School Shootings; Standards Kill Students and Society

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).  The Whole Child

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Each moment we live never was before and will never be again.

And yet what we teach children in school is 2 + 2 = 4 and Paris is the capital of France.

What we should be teaching them is what they are.

We should be saying: “Do you know what you are?

You are a marvel.

You are unique.

In all the world, there is no other child exactly like you.

In the millions of years that have passed, there has never been another child exactly like you.

You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven.

You have the capacity for anything.  

Yes, you are a marvel.”

~ Pablo Casals [Cello player, Conductor 1876 – 1973]

School shootings are in the news.  Throughout America, adults express concern.  Are the children safe when in a classroom.  Repeated rounds of ammunition affirm, they are not.  Some say times have changed.  There seems to be a consensus; we must secure our campuses,  Solutions are standard.  Society must protect the young.  Few think it possible to prevent another occurrence or attack. Let us examine the whole situation, the whole of our children.  Perchance, the problem is not as it appears.

People presumed all was well or hoped it was.  Individuals were reassured.  It was quiet.  However, the silence was broken thrice in recent days.  Correction; a forth shooter sprang out before people could take a breath.  Three dead in Louisiana campus shooting.  Student Shot During Gym at Tennessee School.  Student Wounded in Southern California Junior High.   Northern Illinois University [NIU] Shootings Stir Sense of Helplessness.  Theories abound.  Why are school shooting so prevalent?

Some say class size is the cause.  As a society, we see the effect of too many students served by too few teachers.  No single educator can connect well with each of the tens or hundreds of student they are expected to serve.  Experts argue, children are healthier when placed in smaller classes.  Judith Kafka, an Assistant Professor of Educational Policy, History, and Leadership at Baruch College, in New York City, writes It’s Guns, Not School Size.  Perchance it is neither, either, each, and much more.  

Americans recognize there is much to consider.  Legislators propose, school employees carry concealed weapons.  Some instructors already do.

High school English teacher Shirley Katz insists she needs to take her pistol with her to work because she fears her ex-husband could show up and try to harm her.  She’s also worried about a Columbine-style attack.

Katz is not alone.  Another instructor chose to protect herself regardless of District policies.  In a Washington Post editorial the statement is made . . . There are no reliable figures, but it’s a safe guess that in many or most of these instances, the guns were owned by the students’ parents.”  This may not always be so.  Other pupils’ Mom’s or Dads may own an arsenal, or a young person may have discovered other connections.  Cyberspace can be good source for guns.  We cannot be certain.  What we do know is, guns kill, and weaponry is easily and infinitely available.

Homicide is the second leading cause of death on the job for workers in the United States after motor vehicle crashes (1). Every week, on average, 20 workers are killed, and 18,000 are assaulted (2). It is only in the last decade, however, that violence against workers has become widely recognized as an occupational health problem.

In a discussion on the topic, of guns in the workplace, Researcher and Co-author of the University of North Carolina Study, Homicide on the Job: Workplace and Community Determinants, Doctor Dana Loomis offered . . .

“[T]here was a nearly seven-fold increase in the risk of a worker being killed in workplaces that allowed guns and other weapons.” . . .

“We don’t know employers’ reasons for allowing workers to have guns on the job, but the belief that firearms offer protection against crime is obviously a possible motive.” . . .

“However, our data suggest that, like residents of households with guns, who are more likely to be victims of homicide, workers in places where the employer allows guns have a greater chance of being killed at work.”

As a nation, it is important to realize we are part of a global community.  Worldwide guns kill one-thousand people each day.  An International Action Network on Small Arms report states, “640 million guns are in circulation across the world and there are enough weapons to equip one in every 10 people.”  So, while we can argue whether students have access or not, perhaps the more important question is why a child might pick up a revolver.  What motivates or frustrates a little one or a young adult to take aim and shoot.

While conjecture continues, authentic answers have been few.  Solutions were tried; none were true.  In classrooms throughout America, teachers remain on guard.  Educators await the moment when a crash will be heard within the classroom.  Instructors trust the sound would be more than a book slammed on a desk.  Instructors know that a bang in the hallways or a blast from the science lab may not be an innocent incident.  Pupils understand this as well.  While all may appear playful, pupils seem to be joyful and learning, the troubled few may actually be the majority of the student population.  It is difficult to discern who might break first, last, or not at all.

Throughout the nation, educators engage each scholar, or attempt to, within the constraints of the curriculum.  Tim, an awkward adolescent, quivered, quaked, grunted, groaned when in the classroom.  This active lad moaned, lashed out, and laughed when he worked with his teachers.  Tim shook with joy, stumbled clumsily, stood straight, and then flopped to the floor.  The strange boy could focus; however, rarely on a prescribed lesson.  Educators labeled Tim a failure.  Even in “special” sessions, this energetic, enthusiastic young man seemed unable to learn.  There was a time when Tim was occupied and eager; however, that passed to quickly.

Elsewhere, an instructor is aware of the student in the front row.  This little lass is painfully shy.  Emma rarely participates in class.  She is plainly submissive.  On reflection, the instructor, friends, and family realized they never considered how distressed the girl was.  No one thought she would cut herself. Now, they wonder why.  

Asa was sometimes rowdy, understandably so.  He was starved for love and attention.  No matter how or what he tried, he did not receive kindness, only admonishments.  Soon Asa settled for scorn.  If people showed contempt for him, well, at least they knew he was alive.  The fourteen-year old just wanted to be acknowledged.  Asa hurt inside.  The pain poured out.  “He did seem angry. He was always angry in the face but he had no reason.”  Finally, the teen could hold his hurt no longer.  He cried out, “I cannot stand to live this way.”  Then, he ended it all.

“I thought they were joking.  I never took it seriously,” she said.  The young lads were fascinated by the infamous.  A massacre might appeal to those that crave retribution, reprisal, punishment, or some sort of popularity.  This form of expression might only be as a shout.  We cannot be certain.  Perchance, we could inquire.  The boys, Bradley, William, and Shawn, might tell us what they feel and why.  However, would busy parents, policy wonks, educators and Administrators all of whom are impressed by numbers, choose to listen if they ever dared to ask?

