Monday, October 23, 2006

School Violence

Recently, there was discussion on an email list to which I belong about the recent school violence incidents around the country. Below is my reply on the discussion. I chose to post it here to have a copy for my own remembrance and to share it with anyone who might find it something to think about.

I'm well beyond sad - I have huge rage about school violence. It's awful and I feel like it points to much wider societal issues that we as a people have to acknowledge and not be silent about. In this case silence truly equals death.

We've had two incidents here in Wiscosnin this school year. One in the Green Bay high school where three kids were planning a Columbine-like masacre - they had dozens of guns and bomb-making material. Another student tipped off school officials and the police were able to intercede before anything happened. The masacre was planned for the day after the student came forward. Last Friday a student in a school in a neighboring county to ours brought guns to school. Staff were able to institute a lock-down of students, but the prinicpal was killed. Then couple in the Amish school incident and the recent Colorado one. I hadn't heard the stat on 17 school incidents thus far in the school year, but sadly, I would believe it.

Does it p*ss me off that my two little girls have to practice "lock-down" drills at school? YES!! Do I want them to know what to do in case a gunner comes into their school? Of course. )-:

The Colorado and Amish school incidents disturb me a lot, b/c these were adults. It is a real indicator for me that our society still operates off a notion that adults have the right to have power over children and that males have the right to have power over females. If this cultural assumption didn't hold true, these men wouldn't have chosen schools as the places to take their "stand."

In one of Wisconsin school incidents the kid who used violence, said that he'd had had enough of being bullied and ridiculed. He indicated that he'd been called "fag" and "queer" by peers and that he'd gone to school officials and gotten little or no help. Of course his method of resolving his anger is unaaceptable. The issue of bullying is huge in schools and is a product of wider society teachings, esp. around issues of sexual orientation. Adults in schools still routinely, routinely turn their backs and rarely put their feet down abot the use of "faggot" and "queer" as slams, b/c wider society still gives lots of permission to ridicule people assumed to be LGBTQ. Walk down the hallways of most middle and high schools in this country during a "passing time" and you'll comonly hear "that so gay" or other put-downs.

And, in all of these incidents, there has been a desire on the part of the shooters for retaliation, punishment, revenge. From the get-go our society models revenge and retaliation - haveing someone to blame when things don't go the way we want them to go in our lives. LIttle kids wittness their parents blaming their bosses or co-workers for their unhappiness at work. They're in the cars when someone cuts off their parents and the parents blurt out some choice words. They watch other kids blame someone else for their bad behavior on the playground. They see people on TV (news and programming) take their frustrations out on someone else - including much of the programming geared toward kids (someone is often trying to "get even" with someone else) and they see our government take revenge on other countries. Collectively, we are a very "eye-for-an-eye" society. Sometimes I wonder if we are living in the 21st century or in the "wild wild west."

Then add mental illness to the picture, which I believe is probably a factor in all of these!

Sociatal beliefs that some groups "deserve" to dominate others + a reteliatory attitude + easy access to guns + mental illness = violence directed towards those most vulnerable in our society

The only way I personally can think of managing the rage is not to contribute to the above formula, which on the surface seems easy, but in fact is harder in real life. Of course not doing the big stuff is easy, but its the subtle stuff that underpins our societal assumptions that I have to really slow down and notice. And, for me its about "outing" the crap that goes on here in the bigger picture ways and not just wringing my hands after incidents like these and saying "wow, how could that happen" but working every single day around these issues professionally and personally. Even on those days when I feel like the efforts of my work are like spitting in the ocean and expecting the pH levels to change.

1 comment:

Ellen said...

From the get-go our society models revenge and retaliation ... LIttle kids [are] in the cars when someone cuts off their parents and the parents blurt out some choice words.

I see that as blowing off steam, not "revenge and retaliation". I'd much rather my kids hear me muttering at other drivers than to have someone else in the family (cough) lose hir temper and start chasing other drivers....