According to national reports, the city of Philadelphia in the U.S. is suffering from an epidemic of youth violence. In 2011 alone, there were 139 murders and over 12 000 assaults committed against people age 24 or younger. And this is just the visible, recorded and reported segment of the youths’ anger.
The climate of daily aggression becomes fully tangible when one risks a visit to some of Philadelphia’s public schools. Enlisting more than 200 000 students in total, they aim for the highest ideals of education and socialization. Increasingly, however, they have become physically dangerous sites for both staff and students.
Last year, The Philadelphia Inquirer dedicated 5 reporters for a whole year to the project of documenting the spreading of school violence. The ensuing series, Assault on Learning, unearthed many grim facts and gruesome stories. Teachers assaulted by fists and scissors, students exploding at the merest whim. The series went on to win the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism.
What is even more laudable is that the Inquirer hasn’t left it at that. Having described the problem, it has now set its sights on finding a solution. Citing reduced rates of violence, better behaviour and academic results, the paper recently asked in its public health blog:
“While research on the benefits still has a ways to go, most of us can agree that kids in Philadelphia schools, and all schools for that matter, should be provided with some kind of education about how they can manage the stresses of life. Schools in Detroit, San Francisco, Connecticut, and Arizona have integrated Transcendental Meditation into the school day. Should Philly be next?”
For sure, this is just a starting of a debate. Education is an area where reforms can be political and administrative neck-breakers. Yet deciding by the brisk response to the Inquirer’s question, the odds could well be in favour of a meditative breakthrough in Philadelphia’s campaign against youth violence.