May 23, 2018 - Phoenix, AZ
Columbine. Sandy Hook. Santa Fe. And others deemed not important enough for major network coverage. These are American tragedies, to be sure. Could they have been prevented? Quite possibly, but not how you may think.
You see, the issue of violence in schools is not driven by NRA-supporting adults wielding
weapons of destruction; to wit, these attacks have been perpetrated by students who often have the same background cause factor in common--bullying and disenfranchisement. The loner, the quiet kid, the kid always picked last--or not at all, the kid who isn't pretty or handsome, the overweight kid, the kid who dresses in plain and inexpensive clothes, and so forth. How many have you known? How many have you seen and thought they were different? Or, even closer to the mark, was that you at one time?
I shared an article on February 21st that explored an innovative approach to school violence that, in my opinion, struck right at the heart of the issue. Our schools have become wrapped up in the quantitative standards reflected in meaningless annual tests, that they have forgotten that schools must also pay attention to the qualitative value of education. Schools have cut back on recess time--which allowed socialization, as well as the teacher to observe those skills or deficits in students. While school administrators make high salaries, tight budgets for student-facing staff has resulted in drastic cuts in school counselor programs--in our district, for example, there is only one counselor shared among the elementary schools in the district on an "as needed" basis--and any prior focus on life skills has fallen into the withering category of "enrichment programs." For those of us in education who are Baby Boomers, we can remember the options that we had available that actually prepared us for life--home economics, consumer economics, typing and shorthand, industrial arts (wood, metal, and auto shop), to name a few--most of which are no longer available to students today (although, to be fair, typing has been replaced with keyboarding, now).
Until the beginning of the wholesale liberalization of America in the 1970's, students benefited from an important school-parent-community partnership that supported school success. Except in the most wealthy school districts, this partnership no longer exists; rather, the entities that were once partners are now often slated against each other as competitors...or the schools are simply left forgotten until it is time to talk about them before an upcoming election. And so, while some point a finger at teachers, others at administrators, and still others at legislators, the reality is that the problems in our schools are a societal problem that has developed over the last 45 years right under our noses--in other words, the problem belongs to all of us!
--> Guess what, kids? In REAL LIFE not everyone gets an award for showing up,
not everyone can afford a luxury car, not everyone can buy (or even rent) a big house, not everyone can travel the world, not everyone can be millionaires (unless you get elected to the US Congress), and not everyone can have everything the way that they want it!
We have become a nation that views tolerance and inclusion in exactly the wrong way--at least that is the way the message is being received by youth. How are these concepts being failed? The answer is simple--we equate hurt feelings with injustice, spanking with abuse, not buying whatever kids want as negligence, and the message to try to include everyone is downed out by homogeneous groups shouting, advertising, and starting violence in order to have their own agenda met. What we are doing is raising youth in a world fraught with cognitive dissonance--not the clarity that they need to develop, learn, live, and be successful.
With the reach of technology into virtually every part of our lives, youth live in a world of conflicting messages, "news" that is biased, a belief that what they see on the Internet is real, instant and unfiltered video and audio, and other influences that many hold to be more important than learning at school or from their parent(s). Technology has reduced human interaction and led to generations who are constantly focused on their mobile devices--even texting or messaging with people sitting six feet away from them (a finding from an Arizona school district after replacing paper books with eBooks and tablets). We are raising a generation that lacks real socialization skills...or maybe the more appropriate statement is that we are not raising them at all; rather, we are letting electronic devices and the Internet raise them.
So, what about that concept of REAL LIFE ? Do you remember the high school students across the nation protesting for changes in gun laws this past year? When reporters and government officials asked them what the current gun laws were, less than 5% of the students queried knew what any of the current firearms laws were! Even more troubling, students were forced [at some schools] to be part of the protest, even if they did not support the cause, which is another instance of forcing cognitive dissonance on youth...not that we teach most of them the Constitutional principles of balancing individual liberties with the Common Good anymore...and these are supposed to be an up-and-coming generation of leaders in a decade or two? This is not education--it is political programming. Of course, most Americans younger than the Baby Boomers have very little understanding of what that balance means; unfortunately, many people in our federal, and state governments lack that understanding as well. SMH...
This is a societal problem! Gun control is not the answer (ask Chicago, which had a three-
fold increase in weapon-related violence after Mayor Rahm Emanuel's implementation of some of the nation's strictest gun control measures--all it did was disarm law-abiding citizens and make them easier prey for the criminals who, by definition, do not follow laws). WE, as a society, must fix this problem--laws, no guns, more guns, or status quo will not fix it. Parents must take on the responsibility of raising their children, not simply act as sperm and egg donors and then fail to make their children's development a priority over their own selfish desires.
The school-community-parent-student partnership must again be established so that our youth have the resources to be able to succeed in school, teachers have support of the parents, and the community can support students' understanding of REAL LIFE, including government, business, healthcare, financial literacy, and so forth. There are a world of great resources that can be brought to bear to improve the learning experience--both academically and socially--in our schools. So, yes, it should take a village to help raise a child to their full potential!
As a society, as parents, as teachers, as community leaders, we must take control of the environment in which our next generations grow. We must show them by example what being a good citizen and a good person are. We must be parents, not their best friends. We must support our schools, not blame them for our parental or community shortcomings and failures. We must make our children a priority, not view them as a burden. We must act responsibly, hold ourselves and our children accountable, discipline when needed but not punish. And the list could go on and on, right?
It is our future. It is their future. It is our nation's future. It is the world's future. THEY are the future! So, what kind of future do you want it to be? YOU can make a difference--if you have not started working to improve your children and your community, the second best time to start is now! It is NOT someone else's problem--it affects us all--and we ALL have a responsibility to help strengthen our society again...
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