There are times when the opportunity to speak is gone forever.  A young boy or girl is taken from us too soon.  Countless roam the streets for without a quality education there is little left to do.  A few are institutionalized; others are medicated, imprisoned by the despair that overwhelms their minds.  Some rather die than endure the pain they feel here on Earth.  Sadly, we can no longer invite the girls over for tea.  The time to engage with a lovely lad or two will not come again.  Heads hang low as neighbors contemplate the loss of another young life to drugs, prescribed and preferred,  drink, or death.  

Words of woe pass between the people that knew him or her.  “She was barely a woman.”  “He had not yet reached the age of consent.  “They took their last breath not long after being born.”  “One more suicide in a statistical log.”  “We do not even know her name or his.  All we have is the evidence.”  There are scant clues to inform us; why might a child take their own life?

Suicide affects all youth, but some groups are at higher risk than others.  Boys are more likely than girls to die from suicide.  Of the reported suicides in the 10 to 24 age group, 82% of the deaths were males and 18% were females.

While the discrepancy seems vast, there is still great cause for alarm.  At one time, girls were more likely to attempt the act.  Now, they frequently succeed.  In September 2007, we learned young women can conceive of, and achieve, what will end a life.

The suicide rate among preteen and young teen girls spiked 76 percent, a disturbing sign that federal health officials say they can’t fully explain . . . The biggest increase – about 76 percent – was in the suicide rate for 10- to 14-year-old girls. There were 94 suicides in that age group in 2004, compared to 56 in 2003. The rate is still low, fewer than one per 100,000 population.

Suicide rates among older teen girls, those aged 15-19 shot up 32 percent; rates for males in that age group rose 9 percent.

Our children are in pain and Americans ponder how can we protect the young [from themselves or from us.]  Each day, parents, and educators look into the face of the future and see what they or we refuse to recognize: anxiety, apprehension, depression, and even a twisted delight for what might be bothersome.  Some teens, and yes, even elementary age children have tendencies that, if consciously noticed, would be reason for concern.  Yet, there was and is no time for such “petty” pondering.  

Moms and Dads are occupied at work.  Instructors prepare to teach to the many tests.  Administrators assess an agenda that will bring more funds to their schools.  Districts implement programs that politicians think wise.  Pedagogy is not the principle concern in America; nor are the pupils.

Grades dominate in the grind known as school.  Class rankings are recorded for posterity.  Test tallies tell the tale of success.  Permanent files are kept.  A little person will be evaluated on their performance in the classroom, in the community.  The good child receives a gold star; the best school is granted gold as well.  Cash fills the coffers of an institution that appears accountable.  The construct that states, as a society adults must teach to the Whole Child is but a blip in a vast universe of significant interests.  Only a few in the field of education follow theories laid out in The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action.

To the doctor, the child is a typhoid patient;

to the playground supervisor, a first baseman;

to the teacher, a learner of arithmetic.

At times, he may be different things to each of these specialists,

but too rarely is he a whole child to any of them.

~ From the 1930 report of the White House Conference on Children and Youth

In our culture, people have priorities.  For each of us our main concern is personal.  Too often, we forget, our children determine the quality of our future.  Parents, Principals, and policy-makers invest in the immediate much to the dismay and degradation of the Seventh Generation and their progeny.

For countless careered Moms, Dads, prominence is far more important than personal passion.  Parents do what they can to ensure their child is enrolled in the best schools.  They drive hither and yon.  After-school lessons are scheduled for every hour of the day.  Families grab some food, fast, then they ready for bed.  Moms and Dads ask, “Is your homework complete?”  Parents do not inquire; “How are you?”  “What do you feel?”  “May I help?”  Mothers and fathers do not ask for the answer does not matter to those who expect children will do as they have always done, grin and bear it.  “Don’t you dare cry or sigh” is the common contention.

Teachers and Playground Supervisors may not wish to surrender a perceived dominance.  Classroom control and an organized playing field are essential if children are to learn or throw a good pitch.  For a Doctor, diagnosis is the challenge.  Few think of the emotional fractures in a child’s life.  The visible is far more viable to those with a job to do.

Besides, it seems that the young are resilient.  Elders believe that tots do not experience lasting pain, and if they do the offspring will not remember, or be harmed, nor act on the duress they encounter.  Children go through phases; nothing is permanent, or so the adults wish to believe.  

The smallest persons in society smile.  They endure; however, many hurt deeply.  Each face tells a unique story.  Rarely do we consider the distinctive existence of individual beings.  We do not ask of an individual child’s experiences, the effects of these, or the emotions each event in a young life evokes.  The current curriculum requires accountability; it demands instructors avoid the nuances.  What makes a child tick is of little consequence.  As long as he or she can perform on a test, that is all that counts.

At times, the system will make allowances for those in need of remedial classes.  A child may be defined as “special.”  Sadly, this determination furthers separates a student from classmates and often from his or her self.  Tim was one of these.

Any individual singled out, accepted as standard, or told he or she is superior will react to the identification.  Each label has its own externally imposed expectation.  Children try to aspire to what they are told they must achieve.  They go along to get along, or they resign themselves to defeat.  Even those thought to be successful by all in their community frequently feel they fail miserably.  

It is no wonder our young people seek solace in drugs, drink, sex, or death.  Our offspring, fighting to survive, to soar, to score on a test, or place well on a High School exit or college entrance exam, frequently feel dead inside.  Occasionally a child will kill others, or them selves.  Most, merely maintain a presence, as did Seung Hui Cho for a time.

Cho graduated from Westfield High School in 2003. But there is no mention of him in that yearbook, not so much as a senior picture.   The high school, which opened in 2000, is stocked with high achievers. Newsweek magazine once ranked it among the 50 best public high schools in America.  

Its football team won the state championship the year Cho graduated. But with 1,600 students then, Cho was the odd boy who never spoke, former classmates recalled. He joined the science club but just sat there.  He carried around an instrument that earned him the name “Trombone Boy.”

School officials went to some lengths to encourage students to interact.  They put round tables in the lunchroom so no one would feel left out.  The “Westfield Welcomers” club formed to help wallflowers and outcasts fit in.  But none of it seemed to work for the lonely, acne-plagued boy in glasses who was so quiet that some wondered whether he could speak at all.

Some sociologist would say Seung Hui Cho fits the profile of a mass murderer.  Were we as a nation prepared to recognize and work with the hurt being in our midst the potential killer, we might have looked at Seung Hui Cho and seen the signs.  However, indications implied after the fact, the act, are less obvious when encountered in a moment.  Indeed, at times, if not always, the invisible inspires an individual to do as he or she does.  

