Contrary to the popular view of gang members as thoughtless thugs, Monti describes the difficult choices they make and explores the youngsters′ ambivalence toward dealing in illegal narcotics and taking up arms against neighbors and their fellow students. Youngsters use gangs to express their disdain for an adult world that provides them with few effective ways to become a conventional person and, at the same time, as a means to negotiate an entrance into that very world.
Surburban Gnags are seen to be different from innercity gangs in some important ways. What young persons find in their families, neighbourhoods, and schools clearly has an impact on the making and unmaking of gang members. Existing theories and intervention strategies intended to suppress gangs or lure youngsters from gangs are found to be ineffective. Far more important, Monti argues, are explanations of gang behaviour that focus on the power of conventional institutions to make human beings that move from gangs into the larger world as the youngsters grow older. An ambitious plan to rebuild a middle–class population of residents and business owners in cities is advanced as a way to help young persons make their way into the conventional adult world that has heretofore been denied.
Foreword by Edwin J. Delattre vii
1 Introduction 1
2 Gangs in the World of Children 21
3 Coming of Age 51
4 Going Along with the Program 96
5 Learning to Ride a Bicycle 130
"Wannabe is a poignant reminder of just how difficult it will be to develop public policy designed to control the ′youth gangs′ which so terrorize both urban and suburban neighborhoods. Dan Monti′s contribution is the brutal honesty of his work. The words, however, are not his own. He lets the gang–bangers and wannabes tell their stories. Chilling stories, ′out of the mouths of babes′, about children and young adults who moonlight as organized criminals and contract killers. God help us! We will need it." Robert Destro, Catholic University School of Law, Former member United States Commission on Civil Rights
"Dan Monti′s study of the Fairview School District was in–depth and a revealing description of the impact of gangs on school–age youth and the school environment .... Read and take heed, this is happening in your school district." Superintendent, Fairview School District
"Wannabe is very well written, very interesting, and certainly of great importance in understanding how our society is to deal with some of its most intractable problems. I was struck by the fact that gangs serve as a focus of identity for those who join them, not because it is a new idea, but because our schools have been systematically stripped of any affective qualities – anything that might provide an alternative sense of identity." Diane Ravitch, The Brookings Institution