Sunday, May 17, 2015

In the Line of Fire: Raising Kids in a Violent World

I agreed to review this book because I have six living grandchildren ranging from 14 years of age through to 10 months whom I love dearly.  And while none of them live in a constantly violent world per se, each one of them is a candidate for being exposed to violence in their lives, both now and in the future – be it in the playground, at school, riding our public transit, driving our congested highways along with those prone to road-rage, or in the workplace.  Their chances of experiencing violence is growing daily, especially if they were to venture to parts of the world where violence is a way of life. Or perhaps, they, God forbid, will be in the wrong place at the wrong time when those who import violence to our world are doing their thing.

Jan Arnow’s 2015 book entitled, In the Line of Fire: Raising Kids in a Violent World, with a forward by Maryum Ali (peace activist, gang prevention specialist, and daughter of Muhammad Ali) and published by Butler Books of Louisville, KY, is a formidable reference volume on how to guard our children from violence – both being impacted by it and participating in it.  The book is attractively designed with many color photos throughout its 226 full-size (8 ½” by 11”) pages.  At 5/8” thick, sitting on a coffee table, it will be picked up readily by any awakened mind.

But who is Jan Arnow and what qualifies her to write on this most complex topic? Well, for starters she personally knows the horrors of growing up in an abusive household. That may be qualifications enough, but she also has credentials that may count for more in some peoples’ minds: She’s the founder and executive director of Innovations in Peacemaking International; internationally recognized lecturer and authority on multicultural education, violence abatement, prejudice reduction, creativity, and leadership; award-winning author of nine books and scores of articles; and currently working a new peace curriculum for schools, houses of worship, and neighborhoods.

The book’s table of contents speaks for itself.  Each of the nine chapters is filled with sub-topics that we as parents, grandparents, caregivers, and teachers can identify with. Here’s what Arnow covers:
·      Conditioning for Hatred and Violence (War Toys; Video Games; Television; The Next Step: Real Violence; Media Literacy; Responding to Kids’ Concerns)
·      What Is Your Child Reading? (Sexism; Racism; Other Forms of Bias; Finding the Materials)
·      The School Climate – Creating a Supportive Setting (Who Fails and Who Succeeds?; Why Keep Kids in School?; Strategies to Improve School Culture)
·      Growing Up Equal – Gender Fairness in the Classroom (Early Gender Socialization; Sexism in the School; Sexual Harassment; Connection Between Gender Inequality and Date Rape; The Call for Equity)
·      Parents and Teachers as Partners (Barriers to Parental Participation; Redefining the Concepts; Parental Involvement Helps Prevent Violence)
·      Sticks, Stones, and Digital Damage (Kids Will Be Kids; What is Bullying?; Cyberbullying, the Anonymous Destroyer; The Dangers of Sexting; It Doesn’t End There)
·      Guns Are Us (Guns Up the Ante; The Gun Industry; How Do Kids Get Guns?; The Path of a Gun; Myths and Truths about Guns; How Guns Affect Kids; Who or What is to Blame?)
·      From Hate to Harm (Persistence of Social Problems; Hate Crimes and Gangs; Community Services)
·      Actions as Antidotes – Working for Change (Compassion Fatigue; Reactions to Troubled Times; Commitment to Change; Where Do We Begin?; What Our Children Deserve).

Every chapter in the book is filled with very valuable information, fully researched and well presented.  Her chapter four on Gender Fairness has no hidden agenda as many authors have today.

Her chapter seven on Guns is not about gun control or taking away the Second Amendment rights that Americans enjoy – it’s about “children dying unnecessarily from gunshot wounds.” As such, there is no fear that the NRA or any wise owner of a gun would object to what she is saying.

Arnow’s chapter six on Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Sexting is a must read for every parent and guardian. I would even go so far as to say it’s a must read for every pre-teen.

Every chapter of Jan Arnow’s book is filled to capacity with what parents and teachers need to know today about their children and how violence is impacting their lives. In fact, Arnow is working hard to develop a teacher’s and community guide that can be used in conjunction with her book.

And if that’s not enough, to help you each chapter has eight different types of “aids” clearly marked to help you make the best use of what you are reading. These are:
n  For Your Information (Annotated book and resource reviews relate to the chapter topic.)
n  How Do You Rate? (Topic-specific checklists.)
n  Programs that Work (Examples of proven practices, how-to’s, and so on.)
n  Expressing Your Concerns (Where to send letters and faxes.)
n  Straight Talk (Quotations from parents, teachers, children, and experts.)
n  What Does it Mean? (Definitions of key words in each chapter.)
n  Did You Know? (Lists of easily grasped, pertinent facts.)
n  What You Can Do (Lists of action steps to take, by topic.)

There are two quotes at the beginning of the book that well-represent Arnow’s thinking in writing the book and what she hoped to accomplish.  The first makes a statement; the second explains her purpose:
n  Quote 1: “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” – Mahatma Gandhi as quoted in The Life of Mahatma Gandhi by Louis Fischer (1950).
n  Quote 2: “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality . . . I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, December 10, 1964.

As a Christian reviewer, while I understand and accept the point Gandhi was trying to make in his quote, and while I firmly believe in the act of forgiveness, I take some exception to his absolute conclusion.  An eye for an eye does not mean “an eye for an eye for an eye, ad infinitum.” Only that misinterpretation of the phrase could lead to Gandhi’s conclusion.

Martin Luther King, Jr. on the other had indeed hit upon truth, but in his attempt to appease all, he fails to clearly state what the Gospel he preached truly maintains.  That is, that while the world is indeed “tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war”, the root cause of the problem is man’s fallen state of sin.  King is correct in saying we can look forward to the “bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood”, but this “reality” can, given our condition, only fully come in the “unarmed truth and unconditional love” found in the person of Jesus Christ.  In the meantime, Arnow’s book is an amazing tool to help each of us limit, and hopefully overcome, the “racism and war” and hatred in the lives of our children and grandchildren – and perhaps more importantly, in our lives as we model what it truly means to be human “living in peace with all men or women”.

With the copy of the book I got, there was an insert that went exactly like the following.  I recommend you take the steps suggested:
n  Step One:  Light a match.
n  Step Two: Hold your finger in the flame for as long as you can stand it.
n  Step Three: Reflect on how terrifying and awful that felt.
n  Step Four: Read In the Line of Fire: Raising Kids In a Violent World to understand why our children feel that way, literally and figuratively, and what we can do about it.

    -- Ken B. Godevenos, , Toronto, 15/05/17  

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