Monday, December 17, 2012

It's a horrible day.  It all started Friday when a severely disabled young man walked into an elementary school in Connecticut and killed almost 30 people - 20 of them young children.  Yet again we Americans are forced to sit back and ask "why?".  Yet again we are forced to watch helplessly as another psychologically disturbed individual walks into a public place with an array of military grade assault weapons and opens fire on the innocent.  The reason it's so chilling this time is because so many of the victims were young helpless children.

Now we begin to state why we believe this happened.  Many are blaming our violent culture: TV, films, video games and web sites that do nothing except further enhance what many see as an increasing culture of violence.  I agree in some regards with that.  We do live in a society that seems to enjoy violence.  We also seem to be pushing an ever expanding envelope when it comes to what's deemed "acceptable" in entertainment.  The TV landscape is dominated by Reality Shows whose sole purpose seems to be rewarding the moronic, useless, argumentative, indignant or a variation of all of these. Video games are extremely violent and only seem to be getting worse.  Films are violent and so are the lyrics in much of the popular music...but again: we've heard this before.

This is all old news and, yet, nothing seems to change.  In addition to the aforementioned I have been thinking a lot about education and the role our schools play.  I have worked with and taught a wide array of children in my life.  I have taught at an inner city school, a school for children with autism and a High School for children with behavioral and emotional issues.  The one thing that keeps popping into my head is how we all know who the kid was who did this horrible thing in Connecticut.  We had a variation of him in our elementary, middle or High School.  In fact, there may even be a student like that in class with your child right now: a highly intelligent, disaffected, socially awkward, perhaps mentally disabled child.  Maybe you made fun of him in middle school or High School.  Maybe you stood and watched when he was pushed around on the playground.  Or maybe you did what most of us chose and silently dismissed him as "weird" or "different".  It's time to change that.  I think that schools need to identify these kids and work with not only their teachers but also parents and family members to get them help early on.  So much of what we see today is the result of social and/or psychological dysfunctions that are not properly addresses or treated.  Why is that?

The young man who did this suffered from severe psychological problems.  I saw an interview with one of his former school counselors today who said that the young man did not feel emotional pain.  The other thing the counselor said - that scared the hell out of me - was that the young man was also incapable of feeling physical pain.  Knowing this, you have to ask two obvious questions:
1.) Why wasn't this young man given proper and/or top notch treatment and care?
2.) Why, knowing of his disabilities, did his mother keep military grade assault weapons in their home?

It's the second one that gets me.  Why, as a part of her son's treatment, wasn't the mother educated about the dangers of having these weapons - especially with a mentally disabled son - in her home?  Is it really her "right" to have these military grade weapons in her home when it clearly is and was a danger not just to her but also her community?  Also, why wasn't her son placed in a special home?

The cynical side of me believes this has to do with money.  Could the mother not afford appropriate or proper care?  Maybe her insurance wouldn't cover it?  What about the schools?  Were appropriate programs put in place to help this young man?  If not, was it because they were not in the school's budget?

These are just questions I have and I'm hoping to get answers.