Words as Weapons

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This is my Pixie.  She is an intelligent, creative, sweet child.  She has many friends, she loves to read, she does well academically.  I love my Pixie!

Like many children who are a little shy, my daughter has experienced bullying at school.  We have contacted the school when this has happened, had conferences, and generally gotten it taken care of.  She has a nice social group of her own, through school, Girl Scouts, and our place of worship.  However, like many kids, she still is the recipient of hurtful mean remarks made by kids who don’t stop to think about what they are doing.

No kids are perfect, and my younger child, aka SuperDude, sometimes gets himself in trouble for saying things he shouldn’t.  Sometimes children say hurtful things without meaning to, or because they haven’t yet developed the means to cope with things that are bothering them.  My son’s last bit of trouble came from lashing out at a child who had yelled in his ear.  It turns out that he was coming down with a cold, and the yelling was very painful.  Sometimes, children are going to respond to some things inappropriately.  These things need to be addressed, but they aren’t premeditated or deliberate, they are reflexive.

Today, one of my daughter’s classmates did something that was not reflexive.  Despite recent anti-bullying curriculum, as well as lessons on current events such as the Sandy Hook tragedy, one of her classmates said something very hurtful.  Although one child said this, others were a part of what happened.  With prompting from two other students, one boy named the seven children in the classroom that he would kill.  Yes, kill.

My Pixie was on his list.

The fact that fourth-graders are entertaining themselves by having victim lists is simply appalling.  I remember there being a few kids whom I didn’t like in the fourth grade, but I don’t remember wishing for anything more severe than having them step in dog poop, or possibly wetting their pants in class.  I wished they would do something that would make others laugh at them, the way they had laughed at me over my “stupid pigtails” and “hippie clothes” – I never imagined actual physical harm.  I don’t think that most kids do today, either.  But, honestly, where does this come from?

The knee-jerk reaction for many is video games.  people think that video games are corrupting our young.  Are they? I’m not so sure.  I remember the old cartoons I watched as a kid.  Children have been exposed to violent entertainment for centuries. Punch and Judy wasn’t lighthearted, nonviolent fun.  I used to watch westerns, Sinbad, and Godzilla on Sunday afternoons. Video games get blamed because they are different than what the oldest generations grew up with, and people want to blame the thing that they don’t associate with themselves, because they don’t want to feel that they have any part in it.

Likewise, people often blame the violence of the young on people no longer going to church.  I find this excuse bizarre, because, in almost every experience we have had with bullying, the children responsible for the bullying belong to a congregation.  I don’t think that whether or not someone is part of an organized religion has anything to do with this.  Some of the nicest, most civic-minded people I have met are atheist or agnostic.  I also know many wonderful, kind people from many religious backgrounds.  I know that people throughout time have tried to blame others with different beliefs for things going awry, but this is another case of “it’s not me, it’s THEM!” going on.

So, what causes a ten year old boy to sit and contemplate his list of victims when he kills seven classmates?  Why did the other classmates think this was an acceptable conversation to have?  How did all of the anti-bullying curriculum and lessons, and the lockdown and evacuation drills not instill in these kids the idea that this conversation was absolutely incorrect?  How did they not see that they would be hurting the feelings of the seven children chosen as victims? Is this just a ploy for attention, or is it children realizing that their parents are paying so much attention to what is in the news that they feel left out?  I can remember a couple of news events when I was young that had all of the adults in my life talking, and left the kids wondering if we had been forgotten.  I remember talking to other kids about it during school. During recess.

So, I just want to put this theory out there: children focus more on violence because they don’t have the outlets we had as kids.  Think about it, did you have recess every day as a child? I did.  Were there breaks in the day for you to catch your breath and blow off some steam? Yes.  Was the funding for your school based primarily on how children performed on standardized tests? No. Did you have enormous class sizes, and teachers always in danger of losing their jobs with the next budget cut? Probably not.  Perhaps, people, we need to take a look at this.  What if violence in schools has been on the rise for the past two decades because more stress has been put on students and teachers, and more of the programs that enrich the soul – art, music, library, recess – have been cut to cram in more academics.  My children have homework every night, and they have since kindergarten.  They get a sort of recess every other day at lunchtime, but not regular morning breaks and afternoon breaks.

Adults in the workforce are allowed breaks.  When i waited tables, I got to go sit down and regroup for ten or fifteen minutes. When I worked in an office, it was okay for me to go walk around the block to calm my nerves and get an iced tea.  We don’t allow this for our children! We are introducing them to stress before they can even sign their own names!  Why is a ten year old child talking about murdering his classmates? Because, with his rigorous school day, that conversation is his quickest way to blow off some steam.  he is overworked and overstressed, and there is too much pressure on him.  He wants to lash out against something.  By trying to turn our children into robots, many of them are being robbed of that vital humanity that we all too often find lacking in today’s world.

It isn’t television.  it isn’t video games. it isn’t whether or not we belong to a religious institution. It is, plain and simple, that we do not put enough stock in our teachers. When we don’t value our teachers, we are sending the message that we don’t value our children.  When we push our children so hard, and never give them a chance to have a break, it breaks them. Bring more humanity back to schools, and it will resurface in the general population.

That’s how I see it. What are your thoughts?

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Holly Oehrlein says:

    We do have recess every day. We have smaller classes than your child’s. I like to think we value our teachers, even if their paychecks don’t reflect it. Yet, we have the same problems. I think there are some of these children have absent parents or mean parents, so they have no role model at home or really bad ones. P.S. The child with the hit list would not be coming back to our school on Monday.

  2. E S P says:

    So meaningful and well written

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