Pain is not painted on a face; nor does a person always scream out when they need help.  Most of us are taught to take care ourselves.  Yet, few of us know how to do this adequately.  Perhaps, those that lash out believe they are doing what they need to do to release the pressure.

In America, little “big boys” learn not to cry.   A sweet lass is told to look pretty.  Tears are unattractive.  In this country, independence is ideal.  Adults teach the children not to be too needy.  “No one wants to hear your troubles.”  When asked ‘How are you,’ answer, ‘I am fine.’  Then, move on, or pretend to.  ‘Do not expect too much.’  ‘Get good grades.’  ‘Make lots of money.’ In a competitive society, that is all that counts.

Some students do as is standard quite well.  Steven Kazmierczak did.  Steven was an outstanding student.  He was engaging, polite, and industrious.  The friendly fellow had a bright future in the field of criminal justice.  Steve, as he preferred to be called, graduated from college in 2007.  The scholar continued his studies in graduate school.  Since early adolescence, the lad was intent on helping society.  Hence, he majored in sociology as an undergraduate.  After he completed his preliminary coursework, Steven went on to pursue a Masters degree in the School of Social Work.  This gracious gent had a girlfriend.  Steve was anything but a loner, haunted with obvious hurts.

On the Northern Illinois University campus, Steven P. Kazmierczak was considered a gentle, hard-working student, who was honored two years ago with a dean’s award for his sociology work.?? Professors who taught him said it was hard to imagine he was the same person authorities identified as the gunman in Thursday’s classroom shootings.

“I knew Steve both as an undergraduate and as a graduate student. I have had him in my home. I knew him as a warm, sensitive, very bright student,” said Professor Kristen Myers in an e-mail. “I never would believe that he could do this. I know that when these horrible things happen, everyone searches for roots to explain it. Here, I’m afraid I don’t have any.”

Steven Kazmierczak was an excellent student.  A former classmate called Kazmierczak “probably the best student in the class.”  Another student spoke of how helpful Steven was.  Stephanie Delhotal, 22, a former sociology undergraduate student said Kazmierczak worked as a teaching assistant in her statistics lab only a year prior.?? “I learned most of what I knew from him,” said Delhotal.  Stephanie Delhotal, who is now a professional Social Worker, offered, “He was very nice and very friendly . . . he was so into statistics. I just took him to be a computer nerd.”

Delhotal did not know him before the course, but saw him in the lab as many as three times a week during the semester, she said.?? “I was completely shocked. I just keep thinking back about how easy he was to talk to,” she said. “He had a dry sense of humor.”

However, humor and academic achievement do not necessarily bring joy.  Instruction that focuses on formulas, figures, facts, and scientific findings do little to give rise to a healthy human being, and perhaps that is the problem yet to be broached in the classroom, or even in our homes.  In educational institutions, instructors are required to attend to the parts.  Teachers and Administrators address perceive accountability.  As a nation, we ignore the whole.  Countrywide, we do not ask who a child might be.

Instruction begins when you, the teacher,

learn from the learner; put yourself in his place so that you may understand

. . .  what he learns and the way he understands it.

~ Soren Kierkegaard

For the most part, curriculums are designed to pour information into a pupil, as though a human being were an empty vessel ready to fill.  If we are to truly educate our progeny, we must redefine instruction.  We need to create a culture that helps children to authentically acquire knowledge, not grades.

Learning is something students do, NOT something done to students.

~ Alfie Kohn [American Lecturer, Author, Educator]

The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action attempts to do this.  

  • Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.
  • Each student learns in an intellectually challenging environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.
  • Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.
  • Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.
  • Each graduate is challenged by a well-balanced curriculum and is prepared for success in college or further study and for employment in a global environment.

This promise is contrary to the current standard initiated with the advent and implementation of No Child Left Behind.  On paper, at first blush, the newer educational program appears sound.  The policy advances practices and philosophies that have existed in society for centuries.  The populace has long endorsed gentle interpretations of “Spare the rod; spoil the child.”  Hence, in schools strategies that are thought to serve accountability were easily adopted.

Transforming the Federal Role in Education So That No Child is Left Behind

The Policy

The Administration’s education reform agenda is comprised of the following key components . . .

Closing the Achievement Gap:
  • Accountability and High Standards.
  • States, school districts, and schools must be accountable for ensuring that all students, including disadvantaged students, meet high academic standards.

    ‘Good, good, that sounds good,’ say parents, Principals, and policy makers.  All are interested in education and each wants to make certain our children receive quality instruction.  High expectations and verification are vital.  Administrators must answer for the programs the public pays for.  No one can blame the student if the school does not do as deemed necessary.  Americans believe we must reward achievement and punish those who fail.  As we age, most of us forget, in order to succeed, we must learn from our errors.  Most adults avoid the subject of task analysis.  In education, many accept the end justifies the means.  Teachers are trained to teach to the test.  Students are tutored in how to best pass an examination.  If perchance, each or either fails, the government mandates, there will be repercussions.  One consequence is so subtle it often goes unnoticed.

    Dropout rates slowly increase.  Low-achievers, in frustration, leave school behind.  Thus, the appearance of rising test scores and of a narrowing of the achievement gap is achieved.  School ratings increase, authentic education decreases.

    A recent

    study of Texas public school accountability system,
    the model for the national No Child Left Behind Act, establishes that, the longer the high stakes testing program are in use, the worse the outcome.  Children already made less important than the curriculum by this mandate are further reduced in significance.  As could have been expected, instructional personnel begin to view students not as children to educate, but as potential liabilities.  A pupil accomplished in test-taking is seen as an asset; high scores raise a school’s performance indicators, advance the careers of educators, and help to grow the funds a school receives.

    The research also indicates that Principals frequently play with pupils’ lives in order to further their professional prominence.  A child will not be allowed to advance a grade if he or she is deemed at-risk.  If a student’s grade on the exam will potentially threaten the schools status, arrangements are made.  Most students retained in this manner give up on themselves and on school.  Just as educators punish a less than perfect child, the system penalizes a struggling school.

    • States must develop a system of sanctions and rewards to hold districts and schools accountable for improving academic achievement. . . .
    • Consequences for Schools that Fail to Educate Disadvantaged Students.  Schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress for disadvantaged students will first receive assistance, and then come under corrective action if they still fail to make progress.  

