"Ludwig says the Warren case matches what Pollack found in his study of other youth homicides in Chicago: "Most serious violent events are almost Seinfeldian in their origin — someone saying something stupid to someone else, and that escalating and basically turning into a tragedy because someone had a handgun in their waistband at the time." When human beings are stressed -- by grinding and hopeless generational poverty, social injustice, racism, and all the other ills that affect the most violent parts of our nation -- any additional stressor can cause a disproportionate reaction. That shooting that seems to have been caused by something "Seinfeldian" is often the end result of years of pressures, and the "straw that broke the camel's back" can seem trivial it itself.
The solution to the problem, Ludwig, Pollack and their colleagues surmised, might lie in getting kids to slow down and think about their actions. The researchers conducted a randomized controlled experiment to test their hypothesis. They had about 1,400 school kids in grades seven to 10, drawn from high-crime areas of Chicago, undergo a 30-week training course called . A similar group of students, also chosen at random, was tracked, but did not go through the course. At the end of the year, Ludwig said, researchers found 44 percent fewer arrests among the students who had been through the course.
In one exercise, Ludwig says, the students were grouped into pairs, and one member of each pair was given a ball. The other was told to get the ball out of his partner's hand. This invariably led to a fight, Ludwig says, as the kids brawled over the ball. After watching the fight, the program leader would ask the student who was trying to get the ball a question: "Why didn't you ask the other kid to give you the rubber ball?"
None of the adolescents, Ludwig says, ever thought to ask their partners for the ball.