This is a little dated because I wrote it when the Oregon school shootings happened. For those of you who have read it before, I apologise. It just seems there are enough newbies here who might find it of interest, esp. those asking about how children come to think that violence is an answer. There are no easy answers. Thank you, kat
"Teach children critical thinking"
Who could read or watch the news about the Springfield, Oregon school shootings, without tears in their eyes; without utter dismay and outrage in their hearts; without feeling an urgent and intense demand for immediate disarmament of our nation, as the school's wrestling coach, Gary Bowden, has called for?
Guns are indiscriminate. They have no consciousness which cares whose lives they end. Guns are made to kill. That is the main reason they are manufactured: to take down that trophy buck, that killer wolf, or, in some peoples' minds: the enemy, meaning anyone who wrongs them.
Advocates of gun ownership often cite statistics of automobile deaths versus death from guns, absurdly asking if we would outlaw cars as well for the killings they cause. Cars are made for benign purposes. Automakers do not draw their blueprints with killing specifically in mind. In crash tests, their goal is not to see how many test dummies a car can mow down within seconds upon arrival at a school or on the freeway. Even in cases of road rage, a gun is still the preferred weapon of choice; a vehicle is only the incentive or means to use the gun.
What really causes one to recoil in disbelief and dismay is wondering what kind of nation we are when children view violence as the only means of resolution. We cannot blame it on television. We are told grandparents grew up with very violent folk stories which did not, apparently, incite them to kill. Television executives do not plan their programs to deliberately incite violence. Studies claim the Japanese release their rage through their violent television programs and video games, rather than each other, attesting to their lower crime rate.
The way America watches television has changed. The way we watch our children has changed. In the fifties and sixties, watching TV used to be a family affair; everyone would gather `round to watch a favorite.
Even in the seventies, when my children were growing up, we, as parents, sat down with them to view what we considered to be good programming. We discussed and critiqued what they watched, making sure they didn't grow up thinking everything could be assuaged by gunfights, taking a pill, or colouring their hair a certain shade of blonde. They were restricted and monitored. They were allowed to watch adult programs, as long as there was interaction with us as to the truth and probability of content. Each of them has grown to become productive, peaceful sorts. None of them would choose a gun as a first, or even last, resort for problem-solving.
Today's children mostly watch tv on their own. If they come from the middle to upper classes they probably have a television in their room, while mom and dad each have their own to watch elsewhere in the house. Often, parents use television, willingly or unwillingly, as a baby-sitter or incentive to children; to quiet them down, to entertain them. With the isolation of each to their corners, comes poor or little judgement of what they see happening in programs of all hours of the day. To restrict certain shows to what is supposedly bedtime for children is ridiculous. When one can tune into soaps and vile talk shows such as Jerry Springer, there is little left which need be censored to later hours.
We do not need to monitor the content of television as much as teach parents and other childcare givers the importance of limits and discussion about what is offered for daily viewing. Children's minds are like sponges; they soak up everything they see and hear without discernment for reality. They need guidance and discipline; to be taught critical thinking skills and non-violent means of resolving their differences or grievances.
The far right would have us believe Armageddon is at our doorstep. They, and other groups which share their so-called "family values", would have us believe our schools are failing when they teach children self-esteem; to feel good about themselves; to think for themselves; to learn to talk things out instead of resort to violence. They would also have us believe our country's problems are the result of our teachers, the government, the "new world order", the demise of Hitler, the rise of liberalism in the sixties; in short, the fault of everyone else except the individual and themselves. Their paranoia and fear spills over into conventional society. Using scare tactics of volatile rhetoric, their sense of urgency spurs even the most non-violent persons to explore lethal ways of protection.
Each of us starts out in a nucleus of home. Some are better than others; most have some sort of conflict and/or dysfunctionality. Many of us rise above, overcome, and continue to progress, making it through our difficulties with the help of friends, family, and professionals.
Today's parents expect the government to protect their children from everything, including television. The v-chip came about because most parents are unwilling or unable to take the time to monitor what their children are doing, let alone what they watch on television. The irony is a v-chip is not critical; it does not teach children the discernment which they will need as they become adults. By not sitting down with them, by not commenting and discussing with them what they see on tv, at the movies, on the Internet, and in print, parents are abdicating their prime responsibility in raising their children. By not taking responsibility for the content of their daily lives, by not teaching them how to cope, parents have given up their position as the first line of defense against the insidious spread of violence which is portrayed in a society with such utter disregard for consequences.
While it is unrealistic to believe our country will ever totally disarm, even for the sake of the children, it is reasonable to expect parents to accept their responsibilities and rely on themselves in teaching their children the importance, tools, and skills of non-violent resolution.
Policepersons do not go to work everyday with the intent to use deadly force. Their goal is to be safe and to apprehend without lethal means. To that end, cops employ non-deadly force, such as nets shot from high pressure devices and stun guns. Technology is even being developed to produce "smart guns" which recognize a peace officer's thumb imprint; not firing if the whorls and swirls don't match. Couldn't this same technology be useful in developing non-lethal means of defense for society in general?
Someone once told me a can of spray paint is a better defensive weapon than a gun, especially for a woman, as women are usually smaller than their assailants. A well-aimed shot of paint to the face immediately focuses the killer/rapist/robber's attention on their own problem. Their hands fly up to the eyes, thus releasing their victim and/or their weapon. While they are thus occupied and possibly blinded, one has an excellent chance of getting away or calling for help. Most of the children who have killed children, especially at school, seem to have come from families which keep guns in their homes, for whatever reason. Too bad they didn't all just have a paint party, instead.
Copyright May 22, 1998 by OoBraughLoo Press
all rights reserved