      If schools fail to make adequate yearly progress for three consecutive years, disadvantaged students may use Title I funds to transfer to a higher-performing public or private school, or receive supplemental educational services from a provider of choice.

    Therein lies the problem.  When an educational institution or a child does not perform “properly,” they are punished.  Punitive actions so not help better a school or a student.  Studies show punitive practices hurt a society or and the instructional staff.

    Dear reader, you may recall in your own life the times when you acted in a manner that was considered disruptive, destructive, or without regard for others.  If you were confined to your room, restricted from doing what brought you pleasure, ridiculed, or severely reprimanded you may have reacted poorly.  Resentment readies an individual for further rebellion.  Logic tell us, if a child or an adult is to learn or improve, they must be given an opportunity to reflect.  Humans acquire wisdom when others trust the learner can grow.  Reciprocal reverence, empathy is the best educator.  

    However, logic rarely rules when people are reactive.  Parent, Principals, and educators are after all, only human.  When frustrated with what they fear they cannot control, people of any age penalize those who do not perform as desired.  Rebukes realize no rewards.

    Why Punishment Does Not Work

    The research literature gives clear guidelines about the ineffectiveness of punishment as the only correction procedure for children’s misbehavior. Yelling, shaming, scolding, and corporal punishment backfire and create a mind set in the child where he misbehaves more. Some children do worse when words like “never,” “don t,” “should not,” and “It’s not okay” are used during correction. There are many negative side effects associated with being punished:
    • Punishment for aggression may stop the behavior temporarily, but may further stimulate aggressive behavior.
    • The child may stop the punished behavior but may increase another aggressive behavior.
    • Punishment may serve as a model for aggression. Children imitate what they see adults do.
    • The punished behavior may stop only in the presence of the adult and increase in other settings.
    • The child may strike back at the punishing adult or displace his anger at someone else.
    • Frequent punishment may cause some children to withdraw and regress.
    • Angry children who do not fear authority may become more angry and focus on revenge.
    • The child may feel shame and harbor thoughts of lowered self- esteem (I’m a bad person. I’m mean.)
    • Punishment merely suppresses the response but does not teach the child what to do.

    In the short term, punishment may be effective in suppressing negative behavior when the punisher is present, but it does not teach the child positive ways to act. Punishing techniques that make the child feel bad about himself may make him act out more!

    Remember Asa.  This child felt besieged, plagued, punished for being the person he was.  This young man received ample ridicule.  He was constantly punished; his presence alone was enough to bring an onslaught of attacks.  Classmates called him Jack Black.  The label referred to the vociferous, chubby, long-haired actor in the movie “School of Rock.”

    Asa could be shrill.  His appearance alone might have been classified as a cry for attention.  His hair was unkempt.  Histrionic accoutrements graced his neck, his nails, and his abdomen.  Asa adorned his fingernails with black polish.  Around his neck, he wore a dog.  A faded rock concert tee-shirt covered his chest.  A trench coat completed the composition.

    Asa often felt as though he was tormented, teased, taunted, and mocked.  The troubled lad felt victim to frequent slights.  He believed others belittled him, beguiled him.  He was deceived and ill received.  Asa Coon felt misunderstood, and he craved as all creatures do, love, not loathing.  In frustration, Asa Coon characteristically lashed out.  He was not merely a quirky lad; he was quick to anger.

    This was the Asa who always seemed to be in fights at school.  This was the Asa who slapped around his mother. This was the Asa who talked about suicide.

    And it was this Asa, authorities say, who walked into SuccessTech Academy Wednesday with a satchel full of guns and ammunition and opened fire on teachers and students. . .

    What apparently pushed Asa’s troubled young mind over the edge was an argument with classmates about the existence of God.  It happened a few days ago in reading class.

    Asa said he didn’t believe in God and didn’t respect God.

    Another kid disagreed. . . .

    After school, the two kids fought.  Asa took a beating.  Both were suspended.

    “I’m going to get you,” he warned his tormentor.  “I will get you.”

    Indeed, he did.  Asa attempted to take revenge on those he believed wronged him.  A professional, Professor Jack Levin, Northeastern University, Criminology, offered a worthy assessment of the situation.  Perhaps, the lesson Americans need to learn is often lost.  What truly occurs within our offspring is left behind as our children are today.

    There are always missed signals.  The problem is that they only become clear after the fact.  Hindsight is 20/20, and after somebody shoots a number of people, everybody all of a sudden is a psychologist and recognizes all the warning signs.  Now, the problem is that these warning signs beforehand apply to so many youngsters.  Many of these shooters hate school or they like Marilyn Manson or they black — they use Gothic clothing.  They’re rebellious.  The best predictor we have is previous violence, and in this case Asa definitely had that in his background, but my point is this, we ought to be intervening early in the life of a child because he’s troubled, not because he’s troublesome.

    On rare occasions, a child has an opportunity to authentically connect to an adult, a curriculum, life, and lessons that are given and received with love.  After Tim  met Barbara M. Stock, he became one, among the exceptions.  At the time, the two encountered each other, Barbara held a brand new doctorate degree in Psychology and education.  The young scholar was proud the knowledge she accumulated.  Upon reflection, she states, she was “full of” herself.  Shortly after she received her Ph.D., Stock and her husband moved to a small quaint town.  Jobs were few, opportunities fragile.  

    Advised by a receptionist in the Special Education Department of the local school district, Barbara Stock pursued a practical possibility.  Perchance, she could find a job within the BRAT program.  Curious and anxious to impress, Doctor Stock inquired.

    I asked the mothers, “What does BRAT mean?” The mothers gave me how-stupid-are-you looks. “BRAT,” one mother said. ” ‘Brat…’ That’s what the school people call our kids.” It wasn’t an acronym for Behavioral…Remediation …Anything.

    As Stock observed the students, she realized her mission. A lone lad came into view.  Tim was awkward, assertive, and jubilant, all at once.  He was energetic and alien in his approach to life. After a short time, Tim’s mother noticed Doctor Stock and her stare.  The parent introduced herself to the professional person in her presence. “Mom” whispered to Barbara Stock, Tim was eight years of age and had learned nothing in this half-day program. Tim’s mother wanted an afternoon tutor for her son.  She hoped that if someone special would invest in her child, one-on-one, the odd boy would excel.  There might be hope.  Stock pondered the possibility.

