Thursday, September 14, 2006

More thoughts on Dawson.

So many thoughts... where to begin.

Since yesterday I've been listening to 940 News on the radio constantly while I'm in the car. I listened for over an hour this morning due to the all the traffic. I normally don't like talk or call-in shows, but there is good information and viewpoints to be heard after an event like this. Even if it means wading through so many other viewpoints that seem off subject or biased. Here are a couple examples.

One person called in and blamed it on long waiting times for psychological care and the long waiting times for medical care in general. When the host pointed out that the shooter had no previous record of trouble and had not asked for psychological care, the caller suggested it was because the waiting times frighten people away from seeking care. The host politely moved on to the next caller.

Another caller stated that it was due to the internet and video games. He also stated that heavy metal music is getting a bad rapp. He's in his forties and has been listening to it all his life and he's a well adjusted person. I agree with him that a video game based on Columbine is a ridiculous idea and should banned. I also agree that point the finger at music is not the silver bullet. But I didn't see eye-to-eye on the internet. The host pressed him on this subject and he explained that he hates the internet and has only limited access to it. He said he didn't understand it. It's an interesting point because it always seems to be the things that are less understood that the general population points the finger at.

Another topic brought up was that someone should have seen it coming by reading his blog or looking at his photo page. They could have notified the authorities before. I'm not so sure about that. First, take a look at his photo page (if it is still available). In my eye, nothing screams that this is a violent person. It comes across as posturing. There is no shortage of people out there that do this, but should we investigate everytime somebody makes a threatening gesture in a photo or on the street. Yes, he has many pictures where he does this, but it does follow along with punk/goth subculture. And some of the captions are less than threatening. On a picture where he has his fist cocked to punch the camera, the caption says:"I'm gonna punch you... kidding, but I'll hug you (and poke you in your belly) hee hee" On another where he has his trench coat on and holding the rifle, the caption says "Where are my boots?" since he is in his socks. I'm only pointing this out because with my untrained eye the joking around takes away from the suggestion that he is about to go out and do what he did. There's not enough for me to notify the authoritied immediately. But again, I am not trained to recognize these things.

Ben at the Instigator brought up the topic of policing the blogosphere. The morning radio also asked if administrators or fellow readers could check their patrons to guard against it. But this was the case even before the internet. The internet is no different that the real world, it's just a new extension of society. People have missed the signs when they work alongside someone. It has always been, "Johnny always seemed a bit depressed and he had those satanic tattoos, but I never thought." That's the thing. At what point does characteristics like those suggest someone capable of something like this. And if we point out to authorities everyone with some of those characteristics, we would become a paranoid society.

I'm not suggesting these types of events are not preventable. Nor am I saying we can prevent all of them. But these knee-jerk silver bullets are not the answer. Vigilance, keeping our eyes open and informed would be the best route. We may all be a bit jumpy for a while like after 9-11, but common sense needs to be taken if any measures are taken to try to prevent something like this happening again.

Lastly, as far as fortifying our schools. I think this is the wrong approach. As an expert on the radio stated, it only provides a false sense of security. He suggested the best line of defense was for teachers and parents to get to know the children they interact with. Maybe those of us in the work world can heed the same advice. Get to know those around you. Talk to that quiet guy in the corner. Or even out in public. There are angry people out there, don't let them get to you and don't propogate that anger. It can be a vicious circle. Show courtesy and kindness in the face of aggression. If someone is less than polite, let them go. Water off a ducks back. Or even when you don't encounter anger or aggression. Everyone walks away feeling good about each other.

OK, enough rambling. Back to work.

5 comments:

Rachel said...

When I was a kid volounteer parents kept watch over our school. Teachers did as well, but these volunteer parents were the truly effective disciplinarians (not afraid to grab an arm in anger, or hug us either). Sure, that was elementary school, but I've never understood why this doesn't continue well into high school. Only parents (or people trained as counselors) can really break up fights and help keep bullying to a minimum by taking the time to reason with kids and gain their trust (or respect). Why don't parents become more involved in their kid's schools? If anything it's in high school that parents are most needed, to talk kids through tough moments, be surrogate parents to those who only have one mom or one dad at home (or neither), and really to be there for kids in ways teachers can't be. I think parents in schools would likely spot "problem" kids sooner than anyone else.

cousin cathy said...

As a former teacher I'm not sure fortifying/arming our schools is the answer either, but I can't tell you the number of times I felt vulnerable in my own classroom. There was nothing between me and someone in the hall except a door. Nothing between me and my students at all. (And that goes equally for the vulnerability of the students, which I assure you I was just as concerned about.) At the time I was teaching (1985), there were 3 cases of teachers being shot -- one in my hometown in a Catholic high school. It's a tough environment to gain control over without being heavy handed. In a way it's like terrorism in that unfortunately the good students and teachers (or with terrorism, the general public) who are the ones paying the price for increased security -- but the price is minor inconvenience and protection, so is that really a heavy price to pay?

As for being aware of someone making the descent into troubled, unstable emotions, it is hard to say we should have known or we should have spotted the signs. How busy are you? How busy is your life? How much time do you think a busy parent, shuffling kids to sports practice or piano lessons or debate club meetings, or faculty, preparing classes and grading papers, etc., have to be monitoring online postings? Are we realistic to expect someone, anyone to have that kind of time in this day and age? The kids seem to find the time, but there are few who would be trained to know the signs of someone descending into a problem.

It's a complicated issue. Nice, thoughtful coverage, Frank.

Ben Yoskovitz said...

Hey Frank -- thanks for linking over to Instigator Blog.

First, I don't think there's any one answer. I took the angle of "policing the blogosphere" since I'm in technology and wanted to draw that discussion out. I don't think that's THE answer or the only way of tackling such an issue. Nor am I convinced of its efficacy, it was mostly to create discussion and bring thoughts to the table amongst smart people.

Getting to know those around you -- that isn't bad advice. When we always hear, "They were quiet, good neighbors...until..." it makes me think, "How many non-quiet neighbors do you actually have?"

I've never lived anywhere that the neighbors were so outlandish that I could say, "something weird is going on there." More often than not, people want to keep the weirdness to themselves...

Thanks for keeping the dialogue going...

Rachel said...

You know, I've mulled over 'cousin' cathy's comment and it haunts me. Am I wrong or is she arguing that no one should be expected to spot kids in trouble, because no one has the time and few people have that kind of training?

No training? Let's train people. No time? Make time. Too busy cramming kids with useless distractions to bother paying attention to their actual lives? Frankly, I pity anyone who has created this kind of lifestyle for themselves. There's never any excuse for letting a kid slip through the cracks, or for letting a busy lifestyle keep you from being a decent human being.

Frank said...

Rachel, I don't think she was arguing that people shouldn't be expected to see the signs. More pointing out what could contribute to missing the signs.

Maybe it is showing what needs to change in the education system. The lack of emphasis on education in society is something to be ashamed of. Since teachers do it because they love it, we pay them the bare minimum. That's not right. It is the best way to improve this society as a whole.

I am starting to see why parents cram so many activities into kids lives these days. Part of it is trying to introduce them to so many things. Or the thinking that if they are out doing stuff, they're not at home watching TV or playing on the internet.

That said, I completely agree. Life needs to slow down to a managable pace. That means parents slowing down any preoccupation with career and limiting kids activities to a managable level. That extra time should be spent with the kids or allowing the kids to enjoy themselves away from outside activities.