The recent school shooting at Virginia Tech demonstrates a huge underlying societal problem that many of us are either ignoring or are ignorant of. Because society has spent much of the last several decades trying to stamp violence out of schools and out of our children, we end up with kids who are made-to-order victims that will line up to be shot execution style rather than fight back.
The answer to school violence is not to arm the campus police, have campus SWAT teams, or class rooms that can double as fortresses, it is to teach our children to protect themselves aggressively and confidently with whatever weapon may be at hand. Clearly the schools are not doing this, so responsible parents need to be sure they are.
While it may be politically incorrect to say so, how many of us have wondered why the 30 college kids in a classroom didn’t mob the gunman, tackle him, hit him with a chair, or otherwise fight back? Why was the only defender a concentration camp survivor old enough to be the students’ grandparent? I believe that the answer to those two questions is the same: Because in two generations our feel good society has gutted the right to self defense in our public schools and created a generation of victims. That’s right – they have brainwashed our children into pliable victims who will not defend themselves.
Creating Willing Victims
In our school district, kids in middle school and occasionally in lower school are handcuffed and arrested when a fight breaks out. Because of “zero tolerance” towards fighting, even kids who defend themselves when attacked are arrested and suspended, regardless of who was “in the right” or what witnesses say. The concept that students have a right to self defense does not exist in these schools and the lesson taught is “do not fight back.” Is it any wonder that kids who are indoctrinated in this system have no idea how to defend themselves or that it is even permissible to try, even when faced with a gunman killing their fellow students?
This politically correct emphasis on non-violence is really a drive to non-confrontation that teaches kids to be victims at an early age. Violence not only still exists in our schools, it is worse than ever because the system does not allow kids to counter force with force. This means that kids cannot fight back when they are harassed on the school bus, spit on in the lunch room, assaulted in the hallway, or beaten in the locker room. Teachers routinely do not intervene in bullying or one-way assaults. This bullying behavior is allowed until the target decides to fight back, at which point school rules treat both the attacker and defender the same way. I am afraid that these days, the only place bullies and their victims really meet after school to settle their differences is on television or in the movies.
Stamping Out the Competitive Spirit
In addition to creating willing victims who are powerless to defend themselves, public schools are stamping out the competitive spirit out of our children. This is terribly unfortunate, because competitiveness and the desire to win are two of the things that have helped make America great.
In public schools, competitiveness is looked down upon because it might hurt a less competitive student’s self esteem if they don’t do as well as someone else. For the sake of self esteem, standing out must be discouraged and everyone must be equal – equally bad, that is. (Didn’t we fight the Cold War to keep this communist mentality from spreading? And now it is being enforced in our schools.)
Public schools are routinely taking those kids who are smarter or otherwise above average and forcing them to work at the level of the slowest kid in the class. For example, in my daughter’s public elementary school class, smart children were teamed with slower kids on team projects to bring up the slower kids’ grades up.
This approach is an example of backwards thinking. Instead of allowing kids to succeed or fail on their own merits, the system promotes mediocrity. Worse, the smart kids are bored by the slow progress and frustrated at having to do the teacher’s job of instructing the other kids. They also learn early that by appearing smart, they have to do everyone else’s work, and so some decide to hide their intelligence. The slower kids learn that society will promote them even when they don’t do the work (so called social promotion – don’t get me started), so there is little incentive for them to try harder or to improve their performance.
We used to encourage success and honor our high achievers; now the public schools teach your kids that standing out and excelling is wrong because when you stand out, someone with a lower average may get their feelings hurt. So much for pride in a job well done.
This effort to improve children by falsely boosting their self esteem is wishful thinking. Kids know where they stand regardless of what the teacher says, and it sends the wrong message when teachers and school officials honor everyone, regardless of their performance. We need to go back to rewarding the high performers and addressing the problem with a child who isn’t finding success, even if it means we have to hurt their self esteem by holding them back a grade.
Sports, the Last Bastion of Competition
About the only place in public schools that competition still exists is on the sports field. In fact, the coach is about the only teacher who can still yell at kids without a parent calling up and complaining.
But how long will this last? If football were not such an institution and economic boon for high schools and colleges, I have no doubt “well meaning” school administrators would have banned it by now. Already, there are fewer hours of PE class in most schools than ever before. Adults are even interfering with pick up games at recess by saying that kids can’t pick their own teams because someone might have their feelings hurt by being selected last. I’m sure everyone reading this has heard of a school district where dodge ball has been banned because it is too violent or dangerous. When did we start to coddle our children so much that getting hit with a big red rubber ball became something we must protect them from?