    Confident I could perform brilliantly, I agreed to tutor Tim. I saw this as a great opportunity: I could use the newest techniques of behavioral reinforcement and multi-sensory stimulation to teach Tim. Then I would write an article or even a book on my achievement. I’d dreamt of one day having my own school; this would give me the credentials. I’d already accumulated all sorts of learning devices-sandpaper letters, Cuisenaire rods, a balance beam. I arranged a child-size table and two chairs in our finished basement and created an inviting “learning space.” I was ready and willing to begin my major project: The Teaching of Tim.

    Weeks went by; months moved quickly.  Tortured tutor, who loved her young teacher, Tim, Barbara M. Stock, learned what most educators are reluctant to admit.  

    Tim surprised me. He excelled, though not from any lesson I planned.

    Frustrated and bewildered with the accredited approaches that proved futile, Stock embraced what was more real.  She engaged the child in a manner that allowed Tim to be Tim.

    Gradually, I had to let go of my analytical, intellectual approach. I taught Tim best on his terms, seizing the opportunities he enjoyed and encouraging him to be practical, playful, and protective.

    Although I’d wanted to give up on Tim many times out of personal frustration, I felt truly sad when I had to say goodbye to him. I had no data, no article, no book to publish. Tim could pay attention longer, express himself better, and manage his frustration more often.  But his gains were infinitesimal, impossible to measure.  I felt like a total failure.

    Tim’s mother and I became friends and to her I confessed my defeat. She saw the situation differently. “He looks forward to seeing you.  He smiles,” she said.  “With you he’s not a ‘brat.’  These are gifts beyond measure.”

    As we said goodbye, Tim hugged me.  His mother laughed out loud.  “That’s a first, and probably not listed on any test.”

    Tim’s Mom was sensitive to the whole of her child.  She observed his trials and tribulations with great care.  The concerned parent [or teacher] can recognize triumphs.  Tests do not.

    Barbara M. Stock with all her prominence, prestige, and post-graduate expertise was helped to understand what typically remains undetected.  Erudition is not necessarily visible to those who know not what they see.  

    Indeed, the manner in which each of us internalizes instruction differs.  We need only consider Emma, Asa, Bradley, William, Shawn, Tim, or ourselves to realize one size, one test, cannot fit all.  Standardize assessments do not allow for nuance.  Pedagogical practices, no matter how philosophically profound, may not be as effective as “real” life lessons are.  When individuals, teacher and student, parent and pupil, administrators and instructors, interact with authenticity, each senses they are accepted and admired.  People learn when they treasure the tutorial.

    Empathy is the best educator.  Punishment or mechanical methodology, presumed to be a practical, do not reward a spirit starved for insights.  Meaningful and appreciative acknowledgements nurture a mind, heart, body, and soul.  A healthy child is whole.  His or her education is balanced.  When a child is reactive, a distraction, or destructive, elders must acknowledge the little one is pleading for assistance.  ‘Teach me,’ he or she shouts.  If adults are to abet, they must realize penalties alienate.  Praise produces desirable results.

    What Does Work

    The research shows that praise for appropriate behavior, reasoning, giving consequences, withholding privileges, time out and teaching the appropriate social skills do help a frustrated child make better behavioral choices.

    The child who misbehaves constantly needs to hear correction statements phrased in positive language to implant alternative ways of thinking and acting in his developing value system. Telling the child with behavior problems what not to do often guarantees that he will go and do it! Instead, tell him what to do and help him to feel good just thinking about acting in positive ways. Give a choice between two alternatives.

    Teaching social skills gives a process of correcting the inappropriate behavior instead of suppressing it through punishment. Social skills training offers a more humane way of giving children tools to deal with conflict so that they can take care of themselves. Learning social skills helps children reduce aggressive and violent behavior. Teaching the prosocial skills helps all of us. When children learn and use positive reciprocal ways of interacting with each other, this adds to peace in our world.

    Processing Cues To Say After Conflict

    What you say to an aggressive child will determine the likelihood of his decreasing the inappropriate behavior the next time. To break into the child’s negative thinking patterns, process what happened and what could be different next time in a non- threatening way. The research shows that people are most ripe for change after a situation of high emotional arousal. Being corrected is generally a high arousal situation so the child should be ripe for new learning. You have a golden opportunity to help your child make the commitment to change by using this teaching approach.

    If you can get to the child’s vulnerability and sense of fair play after a situation of conflict, you can help him make changes. Show the child the consequences of his actions on others. Whenever possible, give him a choice. Ask him to make a value judgment on what he did. Give him solid information on how he could react in positive ways.  Always leave him feeling good about himself with hope for the future.

    Few of the questions posed on examinations reward a learner.  Results are not immediate.  What a child is asked to assesses is often not real or personally relevant to a young person.  In America today, on tests, in the classroom, and even in some homes, children are not required to think critically.  Nor are they given the opportunity to imagine, innovate, or invent.  Conventional wisdom dominates the curriculum, and students fall further and further behind.  Sadly, we often look at our best students and see automatons.  However, they are more.

    Today we come across an individual who behaves like an automaton,

    who does not know or understand himself,

    and the only  person that he knows is the person he is supposed to be,

    whose meaningless chatter has replaced communicative speech,

    whose synthetic smile has replaced genuine laughter,

    and whose sense of dull despair has taken the place of genuine pain.

    Two statements may be said concerning this individual.

    One is that he suffers from defects of spontaneity and individuality, which may seem to be incurable.

    At the same time it may be said of him,

    he does not differ essentially from the millions of the rest of us who walk upon the earth.

    ~ Erich Fromm [Observer of Humankind, Psychologist and Author]

    Might we begin to embrace our children and their sweet souls.  Let us no longer scold students when they struggle to grasp the essence of a standard test question.  We need not drug those whose attention span is short.  Let us, educators, and parents engage each child individually.  If perchance, we listen to what the children tell us about them selves, if we see each student as a whole child, we might learn how to best teach them.

    The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.

    ~ R. M. Hutchins [American Educator, Author, The University of Utopia and The Learning Society, Board Editor for Encyclopedia Britannica]

    Perhaps adults can take a lesson from life.  Each of the school shooting show us, our offspring are in pain.  Medications will not cure what ails the young.  Restrictions placed on guns, or access to other objects, will not make our schools safer.  More of the same and stricter standards will only serve to deaden minds that wish to soar.  That is the paradox.  Americans send their children to school to learn; then they squelch the possibility.  May we teach the offspring well and allow them to tell us what they need as a whole child.

