Social psychologist Malcolm Klein, a retired University of Southern California professor, has created a test that he says will help determine if a child is destined for a life of crime and involvement in gangs. A multiple-choice test for children between the ages of 10 and 15 to be exact.
Now, don't get us wrong, we welcome any sort of measures that could lead to a decrease in youth involvement in gangs, but this test, first reported on by the Wall Street Journal, doesn't seem to be the result of years of research as Klein claims. One of the questions is, "Have you ever been a member of a gang?" For chrissakes! That doesn't seem like rocket science to us, but what do we know? We're not psychologists.
We’re worried about the stigmatization this test could cause kids who sense that it is an attempt to label them—especially since we're pretty sure the majority of these tests will be administered in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods, where gangs like the Bloods, the Crips and Mara Salvatrucha (aka MS-13) have been flourishing over the last few decades. Dr. Klein says test takers aren't told that the questions are intended to screen for future gang involvement so this stigmatization will be avoided. How dumb do they really think these kids are? Doesn’t Klein realize that asking children if they have ever been involved in a gang, have friends who are involved in gangs, or have ever participated in gang activity is a tip-off?
"This cannot be the only solution," says Ellen Pais, a senior director at Urban Education Partnership, a LA program that provides alternatives to gang activity. "We didn't expect this to be so narrow."
But recent research has challenged some of the city's previous attempts at gang prevention. Klein says that rehabilitation programs that assign gang members to group community-service projects and the strategy of barring members from gathering in public places actually reinforce their identities as delinquents and deepens their ties to gangs.