Estee Blatter’s Solution

How do we curb the impulse to youth violence-–the kind that leads kids to kill their classmates for the fun of it? In the months since Littleton, we've seen politicians and talking heads debating how to solve the problem. Just this weekend, there was an outpouring of political posturing over the House's vote Friday not to impose tighter controls on guns. Well, while Washington was obsessed with the politics of gun control, ironically, high school students in Denver were discussing the same problem and what to do about it. And they had a very different perspective. Estee Blatter, a pretty, blonde 17-year-old who will be a senior at Columbine High School this fall, was one of the participants. Along with some two dozen other high-school kids, Estee spent Saturday attending a Denver summit on youth violence. Lawmakers, clergymen, youth workers, and other assorted "experts" were present. But of all the people there, perhaps the person most sensitive to the issue of youth violence was Estee, a survivor of the attack on her classmates. What does she think the solution is? Parents willing to spend more time with their kids. Parents teaching moral values. As she told the conferees last Saturday, "We need to attack the roots. Our main problem is at home." Estee was backed up by another Denver student, Julian Gilbert. "The reason I turned out good is I was blessed with a mother who still built me up regardless of what other people thought of me. That's what a lot of parents need to do." The statistics back these kids up. For years, we've been told that youth crime is a result of poverty, race, or bad schools. The truth is that the primary predictor of crime is family breakdown. At least one study revealed that even if kids live in the worst inner-city neighborhoods, if there's a father in the home, the kids aren't likely to get into trouble. The sobering fact is that the vast majority of criminals grow up without fathers--including 72 percent of teenage killers. How do parents protect their kids from the culture and shape their values? Take them to church. A study at England's University of Reading showed that when Sunday-school attendance was highest in England, crime was lowest. Conversely, when Sunday-school attendance declined, the crime rate increased. Perhaps the strongest evidence that parents can overcome anything the culture throws at their kids turned up just a few weeks ago. "BreakPoint" listeners may have heard me talk yesterday about the Ouachita Baptist University Choir, which was traveling on Flight 1420, the plane that crashed in Little Rock. The choir members were just a few years older than those Columbine killers, and they grew up in the same culture--one filled with guns, video violence--even movies about kids who slaughter their classmates. And yet, when the plane crashed, those Christian kids remembered the Christlike lessons their parents and church had taught them: They risked their own lives to save the lives of perfect strangers. Estee Blatter is right. If we want to solve the problem of youth crime, all the political posturing will do no good. Parents getting involved in the lives of their kids and teaching them values will--just as the Scriptures tell us.


Chuck Colson


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