In most organized contact sports, you can still hit the other player. As a coach of a girls soccer for six seasons, let me tell you that it is difficult to get a young girl to be aggressive on the soccer field. Even by age 7, they are so indoctrinated in non-violence that they back up or will run away from a charging player instead of advancing or holding their ground to steal the ball or disrupt a fast break. The short-term result is that the one or two aggressive kids dominate play, largely because they are unchallenged. The long-term result is that later in life the girl will become a woman who shies away from confrontation and is afraid to stand up for herself. Another ready victim.
Yet even organized sports are changing. At young ages, the parents and coaches are told not to keep score, because losing may cause a child to lose self esteem. As if a kid old enough to swing a bat can’t keep score! Such behavior on the part of adults who are supposed to be experts in childhood development is laughable. Let’s face it, in life you will win some, and you will lose some, so the sooner you learn to be a good sport when you lose, the better off you will be. Pretending that “everyone wins” also eliminates the life lessons that come from losing, such as picking yourself up and trying again.
Sports are tough, but so is life. Get used to it young and you will survive better when you are older. I was knocked unconscious playing “touch” football in sixth grade. In high school, I broke my leg in a soccer game. (The coach told me to walk it off, and I tried to.) My younger sister almost lost her front teeth in a softball game in junior high. (Her braces actually kept them from getting knocked out – it was the only time she was happy to have braces.) Were we disillusioned or too dispirited to return to the game? Of course not. We both overcame these temporary setbacks and continued playing sports. It’s the old getting back up on the horse that threw you idea, which is an important lesson for success later in life. How will our kids learn perseverance and to overcome obstacles if we clear all the obstacles out of their way? No wonder the Virginia Tech victims did not fight back – they had been taught to wait for someone else to come and solve their problem for them.It’s Not Your Father’s School Anymore
When my father went to school during World War II, he and his friends would often bring their .22 rifles or single shot shotguns to school so they could shoot rabbits and other small game on the way home. When I went to school in the 1970s, I remember bringing cap guns to school on Halloween, and I carried a pocket knife every day after I turned 10. Today, dressing like a cowboy for Halloween or bringing a pocket knife to school can get you expelled, and don’t even think of bring a .22. Not only will the child be expelled, authorities will likely charge the parent with a crime, confiscate any weapons in the house, and restrict their right to own a gun again in the future. My, how times have changed.
So are schools any safer today than they were 30 or 60 years ago? Of course not. Just as gun control does not reduce violent in the real world, it does not reduce it in schools. In fact, there is evidence that concealed carry permits for teaches and administrators is far more likely to forestall a bloody school massacres than laws and metal detectors.
I don’t have to tell you that we live in a violent world where things are not fair – perhaps the one lesson that public schools do consistently teach our youth. Unfortunately, public schools do not teach kids how to counter violence, how to walk with their head held high, and how to avoid or deal with trouble before it escalates. Instead, it teaches them to be fearful, to slink around with their heads hung, and to call an administrator, police officer or other member of the nanny state when something goes wrong. This curriculum has not only rendered students powerless and created a generation of easy victims; it has lead to the type of slaughter we saw earlier this year at Virginia Tech.
Further, I postulate that the zero tolerance policies that force good kids to be victims rather than fight back cause frustration and suppressed anger in otherwise normal kids. It is this anger and frustration that causes the oppressed kids to one day reach the bursting point and bring a gun to school, seeking to end their torment. We will never know how many kids fantasize – without taking action – about bringing a gun to school and killing their abusers. But we do know that school shootings driven by revenge on bullies and tormentors, such as Columbine, show no sign of abating.
How many adults would allow ourselves to be subjected to verbal, psychological and physical abuse by our peers for six or eight years? Yet kids from fifth grade up routinely deal with this kind of abuse at the hands of their fellow students. Should we really expect high school kids, with their raging hormones and adolescent angst, to survive years of this daily abuse without cracking? Maybe this is why the use of antidepressants is so high among teenagers today.
Unfortunately, the policies of feel-good, self-esteem raising, zero-tolerance school administrations have created a generation of ready-made victims and a revenge-based school shooting culture that never existed before.
Reversing the Brainwashing
So what can you do to fight this conditioning and brainwashing? My advice is as follows:
First, enroll your boy or girl, in extracurricular sports as young as possible, preferably by age six. Sports like football, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, field hockey, roller hockey and ice hockey are in my opinion better than sports like golf, tennis and baseball because there is contact and aggressive play is both encouraged and rewarded. In their lives, your kids will have to face violence, and learning to face it in the controlled environment of the playing field is the first step in successfully facing it in an uncontrolled environment. Contact sports do not teach violence and aggression, but they provide an outlet for the aggression that the schools otherwise bottle up. Sports also teach kids how to channel aggression and anger into positive activities.
If finances are an issue, choose soccer over a sport that requires lots of pads such as football or hockey. You can outfit a youth soccer player for less than $50.
Second, when time and finances allow, enroll your kids in other extra curricular activities where they will meet and mingle with kids from other schools, towns and cultures. As they get older, they will need to have a network of friends outside of the people they go to school with. This provides an escape; when everyone at their school knows they did something stupid, the kids from the next town over will probably have no idea. These extra curricular activities can be programs that teach valuable and vanishing skills, such as Scouts, junior shooting competitions, and 4H.
Third, do things with your kids. Spend time with them so they can observe your behavior in difficult situations and learn by your example. Have dinner with your children regularly and ask them what they learned at school. If you disagree with what they were taught, provide your contrasting opinion in a reasonable, even handed way. Remember, any time spent with them is better than no time. Use examples from your life to and tell stories with morals. Even a drive to the store and back gives you time to talk and is better than time spent watching television or playing video games.
Fourth, try to find other responsible adults for them to spend time with; relatives who think like you do are a good choice. The more one-on-one time they have with a right-thinking adult, the better, as that influence will slowly infiltrate, overcoming the brainwashing and protecting them from it in the future. I say this from experience, having raised two politically conservative children who understand the second amendment, regardless of what the school tries to teach them
Fifth, encourage your children to stand up for themselves and tell your child that you won’t punish them if they fight back and defend themselves. There is a fine line to walk here, as they must understand that 1) the school will still punish them, but that you will back them and they will not get in additional trouble at home. And 2) they can’t go around looking for or starting fights. The other person has to throw the first punch or two, so to speak. In my personal experience, a good martial arts school can help give kids the confidence and discipline to walk this line as well as the skills to enforce it.
At the same time you give them permission to fight back, teach them that the best fight is the one that they avoid. Teach them to not to make enemies – there’s no profit in it and potentially much pain as they will have to see the other kid every day for the rest of the school year. Teach them to think and reason, and not react emotionally. Cooler heads do prevail. But teach them that when a fight cannot be avoided, they need to do whatever it takes to win it clearly and decisively in a way that discourages re-engagement at a future time.
Sixth, talk about what to do in a school shooting scenario. Don’t avoid the topic or turn off the television – address it, just as you would another survival situation such as an earthquake or tornado. Discuss when to run, when to hide, when to fight back. Discuss what, if anything, the school told them to do and whether it makes sense. Teach them to be aware of exits and where to sit in the room. Teach them to look for hiding places and that a table is unlikely to stop a bullet. They also need to know that that action beats reaction. Demonstrate how it is harder to hit a moving target than a stationary one. At the same time, reassure them that while it is very unlikely they will have a school shooting at their school, it is better to plan ahead of time than to panic.
Finally, if you can afford to do so, get them out of the public schools and into a good private school. Preferably a small one with class sizes under 20, where kids will have opportunities to learn at their own pace. Home schooling is another excellent alternative, and is usually very safe, but unfortunately is often not an option for single parent households or households in which both parents work.
Because private schools are expensive and generally do not refund your tuition if your kid is expelled, parents have a much greater vested interest in keeping their kids in line and well behaved. This makes a world of difference, as does having independent administrators who do not need to please an elected official.
The Private School Experience
We chose private school, and after the mortgage, it is our largest single expense. It also requires that we drop off and pick up our child each day, which required some scheduling changes as well as some additional dollars for gasoline. We evaluated several schools before picking what we felt was the best one for our daughter.
Yes, private schooling required a sacrifice, but in our experience, it is well worth it. Not only does our daughter get far more individual attention from teachers that she did in public school, she is encouraged to work ahead in the book. Rather than be held back by the lowest common denominator, kids in her school compete to see who can finish the most vocabulary words, math sheets, and reading assignments in the given time. She is no longer bored in class, and competition encourages her to push herself harder than the teacher could. She is much happier and well ahead of where she would have been had she stayed in private school.
Several of the sports teams are co-educational, so the girls learn to play with the boys – they have to be aggressive if they want to play. Kids pick their own teams at recess and make their own rules, often with much healthy argument and dissent, yet the teachers usually do not interfere, letting the kids work out their differences. Yes, the kids get bumps, bruises, and abrasions, but they wear these playground injuries with nonchalance, just like we did 30 years ago.
Most refreshing is the attitude of the administrators. I met with an administrator at my daughter’s school to express my concern that she was going to punch an especially annoying boy if he kept up his inappropriate behavior on the basketball court. The administrator said “Yes, we are aware of his behavior and are taking steps to address it. We have discussed at our staff meeting that your daughter or another child may sock him, and a good number of us think that it would be well deserved.” Imagine that — a school official acknowledging that a student had a licking coming and that the school would not punish a girl for defending herself against his boorish and inappropriate behavior.
In the end, no one punched him because the school and his parents got the problem under control. But it was a refreshing attitude, and one that could never exist in our politically correct, zero tolerance, public school child warehousing system.
Whether you go the private school route, are able to home school or have no option other than public schooling remember that if you take an active role in your child’s life, your influence and teachings will exceed those of the most liberal school system. So take the time and teach your child well.