    “To teach is to learn twice.”

    ~ Joseph Joubert [French Critic]

    In this country today, citizens are reminded that Math, Science, and Reading, the basics are essential.  Students study so that they might pass tests in these subject areas.  Teachers teach techniques that ensure success on examinations.  Facts fill the air in American classrooms.  Some scholars survive , others hope to die.

    In this nation, we forget.  There is so much more to life than Math, and more to Algebra than a correct answer.  As Mister Kupfer, a High School mentor tells his students, a correct solution does not authenticate that a student understands the process.  A problem requires more than a guesstimate, or memorization of a formula.  Mathematician Kupfer states, if a pupil cannot work through a problem, twenty years after he or she saw it in class, then they never truly learned how to solve the equation.

    Science is not as simple as a law declared absolute.  Theories also abound.  Curious souls search beyond what they know to be true and discover what is yet to be part of a standard curriculum.  A student motivated to think, rather than realize a score on a test, might take a quantum leap.  A student, trained to think as a scientist might, will not simply accept a static answer.  Analysis is not wrong; it is just not encouraged when the course of study is guided by multiple choice tests.

    Reading requires more than regurgitation of the words printed in a booklet.  Bubbles darkened in on a page, and preparation for tests do not a satisfy a sincere student.  Our children are asking to learn.  They crave a caring connection.  Let us bring education back into our homes and our schools.  May we teach our offspring well and wholly.  The  youth are our future; may we give them a strong foundation.  Research, Reflection, and reverence, these are the three R’s, the basics.

    Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.  

    ~ Albert Einstein

    Schools, Standards, Sources . . .

    Virginia Polytechnic Institute. “We will prevail.”

    Virginia Tech Convocation, Professor Nikki Giovanni.

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert
    Today, the thirty-three fatalities are memorialized. It will not be the first time we honor the passing of these glorious souls; nor will it be the last. The entire world mourns with the Hokies, their families, friends, and all those touched by the loss of lives. Cyberspace communities have come together. Dedicated boards are offered so that each of us might write a word of remembrance.

    I present an opportunity to connect with those that we love, who sacrificed their human souls so that we might live and learn.

  • In their honor. Massacre at Virginia Tech. Cable News Network.
  • Remembering the victims. Roanoke Times.

    A week has passed since the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University campus was ravaged. However, students, staff, faculty, administrators, and alum maintain, they were not destroyed. They are, nevertheless, devastated. Students received much support from people throughout the nation.

    Throughout the week, students who have remained in Blacksburg have found support in a variety of places on campus and in the larger community, as local vendors and schools from across the country have shown their support in many different ways.

    On Tuesday, at the convocation, President Bush, along with Gov. Tim Kaine, Vice President for student affairs Zenobia Hikes, and distinguished professor Nikki Giovanni, spoke to the crowd that filled Cassell Coliseum, and flowed over into Lane Stadium.

    Bush encouraged the community of mourners by stressing “normalcy” in the community. He added, “Such a day will come.”

    The largest response from the crowd came after Giovanni spoke and performed a dramatic reading. Her poem reminded the crowd that tragedy strikes everyone. After ending with “We are Virginia Tech,” the crowd began a series of cheers, shouting, “Let’s go Hokies.”

    The esteemed Professor enthralled and embraced the crowd.  She spoke the words that guide us all. The Virginia Tech community was her audience and perchance the focus for her words; yet, the message might be considered our human mission.

    Transcript of Nikki Giovanni’s Convocation address
    Delivered April 17, 2007
    We are Virginia Tech.

    We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.

    We are Virginia Tech.

    We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.

    We are Virginia Tech.

    We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army, neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory, neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water, neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.

    We are Virginia Tech.

    The Hokie Nation embraces our own and reaches out with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid. We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness.

    We are the Hokies.

    We will prevail.

    We will prevail.

    We will prevail.

    We are Virginia Tech.

    I too do not understand.  I cannot comprehend why difficulties enter our lives.  I know not why we must breathe our last breathe at the hands of a gunman.  Acquired immune deficiency syndrome [AIDS] confuses me.  The idea of war racks my brain.  The reality of brutal battles stresses my soul.  Illness and injury boggle my mind.  Man’s inhumanity to man is incomprehensible.  Nature wreaks havoc and this causes me to wonder.

    Perhaps, I can only trust that the reasons for such tragedies will reveal them selves upon my passing.  Nonetheless, I do believe those associated with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University are granted great sustenance from those whose physical presence can be seen no more on Earth.

    I have faith that those gunned down are our finest teachers. Their passing may provide us with a path towards greater understanding.

    While in the human form, we cannot fully comprehend why what occurs does. Death does not make sense. When a person takes his or her last breathe before they have had a chance to truly live; it seems so unfair. If a person has experienced much hardship and has been spared in the face of death, we have hope. When we witness such individuals serve many, we are thankful that they are alive. Yet, when the time comes and their days on G-d’s green grass end, it is challenging to grasp.  We may muse, ‘What is the purpose.’ Why would anyone even wish to terminate the live of another.

    I do not know.  I have no answers. With each passing moment, I am more certain I cannot comprehend our existence here on Earth. There is little that makes sense to me.

    Yet, I am comforted by  my experience, observations, and what others share of their circumstances.

    In my life, much has happened that did not seem just or fair. However, I learned from what I once thought awful.  In my own life, much was not as I wished it would be. Tremendous sorrows befall.

    I too mourn the loss of innocent lives that were too short.  I cry for these vibrant individuals; they did not need to die.  Oh, to be cut down in your prime, no matter what the age, is sad beyond belief.  I do not negate the sorrow that Seung-Hui Cho felt. Oh, how his family must be suffering.

    Any life is of infinite value.  I think, although I may not like the actions of many, I must love their being, for oh, but for the grace of G-d go I.

    Please Peruse the References . . .

  • In their honor. Massacre at Virginia Tech. Cable News Network.
  • Remembering the victims. Roanoke Times.
  • Va. Tech Students Return to Campus, Ny Justin Pope. Associated Press. Time Magazine. April 22, 2007
  • Students receive support from across community, nation. By Collegiate Times Staff. April 23, 2007
  • Transcript of Nikki Giovanni’s Convocation address. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Delivered April 17, 2007
  • rack/wrack Word of the Day.  Random House
  • Seung-Hui Cho. I Mourn Your Life and Loss

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    My heart aches.  Of course I mourn the passing of the thirty-two Virginia Polytechnic University students, as do we all throughout the globe.  Nevertheless, I cannot forget how my heart hurts for the thirty-third victim, the one the media never seems to count among those killed, Seung-Hui Cho.  On April 16, 2007 thirty-three lovable and fragile individuals passed.

