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Last Updated: Friday, 16 February 2007, 15:56 GMT
Facing the 'emotions' that lead to guns
By Alex Kleiderman
BBC News

Could teaching children how to control their emotions play a vital role in the fight against gun crime? That was an issue explored at a Black and Minority Ethnic Community Education conference in east London.

Dr Larry Jones
Dr Jones said managing emotions was key

The event addressing ways teenagers can raise their self-esteem and become "emotionally literate" began with a minute's silence to remember the three youths shot dead in south London in recent weeks.

Conference organiser Dr Larry Jones, head of the London Academy for Higher Education in Stratford, said youngsters who carried weapons had an "imbalance" that could be addressed.

"They are angry inside and we need to find out why they are angry," he said.

'Crucial' education

The government has been encouraging schools in England to adopt emotional literacy teachings into the curriculum.

Believe it or not, some children would like to go to prison because they believe they would be cared for
Dr Larry Jones

The Academy runs a 12-week programme designed to help teenagers tackle peer pressure that might see them join gangs.

"As children move on from education to adulthood they need to have an understanding of how to manage emotions," Dr Jones said.

"Emotions are powerful, and education of the emotions is crucial. How many children are underachievers, and are out there today, feeling they're not good enough?

"But they need to know that there are other people who have felt like that, and overcome it."

A breakdown of family relationships was cited as a "huge cause" of problems.

But Dr Jones said suggestions that tougher sentences could be handed out to 17-21 year-olds convicted of possessing guns might not be effective as some children were "happier to be in jail than with their parents".

He said: "There is talk of extending prison sentences - but, believe it or not, some children would like to go to prison because they believe they would be cared for in prison."

Computer games

The conference was told that emotional literacy could lead to reductions in criminal behaviour and drug abuse, better educational and career achievement.

Dr Jones said causes of "uncontrollable emotional outbursts" included insecurity, falling into the wrong company and choice of entertainment.

Ivan Corea
Mr Corea said communities were left feeling disenfranchised

He suggested computer games and television "indirectly" taught children about violence.

"Guns are being promoted as good things, shooting is being glamorised," he said.

"We have actually created a society of gangsters because role models for children are not there any more."

He said: "We need to change the way we look at life, to teach that you don't need to fight to be a man, there's no need for you to use a gun or a knife."

Ivan Corea, a former education consultant for the Department for Work and Pensions, told delegates that young people in minority ethnic communities feel particularly disenfranchised.

"The events of the last few weeks have put into sharp focus the need for emotional literacy and the need to work with young people from black and minority ethnic communities," he said.

Mr Corea, founder of the Autism Awareness Campaign UK, said emotional literacy schemes could also help people with disabilities who were being failed by the education system.

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