Letters to the Editor

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Adults: Wake UpOn Hip Hop

Brian Fry
Southern Christian Services
Jackson, Miss.

Your article on hip-hop hit the nail on the head (“Hip-Hop: Love It, Hate It … Use It,” October).

I have been trying to inform people here in Mississippi of what youth today desire. Most of the people who are responsible for making decisions appear to be so out of touch with reality. Sure, you may not agree with all the aspects of the hip-hop culture, but you must pay attention to it. Hip-hop appears to be the one common denominator that young people can identify with.

Adults should wake up and pay attention. Keep on trying to use those traditional methods with these at-risk youth, and you will continue to get the same results.

CJJ is No Midget

Thomas Begich, Chair
Alaska Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee
Anchorage, Alaska

I just read “In re CJJ vs. OJJ: Clash of the Midgets” (September) and wanted to offer a few observations. You do a good job of identifying a lot of the odd circumstances wrapped around the strange attack on the Coalition for Juvenile Justice by Bill Woodruff and J. Robert Flores at OJJDP (U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention), but I suspect the reasons are far different from either David Doi or Nancy Gannon’s prior affiliation with the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence.

Rather, OJJDP really appears more upset with the pending report from CJJ (Coalition for Juvenile Justice) relating to transfer of juveniles to the adult court. They didn’t like the conclusions, despite the fact-based nature of the work, and they responded in a way that many of us characterize as “censorship” – hardly a surprise with this Department of Justice, where disagreement is tantamount to traitor status. The proposed upcoming report highlighting successful, research-based efforts in detention reform, a sore spot with OJJDP, surely did not help soothe the relationship.

But then, it isn’t the role of the CJJ to soothe the relationship. It’s the role of CJJ to provide the best possible information from the field to advise the president and Congress on the best course of action. The head–in-the-sand approach of this OJJDP leadership doesn’t appear to want to see this kind of information.

That said, I think your reporter does a disservice to CJJ by minimizing its role in the reauthorization process. As State Advisory Group chairs, many of us took an active role in directly impacting that legislation – whether through working with our senators and congressmen to include consideration of mental health issues, fighting for the funding streams to states, working for the preservation of the core requirements, or in seeking to retain the integrity of OJJDP. (Ironic, that success.)

We don’t get sole credit – no one does – but to congratulate our members on their hard work is what one would expect of any organization. Your mean-spirited attack on CJJ and CJJ staff was a commentary on what this organization might have been years ago, but not where we are now.

CJJ has been able to motivate and engage local jurisdictions throughout the country in evidence-based juvenile justice practices. Alongside this motivation is an increased interest in ensuring that national juvenile justice policies – like those proposed by the Woodruff/Flores OJJDP – do not derail those successes.

A number of legislators believe that CJJ serves a necessary and valuable function. How effective are we? The next few weeks will tell at one level. Regardless of the outcome CJJ will be around to hold this OJJDP accountable.

Girlfighting Review Miss-Hits

Meda Chesney-Lind
Professor of Women’s Studies
University of Hawaii at Manoa

Nan Stein
Senior Research Scientist
Wellesley Centers for Women
Wellesley, Mass.

We read Kay Hymowitz’s review of Lyn Mikel Brown’s Girlfighting with some amazement [“Girl Aggression (Un)Explained,” Youth Today Review of Books, fall]. While one of us is admittedly “tainted” by having composed a blurb for Brown’s book, we cannot help but comment on this review, since we are both researchers in the area of girls’ violence and victimization, and feel the review does Youth Today readers a grave disservice.

Hymowitz opens her assessment of Girlfighting with a remarkably confused and hostile discussion of Brown’s nuanced discussion of girls’ aggression, including a swipe at Brown for her “not-so-subtle admiration for the girls whom most adults would worry about.” Mind you, Brown’s book, unlike virtually all the mean girl books, employs an impressive, robust and diverse data set collected from 13 studies to map an important and misunderstood aspect of growing up female. Brown’s work is sympathetic and honest about the need to talk candidly about destructive aspects of modern girlhood.

You wouldn’t know any of this from reading Hymowitz’s review, since she seems to question that, for example, girls grow up in a media-saturated world that is “monopolized by boys and their friendships and interest,” a characterization Hymowitz dismisses as a “lament” that is “a pre-’90s anachronism.” To support this astonishing assertion, Hymowitz points to recent Disney heroines Mulan and Pocahontas, missing the warriors’ sexist song in Mulan and the need for a man in the end, or the Barbie doll-shaped Pocahontas and the need for a man in the end.

Finally, if a girl went to this summer’s Disney blockbuster movie, “Finding Nemo,” she’d have to look long and hard for any female character. And if we are talking young girls, she has but one choice: “Evil” Darla, the dentist’s niece who kills fish.

At the end of her review, we finally hear what Hymowitz recommends to deal with girls’ covert aggression: “Tell them exactly what you tell boys” so that “at least you can stand to be around them.” Hello? This is girl-hating meets “gender doesn’t matter.”

People should avoid the other mean girl books, but Girlfighting is a must read for those who work with or care about girls.

Arnold’s Shift Good for Kids

Gerald A. Walker, Manager
Cranbrook Institute of Science
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

I just completed reading the article about the Inner City Games program and its transformation (“Arnold Learns Youth Work,” October). I am elated to know that there are other programs that consider the overall well-being of the participants over the number of participants.

I also started doing an after-school segment within the Young Scholars Program operated out of Cranbrook Institute of Science, at a local community center in Detroit.

In particular, I noticed the article indicated an operating budget of $17.3 million. Wow! That’s a lot of funding. Detroit could use an expansion of programs like these.