To the Discussion Leader
WILL CRIME in the United States increase as millions of men and women in the armed forces return to civilian life? Will failure of some of the millions of former war workers to readjust result in an increase in crime? What will happen as the juvenile delinquents of wartime become young adults?
Many Americans are concerned with these and similar questions since World War II ended.
Crime is a complex subject involving human conduct, motives, character, moral standards, social standards, and interpretations of justice. It concerns every citizen. Every individual is responsible for his own conduct; he also bears a social responsibility for helping remove the causes of crime. Prevention of crime is a direct responsibility of every home, school, church, and other social institution. “Is a Crime Wave Coming?” is a subject, therefore, that should be interesting and profitable for consideration by any discussion group.
What can the discussion leader do?
Whether you decide to use a forum, panel, symposium, or in-formal type of discussion, it is important that you plan the meeting carefully. Here are some specific things that you, as discussion leader, can do:
- Place copies of this pamphlet in libraries, dayrooms, and other reading rooms where military personnel will have an opportunity to read it before your discussion meeting.
- Arrange with the local newspaper editor for adequate announcements of the time and place of your meeting.
- Prepare posters announcing the meeting and put them on bulletin boards, in mess halls, reading rooms, social clubs, and other appropriate places.
- Suggest to librarians that copies of this pamphlet be placed on a special reading table with other pamphlets, books, and current magazine articles on crime problems. This table is a good place for a poster announcing the time and place of your discussion meeting.
What type of discussion is best?
If your group is likely to be large, a forum, panel, or symposium discussion will probably be best. If it is small, an informal group discussion may be most satisfactory.
Speakers should, preferably, be experts in criminology. They might also be psychologists, criminal lawyers, judges, or police chiefs. Whether forum, panel, or symposium methods are used, enough time should be allowed so that members of your group can question the speakers and express their own views.
If you devote the entire meeting to informal discussion, it will be particularly important for you to be well prepared. A blackboard will probably be of considerable help. You might list on it before the meeting some pertinent questions, for example those given on the back cover of this pamphlet. Or you might make a short introduction of your subject, “Is a Crime Wave Coming?” and then ask members of your group to suggest major questions, which you could list on the blackboard. In either event, this outline of major questions on the blackboard will help to keep the entire discussion moving along and will stimulate participation by members of your group.
Informal discussion is sometimes the best way to stimulate interest and to obtain an enthusiastic participation by members of your group. Crime is a subject of such vital importance that members of any discussion group will have opinions about it. Ideas expressed spontaneously in an informal discussion are sometimes more worth while and more thought-evoking than a talk previously prepared.
Regardless of the type of discussion used, you, as leader, will be the chairman. You will be able to test the success of your meeting in part by these questions: Do you conduct the meeting in a way that makes members of your group feel at ease? Does the discussion remain on the bigger and more important phases of the subject? Are your speakers stimulating and interesting? Are you giving members of your group an adequate opportunity to ask questions and express their own views?
Handbooks that may be helpful
You will find detailed advice about ways of conducting discussion meetings in EM 1, GI Roundtable: Guide for Discussion Leaders. Thispamphlet contains numerous helpful suggestions about handling discussion groups, phrasing questions in a way to bring forth discussion, and on dealing with difficult persons who endeavor to dominate the entire discussion by inflicting their personal prejudices on the group.
Leaders who wish to plan and conduct discussions on a radio or over a loud-speaker system of the Armed Forces Radio Service will find much sound advice and many helpful suggestions in EM 90, GI Radio Roundtable.
Questions are the lifeblood of discussion
This pamphlet contains many questions that might well be raised for discussion. Some are in headings, others in the text. As you read the pamphlet and prepare your own discussion program, you will undoubtedly devise other questions of your own. You should encourage members of your group to ask questions as the discussion gets under way. Here are some additional questions, however, that may prove helpful:
- What effect does war have on crime? Is sex misbehavior more common during war, or just more apparent? Do you think the war experiences of servicemen will increase or decrease any tendency to commit crimes in civilian life? Will the GI Bill of Rights help to prevent crime?
- What are the major causes of crime? Can most of these causes be removed? What do you think should be done to help prevent crime in your community? Is the individual who commits a crime or is society primarily responsible for the crime?
- Do you think that popular newsstand murder mysteries and other melodramatic crime fiction stimulate crime? Do you think crime is encouraged by the sensational manner in which it is handled by some newspapers? Radio and movies? Do you believe that suppression of crime news would increase or decrease the number of crimes committed in America? Why?
- What steps should be taken to arouse parents to the need for better moral training for their children? Should greater stress be given to moral training and character building in schools? Do you believe that more school and college courses in criminology and the causes of crime would help prevent crime? What can the churches do?
- How can public respect for law be increased? Do obsolete laws on statute books result in a disrespect for all law? Do you think our present penal system should be drastically changed? If so, how? Should the staffs of penal institutions be professionally trained social workers and criminologists? Would a broad program of crime prevention be worth while? Would more severe punishment for convicted persons decrease crime? Do you think we can avoid a crime wave?