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Simplifying Science

Riot Boys

One of the luxuries of working on a book manuscript for the better part of a year is the treasure trove of reading that comes along with research. It’s hard to say how many days were lost to reading archived articles and ancient — but digitized — textbooks. This piece by Malcolm Gladwell is more than three years old. I completely missed it when it first appeared in print. And it’s not one of those pieces that floats back into the public realm when related issues arise… which is crazy because there have been how many school shootings between October 2015 and now and this has never come back around, at least not in my newsfeed. Which is why I am sharing it here. Gladwell takes two seemingly disconnected ideals — school shootings and riots — and connects them profoundly. The piece is long and hard and I am not sure I agree with all of it. But it’s premise is amazing. The same phenomenon that sits at the heart of riots may very well instigate the epidemic of school shootings we see today.

On the evening of April 29th last year, in the southern Minnesota town of Waseca, a woman was doing the dishes when she looked out her kitchen window and saw a young man walking through her back yard. He was wearing a backpack and carrying a fast-food bag and was headed in the direction of the MiniMax Storage facility next to her house. Something about him didn’t seem right. Why was he going through her yard instead of using the sidewalk? He walked through puddles, not around them. He fiddled with the lock of Unit 129 as if he were trying to break in. She called the police. READ MORE