I have been hearing and reading about the school shootings today, and as usual the same thing comes up, what can we do to stop school shootings in the US? Well, I have bad news.
Noone can do anything about school shootings in America. And this is around the time I wish I could talk to minors, because I feel truly sorry for them.
You can say “more gun control”, it won’t work. You can say “more guards in schools”, it won’t work. You know why? Because these are attempts to put a bandaid over a stab wound and call it good. The problem isn’t guns, its not a lack of protection, its because the education system in America stresses our students to the point where this becomes an option for them.
You have kids who are picked on every day for their differences, beat up on a semi-regular basis, not part of the ‘in crowd", etc, and these are just the stressors the other students place on them. When i read tumblr and listen to teens speak, I can only conclude its worse today than in the 90s.
Then you have teachers with unrealistic expecations, principals who will blame both sides in a fight, people will do nothing to stop the bullying of a student. You have homework, so the kid doesn’t even get a break from school when they get home.. Then you have the parents who will ground their kids if they don’t get straight As, and punish them. From all sides there is nothing about being in school that is a positive experience for them unless they are in the “in crowd”, or considered “cool” or whatever it is today. The majority of today’s kids and teens will find school to be a constant source of stress.
And these are the factors that I can recall from the 90s. I am sure what todays kids face today is worse, because now they can be bullied by other students on social media.
To be honest, we should be thankful we have as few school shootings as we do. One must ask, how many students think about shooting up their school, just to find a resolution to bullying, to constant stress to achieve and to do, to simply find a way out of the misery of going there every day? It’s probably more than we’d like to admit. And the trend of school shootings is cyclical, the more it happens, the more other students will see it as an option.
The fact that we go around saying “more gun control”, “more guards in schools”, “checkpoints at the doors”, “more ways to report dangerous students”, it shows me that noone cares about the root issue, that going to school in America is regularly traumatic for a sizable portion of its students. We’ve made getting an education a form of hell for kids and teens just starting to learn how to deal with stressors.
And preparing them for the “world of work” is no excuse. As an adult, most of us can expect a ‘work-life balance’, but in school, there’s no way for a teen to have a ‘school-life’ balance, as school is thrust upon every day of their pre-adult lives. Even weekends aren’t really free because there’s certain to be extracurricular activities, or homework, assigned then too.
Noone even sees the root issue. They think everything is OK with how we try to educate our populace, it isn’t, and hasn’t been for DECADES. Until America is willing to go from asking “how do we prevent this from happening” to “Why did this happen in the first place”, we’re always going to have kids and teens driven to the brink, and driven to act out in the most horrific ways. Unfortunately, as an adult with no children, I really have no way of changing this, so to that I say I am truly sorry to, and for, our students, because things probably aren’t going to change. This is a system primarily driven by parents’ ideas and desires, and those of the politicians they elect, who only know the ways that they were educated and their school experiences.
However I don’t want anyone to say I didn’t have any ideas to try to stop school violence and shootings, so here are some. These aren’t the typical ones. Some may even seem crazy because they are outside the talking points that we typically cycle around these times. Lets look at root issues instead.
1) Eliminate homework. Almost no job an adult has expects their employees to ‘bring some work home to do’, and the ones that do, we think those employers are completely cray-cray. When a student goes home, they should be able to expect complete freedom from the stressors of school life. Teachers, if you are unable to teach your subject in the time alloted for your classes, that’s actually on YOU, not the student.
2) Deal with bullying in a fair and intelligent way. This means not blaming the victim of bullying for being equally culpable for their situation. End tolerance for bullying as part of the “growing up” experience. When you do this, your enabling the bully. What do you think kids who bully grow up to be, when they are not shown this isn’t ok? I mean other than President of the US. Undesirables, who have learned that they can violence their way through situations.
3) For both parents and school administration, treat all fights as school problems, even if they happen off school grounds. Its not difficult to find out when some kid is about to be beaten up, because news about it is likely to be spread. Don’t try to put an end to it when you hear it, that won’t work. Just have some adult show up to it when it happens, to interrupt it, and deal with the parties involved, identifying the bully and victim.
4) Identify and discourage cliques, and the division of students between “cool kids” and “uncool ones”. Most of us can remember the social ladder and the pressure to climb it and the way you were looked at and treated if you chose not to, or couldn’t succeed. Countless dramas have resulted from this social ladder and it is a huge distraction from learning and an even greater cause of stress. Worse, many young ones base their entire self-worth on their position on the ladder/ I don’t know how society implements this, as it goes against human natural tendencies, but society would probably be better off in general without it.
5) I don’t believe in the elimination of grades, as a student needs to have a way to measure their own progress, but pressure to get grades above C just doesn’t help at all. This is for parents and teachers. I sucked at Spanish. I still don’t know Spanish. Expecting kids and teens to be ‘great at everything’ is an unreasonable expectation that just makes school worse for them.
6) Apply less pressure to engage in extracurricular activities and let kids figure out what they like. Offer options but don’t apply pressure to take an option. Some students NEED their free time. There will be less violence and more learning if students actually enjoy school.
7) Mostly for parents, don’t suggest that “fighting back” as a solution to a bully problem. Take the issue directly to the school, and teachers/administrators, take it seriously. The students that do not want to resort to violence to solve a problem, are your future peacemakers, and your bulllies, are your future warmongers. It is not “weak” to seek an end to violence without reciprocating violence. People talk about the desire for “world peace” but the inclination for violence is instilled at such an early age in the name of ‘strength’. Stop it.
TL;DR: If school is a personal hell for the students involved, you can always expect violence. It just stands to reason, and all the preventative measures in the world won’t help, if you don’t help the students who are being pushed to the breaking point. I’m not making excuses for school shooters, but I am saying, do you really believe that people are born to inevitably enact school violence, or perhaps it is a product of the things that happen to them? Consider it.