Review

Lost Boys

by James Garbarino Ph.D.

LOST BOYS is
immediately striking. Coincidentally released around the time of
the Columbine High School Massacre, its cover features a black and
white photo of two boys, possibly brothers, playing with what
appears to be a circa 1955 Daisy air rifle. Pictures like this one
were at one time quite common; I am certain that my parents have
one like it of my brother and me from our childhood. It was not
unusual for students at my high school to bring rifles to school
during hunting season. No one went berserk; there was no body
count, no misty-eyed president talking out of both sides of his
mouth and blaming Hollywood or unwashed musicians or hunters.
Didn't happen. Why is it happening now? James Garbarino, the author
of LOST BOYS, claims to know why and what we should do about
it.

Garbarino is completely honest in his approach and the conclusions
he draws regarding the "epidemic" of high school shootings. LOST
BOYS is worthwhile, for this reason alone. It must, however, be
taken with a mountain of salt because there is no epidemic of high
school shootings. Seven shootings in two years out of more than
39,000 high schools is too many, but it is not an epidemic. There
are more occurrences of automobile fatalities among high school
students in any given month; there are more bicycle injuries and
fatalities involving children in any given day. Those situations
constitute "epidemics." Garbarino recommends taking guns away from
high school students (for which there are any number of laws
already) but from their parents, as well. Following the same logic,
he would undoubtedly take their automobiles, bicycles and, lord
knows, sharp household objects way from them.

When discussing solutions, Garbarino also dismisses out of hand one
of the tools that produces consistent and significant results in
reclaiming LOST BOYS: boot camps programs. His reason for
dismissing them is that they violate his ten principles, presented
in the book for restoring violent youth to society. The problem, of
course, is that if a boot camp program works, and is inconsistent
with his ten principles, then it is Garbarino's ten principles, not
boot camp programs, which are flawed. To say otherwise is to turn
the pyramid on its head, so to speak.  

Yet all is not lost in LOST BOYS. Garbarino notes without apology
the need for spirituality and love in the life of any individual,
whether they are saints or sinners. And he connects the dots
between violent youthful offenders and child abuse. What is noted,
and stressed (although not strongly enough), in LOST BOYS, is the
need for parents to be parents. And, particularly, for fathers to
be fathers. To go back to my initial example, no one went berserk
in the high schools of my generation because most of us knew that
when we got home dad would give us a stick upside the head. A
simple fact, but true. What was striking about Columbine is the
statement from one of the shooter's parents to the effect that he
was concerned about his son's behavior but didn't speak to him
about it. Garbarino is an advocate of parental intervention. The
fatal flaw of his book is that he does not stop there.

  

LOST BOYS, then, is a well-intentioned work, flawed at its premise,
and ultimately in its conclusions, but worthwhile nonetheless. Its
proposals for more studies, laws, and federal programs though
well-meant, are self-serving and ultimately misguided; we have
enough --- nay, too many --- of these things already. Garbarino's
proposals for more spirituality and love, more involvement, in the
home, are right on target, and should be taken to heart by everyone
who reads LOST BOYS.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

Lost Boys
by James Garbarino Ph.D.

  • Publication Date: May 7, 1999
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • ISBN-10: 0684859084
  • ISBN-13: 9780684859088