    Seung-Hui Cho, as he called himself, was a young man locked in Hades for decades.  His death began long before the day of infamy.  He longed for comfort and company.  All he received was chiding.  Even in death, Seung-Hui Cho is scorned.  I am forlorn.

    From the first, there were labels.  Many said he was “Chinese”; they would then add their political concerns for China.  Then he was, and today he is still frequently referred to as a Korean National.  Calls for restraints on immigration are common.  Of course, in the minds of many American’s anyone that is not white is not right, and definitely, if they are not born in this country, they are aliens. 

    Among some, there is ample discussion for the name of this now notable student, the “shooter.”  Many believe his ethnicity is more important than the person.

    The Asian version of the name – Cho Seung-Hui – appeared to be more widespread, in part because of its use in the ubiquitous wire stories from Reuters and the AP. As a result, some Korean-Americans felt media groups were playing up Cho’s foreign-ness, according to the Asian American Journalists Association, which advised reporters to use the American order.

    Thankfully, and I do note the use of the name is Americanized, as family members and Cho himself seem to prefer, National Public Radio retorted as I had when speaking to friends and family.  This young and deeply disturbed man was, is an American.

    How American was Seung-Hui Cho? Despite being a South Korean national living in America, his upbringing, and his problems, were distinctly American.

    The system or lack of social services in the United states let this man slide through many a crack.

    Seung-Hui Cho and his parents were hoping to find streets paved in gold in America.  Unfortunately, they discovered what many of us do, life is good if you are among the fertile few.  Actually, life, even for the affluent can be a struggle.  Life is life.  People yell; they scream, they damn, and they slam.  Consider the woes of an eleven year old.  The daughter of Alec Baldwin may have been born into money; nevertheless, she receives the wrath of a supposedly loving father.  She is verbally slammed and damned.

    Imagine how loved this little girl must feel after being told she is a “thoughtless little pig,”  Her Dad, actor Baldwin, threatens to set here straight during their meeting the following day.  Were I she I would want to run for my life.  Seung-Hui Cho, the wounded must have often felt a need to escape.  Perhaps, his sullen manner was his means for flight.  Seung-Hui Cho said in an 1,800-word rambling . . .

    ‘I didn’t have to do this. I could have left. I could have fled. But no, I will no longer run.’

    Cho lived in shadows, deep and dark.  He attended classes at a prestigious University.  He was a scholar, a writer.  Yet, he was shunned.  His dialect was odd, mumbled, and his words were difficult to discern.  This academic was nearing graduation, a scary proposition all in itself.  He did not feel excepted in the world.  From what we know of his history, he never had.

    Some say he was paranoid, obsessively anxious, or unreasonably suspicious.  Perhaps he was.  Many of us feel family and friends expect much of us and from us.  Often we compare ourselves to others and we believe we fall short.  Acceptance into an esteemed University is glorious.  Maintaining good grades is meaningful.  Yet, any of us may wonder, is that good enough.  Perchance when our sibling excels, we are far more aware of our failings.

    Though Monday’s shootings at Virginia Tech had already cast a shadow over campus, the news yesterday morning that the gunman’s older sister is a recent Princeton alumna brought the tragedy even closer to home.

    Sun-Kyung Cho ’04 was an economics major who interned at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok during the summer before her senior year and wrote briefly for The Daily Princetonian. She now works as a “State Department contractor,” The Washington Post reported yesterday, and was listed on Princeton’s alumni directory as living in Centreville, Va., with her parents.

    The parents of these fine children are so devastated, they are residing in a community hospital.  They feel deeply pained by their son’s circumstance.  The mother and father meant no harm; they as all parents hoped to provide the best for their children.  In an interview with Seung-Hui Cho’s grandfather, the elder stated

    “Seung-hui troubled his parents when he was young because he wouldn’t talk, but he was well-behaved,” said the man, who asked to be called Mr Kim, in interviews with two Korean newspapers.

    “I don’t know how I can compensate for the responsibility for raising my kids improperly. I don’t know how he could do this when his parents went to a country far away and worked hard.”

    They are troubled and think themselves responsible.  Perhaps, America has let the Cho family down.  They expected so much, all Americans do.  However, little is received. The rewards are few.

    In an editorial, the Hankyoreh newspaper wrote today that Cho’s case illustrated a problem faced by many South Korean immigrants in the US, where parents are too busy at work to take care of their children. 

    “It is the reality of our immigrants that parents are so busy making a living that it’s not easy for them to have dialogue with young children,” the newspaper wrote. 

    “We should think about whether our society or our (Korean) community abroad has been negligent in preventing conditions that could lead to such an aberration,” it said.

    Many in the Korean community think the problem lies in the life of an émigré; however, even native born Americans struggle to make a decent wage or create a comfortable caring environment for their children.

    Most neighbours could barely recall talking to the couple. “They’re very quiet, very nice people. They worked very hard for him. It’s very sad,” their next-door neighbour, Abdul Shash, told the Associated Press.

    “They valued education, just like any other parents in this country, and they worked sometimes 12, 13 hours a day to send a daughter to Princeton and to send their son to Virginia Tech,” said Jeff Ahn, president of the League of Korean Americans in Virginia.

    Most of us think our lack of personal success is our fault.  When our offspring struggle or hurt another, we are pained.  A  Grandfather feels responsible for his own progeny and the product of their love.  Mister Kim the eldest representative of a kind and caring family reflects,

    “How could he have done such a thing if he had any sympathy for his parents, who went all the way to another country because they couldn’t make ends meet and endured hardships,” Cho’s maternal grandfather, identified only by his last name Kim, was quoted as saying.

    As a child Seung-Hui Cho was ridiculed and bullyed.  As an adult he hid; he hoped to avoid the taunts and teasing.

    Former classmates recalled Cho being taunted over his speech difficulties.

    He almost never opened his mouth and would ignore attempts to strike up a conversation, said Chris Davids, a Virginia Tech senior who graduated from Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., with Cho in 2003.

    When Cho read out loud in class, other students laughed at his strange, deep voice that sounded “like he had something in his mouth,” Davids said.

