Let’s rework our approach with ‘angry young people’

‘David Ali Sonboly killed nine people in Munich. As always, there are lessons to be learned’

Prof. Katrina Skewes McFerran writes:

“It’s an incredible feeling to connect in a meaningful way with angry young people who feel excluded, rejected and unhappy. My profession, music therapy, uses music to forge those connections, whether by drumming together as a way of expressing raw feelings that can’t be named, or writing hip-hop songs to protest an individual’s treatment by society.

Such work was brought into stark relief in Munich, when yet another angry man went on a murderous rampage before killing himself.

As someone who has worked with a lot of angry young men and written about music, violence and young people in schools, the lesson I can see is connected to proving the benefit of what we do with young people.

Many youth services rely on government funding that demands “evidence” in order to justify spending from limited budgets. That includes schools, community services and institutional care. While the idea of evidence is compelling, it technically refers to proof, ideally from randomised controlled trials, that, to summarise:

The majority of young people will be better off after they have taken part in a program than they were when they entered it.

Some of the key words and concepts underpinning this kind of phrase are actually problematic – specifically, the majority, before and after, and better off.

So let’s look at those a little more closely.

The Majority
David Ali Sonboly, the 18-year-old who was inspired to shoot at strangers in his local shopping centre in Munich, and who killed himself after the attack, was the kind of young man who was probably never in the majority.

Since media reports have referred to him as having a mental illness (which is at least a better descriptor than using his racial background), I would guess he was probably isolated at school and did not fit in with the kind of stereotypical, heteronormative, cultural majority who make up the norm in a school context.

Consequently, no programs that would have benefited him would likely have been provided in his school context, because there would not be enough evidence to prove they were beneficial for the majority …”

Read more here.

Let’s rework our approach with ‘angry young people’
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