The Hess Report


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

School Safety, Guns and TV 

Today, I was involved in a discussion about school violence, etc. Two points were made.

1. What would make a school secure against drugs and deadly violence? My response was:

Every school in America should have the following:

A. A single entrance. All others locked to the outside (but obviously open for exit in case of emergency).

B. Metal detector around this entrance.

C. Armed guard with drug-sniffing dog at this entrance throughout the day. He's behind a barrier. You present proper ID,

D. Principal and VP should be allowed to be armed, if they so desire and are legally permitted to carry. Firearms to be kept locked in their desks.

Everyone who enters the school does so through this entrance. Of course, there are still risks. Talking specifically about wackos, be they student or not, who run into a school in the middle of day and start shooting, they could just as easily wait outside for the end of the day and start spraying bullets at the kids as they leave. But my suggestions eleminate both drugs in the schools as well as the sort of captive shootings that always happen inside the buildings, which seems to be the major problem. You have a bunch of people in lockdown, with nowhere to flee and no chance of defending themselves if confronted by an armed assailant. Frankly, I'm amazed that none of these kids ever got the idea to grab a high-powered rifle with a good scope, find a defensible covered location, and start picking people off as they leave for the day.

But I have the feeling that, at least in the cases of students who pull this kind of stuff, there are personal vendettas and feelings involved which make retribution from a distance less than satisfying, which brings me to the next point of the discussion.

2. Some people were wondering as to what exactly is different between now and twenty years ago. Why did bullying in the past result in nothing more than bruised egos, or a black eyes, but now results in someone going completely nuts and killing people? If anything, there is less bullying in the public schools now, as districts seem to be cracking down on overt inter-student conflict. It could just be that we were lucky for all those years. Maybe it was that no one had thought of the notion of resolving such conflicts in that way. The first time a school shooting became national news, the genie flew screaming from the bottle. But is that it? I don't think so. The pressures are much higher now. My response to the argument follows:

One big difference I see is what the perceived stakes are for these kids. Growing up, our world was basically our families and the neighborhood kids. You watched some cartoons on TV, and, if you're young enough, you may have even watched something like "Saved By The Bell".

Now, certain young teenagers and tweens are pretty much allowed by their parents to be inundated with a radically unrealistic set of images of what their high school experience should be like. Those are the stakes now. Everyone watches beautiful people on TV doing wild and/or cool things. I'm not saying that TV induces them to violence, but that in the case of kids and teenagers who are, quite simple, biologically irrational, it gives them a warped sense of expectations. An impossible standard. A feeling that they are falling behind, irrepairably. When you were picked on and put down twenty years ago, it was just a part of the neighborhood social pecking order. Now though, you've been cut off from the hyper-idealized teenage dream, and that's a rough thing to take.

Short of an actual psychotic break, it is only complete despair for one's future that can allow someone to do something like this. Why such despair? What's so different now than twenty years ago? I submit that it could be their notion that they have failed and have no future, at least by the standards that have been etched in their heads by uncaring parents and a mental diet of unattainable coolness and beauty. That their current social ostracism is a complete failure, one from which they will never recover.

If you have caring, involved parents, you will most likely be immune to this way of thinking. In their absence, though...

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