The last several decades have seen many horrific shootings in schools. And not just here in the United States either. School safety is a problem in Canada, Finland, Yemen, India and Australia as well as other countries. Apparently no school and community is immune from violence. After each event experts point to a variety of possible reasons why the violence occurred. Among those reasons are
- A lack of adequate parental supervision
- Failure to identify troubled children
- A lack of adequate resources to implement intervention
- A lack of security
- Easy availability of weapons
- The perpetrators were ostracized or bullied
- Their world is a virtual world. It's a world of extreme fantasy, as it always has been.
- Their music points the way to understanding their feelings.
- Their clothing and sense of style reinforce their sense of who they are and what they stand for.
- Their world is strongly influenced by movies, television and the Internet.
Their world is a violent world, filled with wierd, wonderfully exciting and very different creatures. Male morphs into female; human into android. 1999 advances to 2099, one minute only to flip back to 1899 the next. Anything and everything is expendable, disposable. The theme is always the same: triumph of the strong over the weak, and death for inferior beings. But when you think about it, it is really not much different from the Greek myths.
Popular Music Glorifies Violence
Popular music, particularly rap, expresses anger and frustration. The anger and frustration are directed at the usual targets: society, the pointlessness of life, lack of hope for the future. The current manifestations of popular music idolize violence towards other human beings and total disrespect for society's structures and laws.
Fashion Exalts Violence
Clothing has always been an expression of the teenage persona. It ranges the gamut: from military fatigues to extreme grunge to ghetto. Hairstyles and makeup combine to create the desired effect which is to shock and awe. In a word it's all about attitude especially negative attitude.
The Internet Enhances Violence
The Internet encourages what films and television have offered for decades. The Internet merely renders the violence and thirst for blood which has been a hallmark of human entertainment throughout the ages instant and immediate. It is always available. No tickets to buy! No need to wait in a Roman amphitheater in the hot sun for the spectacle to begin. Just connect to the Internet and enter the virtual world!
The Internet offers teens a place to hang out. It offers numerous opportunities to try out various persona. In this world even sex is virtual. The natural cynicism of teens is strengthened by all manner of subversive websites. Left unsupervised there is little that the naturally curious teen can't find out about, be drawn into, and made to feel a part of. After all all most teens really want is someone like themselves to talk to, to have a relationship with. Tragically it leaves them exposed to evil in many forms.
Now combine this virtual reality with the current taste for high tech violence and you have a potent combination. Media violence reinforces the message "Kill or be killed!"
Look at the huge popular success of enterprises like WWE. These programs encourage disrespect for authority. They scream the gospel of "Anything goes!" They steadily and insidiously break down the mores which have been the norm of 20th century society. Rules are not important. They are meant to be broken.
The Internet Glorifies Violence
The Internet is the final step in the glorification of violence which will ultimately destroy society as we know it. It panders to mankind's insatiable desire for and fascination with violence. It offers it instantly and everywhere.
Mankind Has Always Glorified Violence
The irony for me, a classicist by training, is that the masses have always enjoyed blood and gore. One has only to reflect on the spectacles which took place in the Coliseum in Rome centuries ago or the running of the bulls each year at Pamplona, Spain, to realize that this generation's preoccupation with violence is nothing new. It just has assumed a different, new form.
The real question for all of us parents, educators and students is: what are we going to do about it? We must act now to curb violence. We must be constantly vigilant and alert to the newer electronic forms of intimidation and violence. This is a job for every member of a school community, not just teachers and administration. School safety depends on our diligent we are in addressing violence.