Tuesday, October 10, 2006

School Violence I

School violence has decreased dramatically over the past 20-30 yrs. It's true, I'm not going to get the links, though you should feel free. Some of that is related to metal detectors and drug sniffing dogs and strict policies regarding weapons and guests/visitors. Some of it is PC thuggery. Some of it is a more accepting society and some of it is detachment. There are probably other reasons, and those reasons can be discussed ad nauseam, so I won't; I'll just say that schools are "safer" than they were in the 80's, despite perception.

People feel that they are more dangerous. Steven Colbert tells us that this means they are more dangerous. It's not true, of course, but it is funny. The main reason people feel this way is likely the intense media and internet coverage. In 1986 if some 14 yr old shot a 15 yr old over drugs in a central Phily school, chances are good that no one outside of the metro area would have even heard about it. Not true today. While that incident would get less coverage than the Amish schoolhouse or other sleepy community shootings, for reasons ranging from racism to indifference, to expectations, it would still be on CNN and on internet news sites within the hour. It plays into this notion that school violence is getting out of hand. It would run. People would think schools are becomming more violent. Further news stories that seem to verify this imaginary trend would be over-reported. The same thing happened after Columbine for several years and then died off. It will die off again, but not for a while, and people's attitude will linger much longer.

Random acts of violence will always occur. It is impossible to provide 100% security. As the total amount of crime goes down, the coverage of the remaining crimes will increase (news needs to fill the void, and happy news doesn't keep viewers tuned in). Detailed coverage of a single crime is at least as effective as superficial coverage of many crimes in inciting fear. (If you know about the warnings and motivations you are more likely to see danger around you, whereas if you just hear about a bunch of killings, you are more inclined to think that it can't happen to you.) Fear only makes life more painful and difficult. We should see hope. We should forgive.

Forgiveness is a strange notion to most Americans, despite our purported religious zeal. It has been mentioned several times in the Amish story, and every time it is discussed the surprise is tangible. Why? It should not be. We have become so accustomed to revenge and punishment that we see the lack of those ideas as strange. Politicians who proclaim their Christian values so often call for murder and death that true Christian ideals seem foreign to us. Sure a Buddhist would forgive, but a Christian. That is not their way (at least not in this country). That is a disgusting thought, but it is true. It is borne out every day when king W talks. He is angry, vengeful and hate filled. His supposed Christianity is well known. Forgiveness must be un-Christian. I wonder about my depression.

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