James Garbarino’s Advice

James Garbarino, author of “Lost Boys: Why Our Boys Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them” spoke to the UCC faculty a few years ago about “10 Things We Can Do to Create a Caring Community.” Here is a summary of his first two points:

1. Recognize our Power
The world is complex and interconnected. Remember the “butterfly effect.” A butterfly flapping its wings in the Pacific can have a long-term impact that is wildly disproportional to the event itself. We cannot always predict outcomes because of this complexity, but we should know that a sensitive and caring human presence in a grade 1 classroom can prevent bullying in the future. That human presence can shape a culture in profound ways.

2. Be Willing to Go Radical
We need to be able to dig deeply into issues, even when they make us uncomfortable. Look to the core of issues, and remember the parable of the lamppost:

A guy loses his car keys one dark night, and so he walks to a lamppost. He then takes out a piece of chalk and creates a grid with A-Z across the top and 1-10 along the side. He begins his search for his car keys by embracing the rationalist approach. He checks out each and every box.

When this doesn’t work, he tries behaviorist approach: He puts an candy in each square, and after checking each thoroughly, he rewards himself with a candy.

When this doesn’t work, he tries the therapeutic approach: He calls up other people who have lost keys, and they share their experience, strength, and hope about losing keys. He feels better afterwards, but he still can’t find his keys.

Then he tries the educational approach: He takes out his ‘google machine’ and does a search of “keys” and tries to think about keys in history. He explores topics like “keys as metaphor.” He enjoys this exercise very much, but he still can’t find his keys.

Finally a friend wanders by who asks, “What are you doing?”

“I lost my car keys about a mile down the road, and now I’m looking for them.”

“But why are you looking for them here if you lost them a mile away?”

“Because this is where the light is.”

Garrbarino’s point is that we are all comfortable under the lamppost, but the real test for most of us is somewhere in the dark. We often have to look into our area of discomfort to understand what’s really going on.


2 thoughts on “James Garbarino’s Advice

  1. Jim,

    I urge you to read Ken Dryden’s personal essay in today’s edition of the Globe and Mail (Saturday February 25). I also urge you to forward it to all the Heads of Schools you know, in case not everyone has seen it. Read it for what it says about hockey and abuse, but read it more for what it has to teach everyone about failure to act in any situation for the sake of trying to maintain a school’s reputation or because one simply does not want to accept painful realities or believe a child over an adult. Read it because, as you wrote, the real test is somewhere in the dark.

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