10 July 2005

a voice of reason...? II


I have been consumed for the last week about something I read by Michelle Malkin entitled Namby-pampy nation.

"The left-wing Kumbaya crowd is quietly grooming a generation of pushovers in the public schools. At a time of war, when young Americans should be educated about this nation's resilience and steely resolve, educators are indoctrinating students with saccharine-sticky lessons on 'non-violent conflict resolution' and 'promoting constructive dialogues.'"

At first, I thought she was being cynical or sarcastic with this article because she has two children of her own. Sadly, she is not. She is serious. She wants schools to teach kids how to defend themselves against any and all threats by swinging first - not trying to work things out.

Malkin's justification is, "Just what we need to combat throat-slitting, suicide plane-flying Islamists: young eunuchs swaying to moldy old folk music while their "Peace Place" signs flap in the wind."

[Where have we heard this before?]

Over the last few years, since Mr. Bush became president, we have realized an increase in violence in schools. It is growing and growing to epidemic proportions. It is also escalating from bullying by word to planned attacks.

This past year we had three girls at my school stab a fourth in the back of the head with scissors. They were arrested for the incident and face court dates. Now they are up for expulsion. These girls are only in sixth grade: 12 years old!

What were they fighting about? No one seems to know, including them. It appeared to be over an incident that happened well more than a year ago that they couldn't even remember. It could have had something to do with the shade of one girl's skintone. It could have been a rumor that someone started. It may have been a look one of them gave to another. It might have been that one of their fathers humiliated another one ten years ago! The thing to remember is that one came close to not ever being able to walk again because the scissors were within inches of her spinal column and three others face possible jail time and a minimum of a one year expulsion. Twelve years old!

Their parents were up at the school constantly; the girls were suspended repeatedly; the social worker dealt with them; their teachers did everything they could think of trying; the counselor had sessions with them. They decided that their action spoke louder than words. Yes, the "namby-pamby" approach seems not to have worked. Why?

These girls took Malkin's argument to its conclusion. They stood up for themselves and acted. Sure, the "talking" didn't help and may never have. They became fanatics: forgot their cause but redoubled their efforts. They were unaware of not only why they were (re)acting but also didn't even consider the consequenses. They read and heard on the news that fighting is all right. War is acceptable. It's nothing more than defending oneself. It's all right to fight. It's okay to hurt. It's the right thing to do. At what cost?

Malkin's argument comes from a book entitled One Nation Under Therapy by Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel. Her main quote from the book:

"American children badly need moral clarity. But our education establishment is too uneasy about the idea of moral judgment to meet this elementary need. Feelings of helplessness and disorientation are thoroughly, even compulsively, canvassed, elicited, discussed, and promoted; by contrast, feelings of moral indignation and condemnation are deflected and downplayed. This leaves children defenseless, clueless and unprepared to meet real and grave threats to their own and the nation's future."

We have "moral clarity" in our school system. The rule states very plainly that fighting and violence of any kind is not tolerated and the consequence is suspension, police referral and expulsion. How much more clarity is needed? What learning can happen if this rule is not in place? Unfortunately, none of these consequences seems to get the message across these days.

As far as "moral indignation," where is the condemnation of hunger, poverty, and AID's? If people had food to survive, money to live and no threat of life-threatening disease, where would the need for violence be?

Students are sustaining the violence because they are being given permission to continue it, and most of the permission is subtle by way of what they read and hear from adults. They are afraid and don't know why. No one is talking to the children about what is behind what they hear. No one is explaining to them what is really going on in the world. No one is emphasizing that there are other possible ways of solving problems, and anyone who suggests alternatives is immediately labeled unpatriotic, left-leaning, liberal, and anti-American. Discussion is cut off immediately. Are the scissors next?

When the train bombing occurred in Spain, one of my administrative assistant's granddaughters asked if that meant they wouldn't be able to take the "L" Downtown anymore. Her grandmother took the time to sit down with her and her sisters and explain what had happened and why we thought it happened. She also took pains in talking with the girls against violence and the need to get along and work together.

Of course, Malkin and friends are not in favor of this because they believe we are educating a bunch of namby-pampy pacifists. The alternative is scisssors, severed spinal cords and more violence.

At the same time, I'm sure that Malkin, Sommers, and Satel must be Christians or at the least moral conservatives. They probably attest that they live by the Ten Commandments. There is one four-word commandment that is to the point and leaves no wiggle-room when it comes to violence: Thou shalt not kill.

Violence inevitably can lead to killing. The Sudan? Rwanda? Palestine? Lebanon? Israel? Colombia? Peru? I have always wondered what would have really happened if the US and USSR had a nuclear war. I have also wondered if it might not have been a good thing. A new beginning. A destruction of all things. No more wondering. The ultimate violence.

I think those of us who grew up under the constant threat of a nuclear holocaust are actually cynical and hopeful at the same time. Cynical that we have no real control and hopeful that there can always be a better tomorrow.

I learned the hopeful part from my father and my uncles. They fought in WWII for peace. They were decorated for their valor and they hated the killing part the most. My uncle never really talked about the things he did in the war. He said they were terrible but that he had to do them because the alternative was very limited and worse. WWII was a defensive war beyond doubt and maybe it is the best example of "justified" murder. They realized that it was necessary.

At the same time my father and uncle talked to me about moving to Canada should I have been drafted for Viet Nam. I never expected that from them. The difference, they said, was they couldn't find a reason that Viet Nam was defending the US and its people. They didn't see it as ineluctable for the US, unlike WWII.

I understand that there are times when defense is necessary. WWII cannot be a better example because of its madness and inhuman atrocities. During the entire campaign only one end was sought - peace. In the end, people decided that they did not want to go through it again and tried to take steps to avoid it.

So at the same time I understand the namby-pamby alternative, I realize that there are times when it may be necessary, but we have seen so much conflict for the last several years and have been given so many contrary explanations as to why they are occurring, it may mean that there could be only one end possible - more violence and conflict. I have no intention of going into whether the hostilities with which the US has been involved for the last years are moral, immoral, right, wrong, justified, unjustified, legal or illegal. Everyone else has been doing that.

I wonder, however, about the indirect effects these actions are having on our children? What lessons are being taught when they hear/see violence as acceptable for every conflict? When they are told by people like Ms. Malkin that they have to "defend" themselves or they may become the victims "...to combat throat-slitting, suicide plane-flying Islamists..." I wonder in what kind of world Malkin's children will be living/fighting twenty years from now?

as usual, just wondering...

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