April 20, 2007

How to Stop School Shootings?

Okay, now we know that Cho was a mental mess. Of course, he had to be. However, to blame Virginia Tech as negligent for not anticipating his rampage - most of our newscasters and pundits seem to be doing just that - is wrongheaded. Why? First, even the people who lived with Cho had no idea he was capable of such horrendous behavior. Second, the law protects a student’s right to privacy; schools are not even allowed to disclose grades to the student’s family without his/her permission. Third, the same privacy legislation prevents a school from informing others of a student’s mental problems except when specifically given permission by the student, or his/her family. Fourth, some have suggested that the school should have had Cho put into a mental institution. In order to do that, he would have had to be declared mentally incompetent, and such a declaration is extremely difficult to obtain. Two Psychiatrists must sign the form, as must the patient and/or a family member.

The national news pundits have seized on the easy but incorrect answer. Virginia Tech is not to be blamed for Cho Seung Hui’s acherontic berserker behavior. Rather, we all are responsible for the over 500 documented incidents of school shootings. We have allowed our entire society to spiral downward and out of control. We all accept violence as a part of our daily existence. For instance, most of us did not notice this week that Tuesday was the worst day for death and mayhem in Iraq since President Bush’s latest plan was put into operation there. In 2002 we accepted our President’s declaration of invasion of Iraq without provocation – Saddam Hussein may have been a maniacal and evil dictator, but he had done nothing to the United States - and we didn’t bat an eye. This very week, we have denied a woman’s right to an abortion even when the developing child threatens the mother’s life. Instead, we claim the child’s right to life trumps the mother’s. We accept a type of Christian that believes God has ordained that we should kill 60,000 Iraqis and 3000 Americans. We expect that our neighbors and/or family members to own guns. Hoodlums and criminals are better armed than our police forces. Common courtesy has degenerated into road-rage. People don’t even say "excuse me" when they run carts into one another in the super market. Images of violence seem to multiply exponentially in our media. Worse still, we all seem to hang onto such images with a passion that supersedes logic.

What are we to do to begin to change this atmosphere of violence that permeates our culture? First, logic tells me that we must make it more difficult to obtain arms. Yes, we have the constitutional right to bare arms. Nevertheless, shouldn’t we have to demonstrate a logical reason for owning weapons - a hunting license for instance? Second, if each of us had to show a certain amount of intelligence (pass a test) before we were entrusted with owning a weapon, some accidents with guns might be prevented. Third, perhaps we all should be required to demonstrate a fair level of maturity and social conscience through a psychological examination before we are allowed to bare arms. Fourth, we must create a more civil society, one in which manners are the norm, not the exception. Fifth, as we do not wish to suspend the right to free speech, all students must be prepared for life in a civil society through education. For instance, there should be required courses that help students to understand the purpose of the arts, as well as signification through symbols and signs used in the arts, both high and low. Most importantly we must end poverty. If our youth and young adults know they can be successful in a society that aims to help all its citizens toward success of one kind or another they will not participate and/or perpetrate violence.

I realize these fundamental objectives will be extremely hard to achieve, and that each encompasses an entire subset of smaller goals and processes. It will be necessary to create a process that will saturate our leaders, people, and institutions with these goals. I also realize that the alternative is more of the same. Worse, the alternative can only be the escalation of student shootings, of many more lost lives and so much lost potential.

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Anonymous Anna said...

Even though I do agree with the privacy laws institutions follow, I also have a mental illness. I have friends that are in various colleges and have been kicked out for self-injury but when it comes down to someone not outwardly showing that they're "crazy" they let everything slide and turn a blind eye. From my understanding, he was in a hospital for a few days and then discharged even though he said he was a harm to himself. Although I do feel the necessity for privacy laws, I feel that society as a whole needs to take a look at the way people with mental illnesses are treated. This "just ignore them" mentality that a lot of people carry around isn't helping anyone. Trust me, I know about the personal responsibility a person with a mental illness must take upon themselves...but until you've gotten to the point where you can clearly see a solution...your shrouded in darkness and feel there is no escape.

1:59 PM  

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