By our apathy, we’ve killed our kids

imagesGuest Opinion By Timothy Coman (originally published in December of 1999)

Tonight my heart hangs extremely heavy. I know the holidays are upon us, but this year has brought so much pain and agony for so many, I think we must sit and reflect. As I watched over and over the video clippings from Columbine, Jonesboro, Springfield and Pearl tragedies, I am reminded just where we have come to in our society.

So many people want answers, so many want justice, and yet, we should be looking at our own selves. We taught Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris to hate, yes, we did. We helped assassinate Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott. By our actions, we allowed this to happen. No one single entity is to blame, we are all to blame.

Our children are medicated from the time they leave the hospital till often times before they leave high school. We all look for a quick fix, a fast solution, a McDonald’s drive-thru experience, often thinking or believing this is the answer, and yet we continue to be so blind.

We murder children in the name of convenience; we assassinate others’ character to gain power, wealth or strength, and morality is what you and I feel is right within our own eyes. Everyone wants to know about gun control, prayer in school, metal detectors or the newest idea which will save us all from whom?

Ourselves, that’s who.

It doesn’t matter who becomes president as long as he has the right charisma, a nice look, the right speech, the all-feel-good message that has lulled us to sleep, and while we slept, our children killed each other, and why? Because we have taught them so easily that it’s OK to kill—as long as you are justified in your beliefs. Preachers shout morality, and yet sin runs rampant in their own homes and places of worship.

The politician shouts gun control, and yet has no difficulty cheating on his or her mate as long as no one else gets hurt. Parents sacrifice their children for money, bigger homes, nicer lifestyles, when all their kids want is them.

How many times have both the Harrises and Klebolds asked; “Why didn’t we see something?” — Why didn’t we all see something? Why have we all been duped into believing it’s someone else’s fault, someone else’s responsibility. When will we take responsibility. Is it that hard or have forgotten how. Either way, we killed these children and many more like them by our apathy, and refusal to care.

It’s long past time, the hour is late. In a perfect utopia, people would get right, change their lives, love their kids, reach out and take their neighbor’s hand. Did we ever live in a “Leave it to Beaver” society, or has it always been this way? I ask you the question today; can we afford to murder any more of these children? Will our apathy allow another Columbine to exist? Do we really ever remember these people after a few years? Do we even care that people died in Oklahoma? Do the crowds still mourn at the site of the federal building, or is it just a passing moment?

I hope for each of us that Columbine burns deep in the hearts and minds of all of us forever. As Eric Harris was quoted as saying in one of the videos he made; “Our goal is to haunt everyone’s minds and thoughts of this terror.” And you know, my friend, I hope this tragedy is never forgotten. Let us never forget by our apathy, those young people we have murdered in America, land of the hated and home of the forgotten. Please think about this. I ask you today, would you have said yes like Cassie did?

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Whether or not all the details of the Columbine shooting were correct when this was originally published is not the point. The question is, when? When will we care enough to take on the heart of the problem  — social change?

The list of shootings grows longer as we recall the more recent and forget the past. It’s a problem.

April 20, 1999

April 20, 1999

It’s our problem because we have never been short on solutions; we haven’t cared enough to hear them.

April 20th

This year, April 20th was Easter. So that is my excuse for not remembering the Columbine High School tragedy on that date.

I was reminded yesterday because I started re-reading my own book and the first chapter is about school safety and discipline. These are tough topics to cover in a short blog but here is the gist of it….

Misconduct —be it disrupting a class, bullying, or outright violence—is a symptom. We would be foolish to think it will ever go away completely; we would be wise to recognize that we must always work to identify the underlying cause as soon as a problem is acknowledged. We shouldn’t just look away and think things will get better without conscious efforts.

Many school and community people do understand that the best thing we can do is prevent behavioral problems—the causes of the symptoms. The “means” aren’t easy but the “ends” are necessary for existence of a civil society.

The school climate and classroom conditions that are conducive to learning are the same climates and conditions that prevent bullying and other disruptive behaviors. Creating the right learning environment (where it doesn’t exist) and continually fostering that environment is the best we can do.

So how much attention is the public giving to these issues of such importance?

Common Core, and the whole standardization movement, has dominated the national conversation on education. We are all getting sucked in! Me too.

But now I’m resisting except I must once again make this point; “standards” are being confused with expectations. And “standards” are being given unjustified priority in education reforms.

If we are going to talk about “expectations,…

…” they should be about ideas like the ones offered by Carl Bosch in Schools Under Siege: Guns, Gangs, and Hidden Dangers (1997). He recommended that we “hold high expectations” of students. But he asked that we “clearly define expectations of respect, dignity, and responsibility.”

These are “standards” of behavior the public system of free schools should feel obligated to promote.

My notes from back in 1999 (now 15 years ago) indicated Bosch stressed that primary prevention of discipline issues resides in:

1) uncovering the reasons behind inappropriate behavior,

2) the proper training and teaching of the skills children need, and he stressed that

 3) consistency and fairness were important qualities for children to learn that adults should model.

Yesterday, this quote came across my desk and I consider it helpful….

“In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments – there are consequences.”

Robert Ingersoll

Today, I hope all will step back a moment to remember and consider what is important. And we should be thankful that some still remember the tragedies and many still work towards solutions — every day.

April 20, 1999

April 20, 1999

What Do You Hear?

To hear, we must listen. And so it was on April 20, 1999, at a scheduled town hall meeting on Safe and Disciplined Schools, I heard an anonymous Caldwell High School student say…

“I think it’s funny how people can come to meetings and complain, but do you actually see them stepping in and doing something about it?”

Will we ever listen to them — parents, students, teachers, and caring citizens?

“Will we hear the call of others?

Adults across our country continue to struggle to be taken seriously on the issues surrounding safe and disciplined schools. As Pedro Noguera put it in his book “City Schools and the American Dream: Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education,” …

‘if we truly seek to create a different future, one that is more peaceful and nonviolent than the present, we must actively go about creating it’ (2003, 141)…

As Katherine C. says, we must ‘do rather than talk’ (The Crucial Voice of the People, Past and Present, pg. 9).”

We must stop racing towards the goals that policies set for us! Instead, leaders must stop talking at us. We all have to start listening and learning from our own past, from our own people. We need to stop wasting our money, our time, and our precious human resources.

People, please ask yourselves; do we have the courage to face the facts, face our own mistakes?

Perfecting our union starts with improving our own quality of thought. It starts with each new generation. That makes it a societal obligation to improve our schools. It starts with safety and discipline — it starts with our devotion to education and our belief that we can do better. As a Virginia Tech survivor (Colin Goddard) said…

“There has to be a way to change the culture of violence in our society.”

If you are listening, what do you hear?

I hear solutions.