realization that they won’t stop all shootings. They shouldn’t be viewed as the complete answer.

Many of the shooters have been people who could easily pass a strict background check. There often is nothing in their history to suggest that they’d be a danger to the public. They tend to be described as loners, people who keep to themselves but who aren’t prone to outbursts.

Instead they keep a lot of anger bottled up until they finally lash out. We have to wonder what pushes someone to that point.

It had to have at least partly taken root in the past, probably all the way back in childhood. That’s where the violence prevention needs to start. It needs to be a consideration in early life experiences, both at home and in school.

Human relations studies traditionally haven’t begun until college level pre-professional classes. They should, however, be one of the required outcomes of education starting in early childhood.

What if another child takes your crayon? What if someone budges in line? What should happen if someone calls you a name?

Those are all teachable moments. They can build a good foundation regarding the value of communicating, the need for effective conflict resolution and the importance of proper anger management.

It can all be framed in a positive context when kids have opportunities to do things in groups. They should experience the value of being on teams; whether it’s sports teams, math or science teams, choir, the cast and crew of a play, or any other example.

Those activities demonstrate the value of a group effort. They show the value of buying into the group process, of sharing the load and later sharing the credit. There’s encouragement of mutual acceptance that places everyone in the category of valuable human beings.

Over the years positive interaction can counter negative rivalries, stereotyping, and alienation. Hopefully it can prevent loners from feeling like the world opposes them.

Schools and at least in most cases parents already do a lot to channel children in the right direction. It’s just something that we shouldn’t take for granted.

The payoff happens when they grow up to become good adult family members, good employees and good citizens. To get to that point, we need to ask ourselves if there are more ways in which kids and teens can get the best possible starting point.

Last but not least, we need to lead by example in showing mutual respect for each other in our daily lives. Young people notice when we don’t do that. When it happens, it’s one more incentive for them to make positive choices.

— Jim Muchlinski is a long-time reporter and

contributer to the Marshall Independent

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