I'm not sure what's scarier about Littleton -- the growing evidence that the parents may have done everything right (or at least, no more wrong than every other parent who's existed) and still couldn't prevent their sons' actions, or Congress's opinion that posting the Ten Commandments in schools will prevent future such killings, not to mention all the other problems in American schools.
Yeah, right. I was only physically attacked once during my school days, and that was after church and by the pastor's daughter. Maybe we should have posted the Ten Commandments in our church.
Seriously, does Rep. Tom DeLay really believe that some student's going to read the Ten C and think 'hey! God said not to kill people! I guess I won't bring that pipe bomb to school after all!' (And how does Rep. DeLay vote on military funding issues...oh, let's just not go there.) Even if posting these religious laws would change the behavior of everyone who saw them (regardless of whether the 10C are part of their religion or no), how much difference would that make? School murders are still thankfully rare. Adultery -- most schoolkids aren't married yet, so the question doesn't apply. I'll grant 'thou shalt not steal', 'thou shalt not bear false witness', 'thou shalt not covet', and some interpretations of 'thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain'. But where in the 10C does it say 'thou shalt not make fun of those people who don't dress like you do, even if you do think they're geeks'? Or 'thou shalt not make rude sexual innuendos to the person sitting in front of you, especially when the innuendos are clearly undesired'? Hey, let's magically fix those too -- post the Golden Rule! 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!' Better yet, add in the Unitarian Universalist principles; 'we covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person' includes the worth and dignity of those kids over there who you can't stand. Or the Threefold Law of many pagan groups -- 'what you send out will come back to you threefold.'
Or we could use some common sense and realize that there are no pat answers. School violence is the product of many factors, from the home to the entire society. Loving and firm parenting, attentive teachers, a reasonable school environment, a society that treats boys as full humans rather than as proto-killing-machines, and a thousand other things can help prevent it, but there are no guarantees.
As the mother of a son, this is what scares me the most. My husband and I will do our best by our son. We will teach him right from wrong and what to do when right and wrong seem to be one big gray area. We will teach him to treat other people with decency and respect. We will try to counteract a society that tells young men they can have no feelings of their own but in return they can also disregard the feelings of others. We will pay attention to his schooling, his friends, his Internet use and television watching.
And yet all this might not be enough. Children, like adults, have free will. They make their choices based on less life experience than adults, but choose they do. I'd love to think that by praying the right prayer, or raising my son in the right way, or encouraging the right activity or discouraging the right vice, or making him read the right religious text, I'll produce a son who will never make the headlines by murdering his classmates.
Too bad the real world doesn't work that way.
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05/24/07 at 7:55