Nine Words That Can Stop Juvenile Delinquency

In this essay that appeared in the December 15, 1957 issue of This Week magazine, the former senior judge of Brooklyn’s highest criminal court, Judge Samuel S. Leibowitz, attempts to answer to the riddle of the rocketing rate of juvenile delinquency in America during that time. I transcribed it for the blog in Anniversary Gregg.

Attachment: nine-words-that-can-stop-juvenile-delinquency.pdf

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    1. Len, I don't have the original article but here's my transcription of Carlos' shorthand.  Words in BOLD are words I'm not sure about.  Perhaps Carlos could confirm or correct my guesses.  If anyone else thinks I've mis-transrcribed a word, please let me know!



      Every criminal courts judge in this country is sickeningly aware of the terrible fact that teenagers are replacing adults on the criminal dockets. Our awareness is often damaged with despair, almost panic. We flail at the problem with a jumble of uncoordinated “solutions”: teen-age curfews, playgrounds, punishing parents for teenagers’ crimes, more social workers. To me, sitting on the bench in the capacity of society’s conscience, such “solutions” are treatments of the effect rather than the cause.

      It has seemed to me that something down deep, simple but basic, must have disappeared from our way of life to have caused this revolt toward crime among our young people. But what was it? For several years I searched through the debris of the young ruined lives brought before me trying to find a lead but without results. Then, last summer I had an idea: I would go to the country that has the lowest rate of juvenile delinquency and see if I could find there some clue.

      What western country has the lowest juvenile delinquincy? The answer based [on] official reports is Italy, where only 2% of all sex crimes and one-half of 1% of all homicides are committed by children 18 and under. (The comparable figures for the U.S. are 13[%] and 9[%].) But why is Italy’s delinquency

      rate so low? For weeks I toured Italian cities trying to get the answers. I was given remarkable cooperation. Police commissioners, school superintendents, [and] mayors of cities told me what I wanted to know [and] took me where I wanted to go.

      An important police official wanted to know if it was really true that teenagers assaulted police in America. I had to tell him it was.

      Ah, this is very hard for us to believe,” he said. “No Italian youth would ever lay hands on an officer.”

      A Naples school superintendent asked me if thrill murders are figments of journalists’ imaginations. “No,” I informed him, “they are all too true.”

      “We have no such crimes,” the superintendent said. “We have the delinquency of stealing [and] of misbehaving but boys in this country commit boy wrongs within the bounds of the boy's world.”

      “But how do you keep the boy there?” I asked. And then I found what I was seeking: a basic vital element of living that is disappearing in our country and which to my mind is the only solution to the malady of delinquency. From all parts of Italy, from every official I received the same answer: young people in Italy respect authority.

      And here is the significant thing: that respect starts in the home — then carries over into the school, the city streets [and] the courts. I went into Italian homes to see for myself. I found that even in the busiest families the father is respected by the wife and children as its head. He rules with varying degrees of love and tenderness and firmness. His household has rules to live by and the child who disobeys them is punished. Thus I found the age-old principle that I think could do more for us than all the country's ordinances and multimillion-dollar programs combined: put Father back at the head of the family.

      The American teenager has been raised in a household where “obey” is an outlawed word and where the mother has put herself at the head of the family. How many times have you heard a father say, “John, it’s time to go to bed,” only to be toped by mother saying “Aw, Harry, leave the boy alone! Stop picking on him.”

      The result has been that Father, occupied with his business has affairs, has slowly, albeit grudgingly, abrogated  his leadership. In upper- and middle-class homes we have the additional specter of “permissive” psychology at work and the combination of Mother wielding absolute power in a permissive household where Johnny is rarely if ever disciplined has resulted in the confused, rebellious, unhappy teenager who floods our courts.

      How many parents have stood before me after I have sentenced their children to prison and asked, “Judge, what did I do that was wrong? I sacrificed for him, gave him a good life, put him through school …”

      It’s not what they did; it’s what they did not do. They did not put Father in charge of the family, they did not teach there child discipline.

      A child must be disciplined do to things he does not want do to if it’s in the best interests of the family, for that is how realistically the world will treat him when he gets older. The child does not want a do-as-you-please, “permissive” world. It makes him unhappy [and] confuses him. He wants the solid walls of rules and of discipline around him, defining his world — give him a large free area but tell him exactly how far he can go.

      In my boyhood I had that discipline and I’m very glad I had it. I was raised in a dismal slum on New York's lower east side. My father ran a little dry goods store that barely made enough for us to live on. But he was the head of the house and I respected him. When I was 16 and he told me to be home at a certain hour, I got home. Many a teenager today roams until two or three in the morning and considers his parent impertinent if he so much as asks if he had a good time.

      A home where the father is not the recognized chief of the family is not much better off to my way of thinking than a home broken by divorce. Every time Mother overrules Father, undermining his authority and standing in the child’s eyes, she nocks a piece off the foundation on which the child stands.

      Let me make it clear that what I suggest is only a matter of emphasis and does not drastically change Mother’s position in the family. She has the same day-to-day, hour-to-hour responsibility she has always had, but she but focus authority and finality and discipline on her husband. When there are disagreements and problems, the are discussed and argued, but not in front of the children.

      If mothers would understand that much of their importance is in building up the father image for the child, they would achieve the deep satisfaction that comes from having children who turn out well. And no mother would have to stand before me and ask: “Judge, what did I do that was wrong?"

      1. Outstanding! Only three mistakes:

        1. "committees, ordinances …", instead of "country's ordinances"

        2. "Hally" instead of "Harry"

        3. "but she focuses authority …" instead of "but she but focus authority."  The extra "b" is the -bility ending of the word "responsibility" on the top line.

        Lastly, every time you put the [and] mark, it is a comma in the original.

        1. Thanks Carlos.  Your penmanship deserves most of the credit, of course.  I suppose too that  I've been learning Gregg for a long enough time now such that I could read this without too much difficulty (well, except for that pesky "committee" brief, apparently.)

          I joined the blog in Oct. 2017 (around 15 months ago now) and learned Anni with the functional method just as you recommended.  I'm probably not very fast, but I can read it and write it reasonably well now, thanks to you and this site.  Is it okay to post a penmanship sample of my own for a critique?  I don't see many members to that so I'm not sure if that's something you want to encourage or not.

          1. Thank you for your kind words, and yes, please post! I love to see penmanship samples, and hopefully I can give some pointers. I also like to see transcriptions such as yours, even with possible mistakes or blanks — it tells me that people are reading the selections or attempting to read them, and that encourages me to find more articles with even more challenging vocabulary.

            As for the speed component, the more you are exposed to shorthand, and the more you read it, the faster you'll become. As someone said, reading is the be-all and end-all in shorthand. So speed comes with time and knowledge of theory.

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