Book: The Scarred Heart: Understanding and Identifying Kids Who Kill by Helen Smith

Brilliant and free to download

Helen Smith, Ph.D.
The Scarred Heart: Understanding and Identifying Kids Who Kill
Callisto Publishing Company, 2000
ISBN 0-615-11223-4
Free to download
242 pages (main text)

The original edition is out of print. Dr Smith has made the book available for download for free in PDF format. Her site accepts donations.

This book is brilliant. Violent children and school shootings are not easy or pleasant subjects. But for just those reasons it's especially important that we hear good sense about those subjects rather than fear-mongering or uninformed theorizing. Dr Smith's book has everything you want in a book on a social problem: real data; analysis from a genuine expert in the field; concrete suggestions for improvement; and indications that where those suggestions have been tried, they actually improve the problem.

I have no personal connection with violent kids and only an amateur's interest in psychology so I can't comment on the accuracy of Dr Smith's data or analysis. That said, her arguments are extremely persuasive and where she touches on things I do know about, I have no reason to criticize anything she has to say. In short: School shootings are not done by random children. Children who engage in violent acts almost always show warning signs before they do, which people would notice if they were paying attention. And many of the things that society does in an attempt to improve the problem are likely to make it worse.

Dr Smith's writing is not the smoothest I've read. That's fine; her writing is perfectly clear and she's a professional psychologist, not a professional writer. Indeed, there's a measure of credibility that comes from her sounding like a psychologist rather than like a full-time writer.

The criticisms I have of the book are pretty insignificant. In chapter six, Dr Smith presents the results of a survey she conducted. She gives the results in prose and it would have been more effective if she had given the raw results in tables and explained the interesting aspects in prose. At lest that's true for me. I think that some folks tend to skip tables and Dr Smith may know her intended audience better than I do. There are a few trivial editing errors such as "wit's" for "wits'" (pp. 229 and 230) and "to" for "too" (p. 204). It's also a questionable design decision to italicize indented quotes. But all that is trivial and doesn't make me like or respect the book any less.

I just sent a donation to Dr Smith's PayPal account. You should read the book and then send her what you think it's worth.

Posted: Sat - January 10, 2004 at 10:00   Main   Category: