Patty Kleban: The Disenfranchised Kid
Another teen takes a gun to school, this time in a high school in rural California. He is eventually stopped by a teacher and another staff member, but not before shooting several of his peers.
The pundits will add this to their lists in the argument about gun control. Security in schools. More debate about arming teachers. Violence in movies. Video games.
I think we should make it against the law for children to feel angry, hurt and disenfranchised.
As the last of the Baby Boomers, I grew up in the days when one parent worked and the other parent stayed home with the kids. We lived in a modest home, had one car (until my Dad got a company car) and lived within our means. For most of my childhood, we had one TV and it didn’t have a remote control. We had one phone number; phone conversations in our house of five people were not very private and our parents knew who was calling. We took one vacation each year – usually to visit relatives. We ate dinner together, around the table. We played outside with the other kids in the neighborhood and weren’t dependent on our parents for organized play dates.
Little League baseball was one of the few organized sports available until we got to junior high. We did Scouts and church youth group. We were supervised and our parents knew what we were doing and with whom. When we got to high school, we played sports or joined clubs and, most of the time, found our own way. Our parents didn’t email the teachers or demand special treatment. We were grounded when we broke rules. There were no zero tolerance policies. We knew most of the kids in our high school class, even if we didn’t hang out together, and had a sense of belonging to something. We understood that our feelings were important but so were the feelings of others.
We didn’t bring guns to school to shoot our classmates.
To get at the heart of the matter in school shootings, we need to change that which is creating this culture of adolescent isolation. How do we unring this bell?
Is it the denigration of the traditional family? Is it the anonymity and empty friendship of Facebook and Twitter? Is it the impact of dual working parents and day care and kids coming home to an empty house? Is it violence on TV, video games and 24-hour news coverage? Is it Talk TV and disrespect and interruption as our role models? Is it bullying and cyberbullying? Is it because we’ve deemed religion and values education as politically incorrect? Is it our focus on our kids fragile self-esteem? Is it “Everyone is a Winner” parenting? Is it kids pigeon-holed into sports and activities – and labels - when they are seven years old? Is it reality TV? Could it be our rush to diagnose and medicate instead of holding people accountable and teaching responsibility?
Is it that kids aren’t learning how play well with others without an adult standing nearby? Is it a culture of more stuff, more square footage, and $100 Abercrombie jeans? Is it our attitude that my kid is the next star and I’m going to elbow you and yours out of the way to make sure of that? Do we expect too much of our kids or not enough? How are we not teaching our children empathy? How are we missing these kids who are in pain?
Identifying guns as the sole issue in these shootings is like saying cars are the reason for driving under the influence.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Sometimes those reactions take a while to have an impact. I have said for years that the idea to ban kegs in downtown State College, while seeming like a good idea at the time, has pushed many students to hard liquor. We’ve never addressed why they drink and how we can make that less attractive. We squeeze the balloon on one end and the other side stretches and breaks.
If we make school shootings about gun control, what will happen next?
“Times have changed, Mom” is the reaction of my kids when I talk about neighborhood kick-the-can in the back yard and all of us sitting in the living room watching the same TV show as a family. They roll their eyes when I ask about text messages, Facebook postings and what it might feel like to be in that other person’s shoes. “Yeah times have changed but kids didn’t shoot each other in those days” is my reply.
I don’t know the answers. I hope someone had some ideas. It doesn’t seem like answers are going to come from elected officials and the bi-partisan divide in this country. All this arguing about guns and gun control is only distracting us from the real problem at hand. Our nation’s children are lost and need our help.
What is causing the cracks in our culture that these kids keep falling into?