By Jenkins, Timothy L.
American Visions , Vol. 9, No. 4
Many among us meet the widespread fratricidal young-adult and teenage carnage in our urban communities with special denial and disbelief because it defies our long-held convictions concerning the origins of human nature. Most of us assume that human nature is something with which one is born. But closer inspection shows that, like speech, human nature is, at best, only a potentiality rather than a gennetic necessity. At an extreme level, there are clinical case studies of children virtually reduced to the level of animals when they have had only animals as caregivers and siblings during infancy.
Accordingly, education and nurturing are needed in society to ensure the humanizing experiences that introduce and illustrate, as well as cultivate and define, humane responses as distinct from less than human alternatives. Given the considerable deficits in certain family and community environments, public education is increasingly required to supplement rather than complement the home - to serve as the source of earliest learning directed toward individual and group responsibility and respect. The curriculum balance must accommodate more than the transmission of a sterile set of skills or the simple mastery of technology; it must go to creating a deeper personal and social awareness. It must become a structured means by which these new "social immigrants" acquire a sense of belonging and membership in society itself.
To do this, education must be adapted to transmit skills and task competencies within a framework of social competency. Among the tools for such a result are the insights of history, literature, poetry and art, as well as the latest knowledge in social studies and an awareness of the value of teamwork and ethnic diversity. …