I really don’t want to write this post. I have really tried to avoid it. It may cause me to lose some followers and fans, but I cannot keep watching my Twitter feed, my Facebook feed and keep silent. Since last Friday when the tragedy happened in Connecticut, I have watched the media, listened to talk radio and had several conversations with teachers, principals, followers on Twitter, and my family members. The problem cannot be blamed on any one thing, but a combination of things that I think have contributed to events like the one that occurred last Friday.
First, let me say, what happened was absolutely horrifying. Our emotions are at peak levels because young innocent children were involved. As a father of two daughters, one still in elementary school, my emotions are soaring as well. We all want this senseless killing stopped and want an instant fix. Right now gun control is an easy target. A gun happens to be the device that this 20 year old boy chose to take 26 lives and his own. It could have easily been a homemade pipe bomb, like the boys at Columbine used. On 9/11 airplanes were used to kill many innocent people. In Oklahoma City, explosives were used. Charles Manson and his crew used knives. Drunk drivers kill people with cars every day and I do not see any one out there that wants to put a ban on alcoholic drinks or cars.
What we need to look at is today’s culture. Why are these acts of violence and the killing of innocent people happening more today than they ever have? I say it is a combination of factors. Lets start with what we are watching on television. When I was growing up, prime time shows were Little House on the Prairie, Happy Days, Different Strokes, and MASH just to name a few. When we watched these shows, my parents didn’t have the worries that I have with my children today. Most of those shows taught me good life lessons like how to get along with people, how to laugh, solve a problem, and get through a difficult time. There was usually a good moral lesson that that was the theme of the show. Now I am almost embarrassed to watch any of the prime time shows with my children present. They are consistently themed around sex, violence, and content that would have been in a rated R movie when I was a kid. We tend to turn to the cooking channel and even then words are bleeped out. Doesn’t anyone have any class anymore? Do we not know how to talk without throwing a four-letter word in our sentences?
I taught a group of 4th graders a few years ago and a question I asked them one day was about their favorite TV show. I was shocked at the answers I got. They told me they watched things like Jersey Shore, Bad Girls Club, and The Real Housewives. 4th grade, really? These shows are not fit for adults to watch. No one on those shows can solve a problem without getting into a cursing fight, which usually ends in a fistfight. That is what the youth of America is watching and thinks that is reality and how problems are solved. Well we are a far cry from Laura Engels, Fonzie and Ritchie Cunningham.
We cannot ignore the violent video games that are out there these days. I like them too, but I don’t want my 5th grade daughter playing Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. These are games that I have heard many 6th grade students and younger talk about playing. When I was there age we played board games like Sorry, Life, Monopoly, Risk, and Payday. We had an Atari that had Asteroids, Pac-man, Pong, and Pitfall. These were fun games that did not put you in the middle of a war zone or have you carjack an innocent person. I hate to admit it, because I like a good shootem’ up game now and then, but if a person sat and spent hours playing these games it could begin to cloud your mind.
In the last 20 years that I have been in education, I have seen a decline in social skills in my students. I am a huge advocate for technology, but I believe it is a big factor in my students’ lack of social skills. The young people today communicate by texting, emailing, and chatting online. They may even video chat on occasion. All of these things are great, but it takes the human characteristic out of the equation. Instead of heading out after school for a neighborhood baseball or basketball game where I interacted with real people, they now go home and connect online to play Call of Duty or World of Warcraft, chat on Facebook, or text on their cell phone. They don’t have that face-to-face interaction with a human. They are looking at a screen. They say things in chat rooms, wall posts, and emails that would never be said face to face. They don’t know how to talk through problems with each other without wanting to fight or shout four letter words. The only kids that did that when I was growing up were few and far between. Again, this kind of goes back to what they are seeing and hearing in our so-called reality shows.
Lastly, we cannot ignore about how much lack of religion we have as a country. No one wants to talk about it because we might offend someone. We say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. We need to take down the 10 commandments from our public buildings. There has been controversy over “One Nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. We have even have had talks of removing “In God We Trust” from our currency. Even if a person does not have any religion, the 10 commandments are pretty good standards to live by. Have you read them? Thou shalt not kill. Wow, what a concept! Why would anyone want that taken down? It sounds pretty good to me. Isn’t senseless killing what we want stopped anyway? Sounds like we have a lot more to change in our culture than just gun control don’t we?