    In a video Cho mailed to NBC in the middle of his rampage at Virginia Tech, the 23-year-old portrayed himself as persecuted and rants about rich kids.

    One professor saw his angst.  She read the words of a tormented soul.  She was frightened.  Initially, she embraced the long-suffering spirit of this neglected man.

    Lucinda Roy, a co-director of the creative writing program at Virginia Tech, taught Cho in a poetry class in fall of 2005 and later worked with him one-on-one after she became concerned about his behavior and themes in his writings.

    The professor pondered.  She realized Seung-Hui Cho was without friends.  He did not know how to relate; perhaps, he had never had the chance.

    Roy told ABC News that Cho seemed “extraordinarily lonely-the loneliest person I have ever met in my life.” She said he wore sunglasses indoors, with a cap pulled low over his eyes.

    In his writings he was lashing out as all wounded animals do.  His actions amplified the distance he felt and thus, created.

    He whispered, took 20 seconds to answer questions, and took cellphone pictures of her in class. Roy said she was concerned for her safety when she met with him.

    Professor Roy became fearful.  Sadly, we all are when we do not understand.  Often, when any of us think we are threatened, instead of continuing to assist, we withdraw from what causes us great apprehension.  We avoid knowing what we recognize and prepare to protect ourselves further.  Thus, we as a society discuss increasing security in our schools rather than raising the standards and funding for mental health.

    Such is the situation, the shortsightedness.  It is all so sad to me.  We separate ourselves from each other.  We create stress.  Then instead of coming together we try harder to take control.  Emotions cannot be regulated; in truth, we cannot mandate behaviors.  If we are to be truly safe, we must ensure that every individual feels cared for to his or her core.  I believe we must interact, not react.

    I beseech us all; I ask Americans, émigrés, and individuals in every corner of the globe, do not hold your children tighter, lock them up in buildings where there is little genuine affection.  Love them; they need to feel safe and secure and only your authentic fondness can fill their hearts and provide stability.  Pay attention to the progeny.  They are our future. 

    Do not apply pressure as a tourniquet might.  Suffocating a wound appears to stop the flow.  However, scars form from within.  What is not released, calmly and with care, in the moment builds up.  Feelings must be felt, expressed, and received gently with concern. 

    Please let your loved ones be and breathe.  Provide them with the freedom to speak and to feel.  Be with those that are special to you. Listen to their concerns.  Allow them to lean on your shoulder when they wish to.  Tenderly teach autonomy.  Do not dismiss the essence of interdependence as well.  May we honor our children wholly in our homes and schools.

    Please let us not place imprison our pupils, our progeny.  Provide for them in meaningful ways.  Trust them to grow and nurture them on their unique path.

    Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner; put yourself in his place so that you may understand
    . . . what he learns and the way he understands it.?

    ~ Soren Kierkegaard

    Everything depends upon the quality of experience . . . just as no man lives or dies to himself, so no experience lives and dies to itself. 
    Any experience is mis-educative that has the effect of arresting or distorting the growth of further experience. 
    The central problem of an education based upon experience is to select the kind of present experience that live fruitfully and creatively in subsequent experiences.

    ~ John Dewey [American Philosopher, Psychologist, Educational Reformer]

    The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.
    ~ R. M. Hutchins [American Educator, Author, The University of Utopia and The Learning Society]

    The sorrow is deep and the family feels more than any of us might imagine.  I share the Cho family statement.  I think that we each can feel their pain in these words.

    Text of Cho family statement
    By The Associated Press
    Statement issued to The Associated Press by Sun-Kyung Cho, sister of Seung-Hui Cho:

    On behalf of our family, we are so deeply sorry for the devastation my brother has caused. No words can express our sadness that 32 innocent people lost their lives this week in such a terrible, senseless tragedy.

    We are heartbroken.

    We grieve alongside the families, the Virginia Tech community, our State of Virginia, and the rest of the nation. And, the world.

    Every day since April 16, my father, mother and I pray for students Ross Abdallah Alameddine, Brian Roy Bluhm, Ryan Christopher Clark, Austin Michelle Cloyd, Matthew Gregory Gwaltney, Caitlin Millar Hammaren, Jeremy Michael Herbstritt, Rachael Elizabeth Hill, Emily Jane Hilscher, Jarrett Lee Lane, Matthew Joseph La Porte, Henry J. Lee, Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan, Lauren Ashley McCain, Daniel Patrick O’Neil, J. Ortiz-Ortiz, Minal Hiralal Panchal, Daniel Alejandro Perez, Erin Nicole Peterson, Michael Steven Pohle Jr., Julia Kathleen Pryde, Mary Karen Read, Reema Joseph Samaha, Waleed Mohamed Shaalan, Leslie Geraldine Sherman, Maxine Shelly Turner, Nicole White, Instructor Christopher James Bishop, and Professors Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, Kevin P. Granata, Liviu Librescu and G.V. Loganathan.

    We pray for their families and loved ones who are experiencing so much excruciating grief. And we pray for those who were injured and for those whose lives are changed forever because of what they witnessed and experienced.

    Each of these people had so much love, talent, and gifts to offer, and their lives were cut short by a horrible and senseless act.

    We are humbled by this darkness. We feel hopeless, helpless, and lost. This is someone that I grew up with and loved. Now I feel like I didn’t know this person.

    We have always been a close, peaceful, and loving family. My brother was quiet and reserved, yet struggled to fit in. We never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence.

    He has made the world weep. We are living a nightmare.

    There is much justified anger and disbelief at what my brother did, and a lot of questions are left unanswered. Our family will continue to cooperate fully and do whatever we can to help authorities understand why these senseless acts happened. We have many unanswered questions as well.

    Our family is so very sorry for my brother’s unspeakable actions. It is a terrible tragedy for all of us.

    Source: North Carolina attorney Wade Smith, who provided the statement on behalf of the Cho family

    Seung-Hui Cho My Sadness for Yours . . .

  • In Virginia, a Day of Mourning Associated Press. The New York times. April 20, 2007
  • pdf In Virginia, a Day of Mourning Associated Press. The New York times. April 20, 2007
  • Cho Seung-Hui or Seung-Hui Cho? By Michelle Tsai.  Slate. Thursday, April 19, 2007
  • Weighing Cho’s Heritage and Identity, By Robert Siegal.  All Things Considered. April 18, 2007
  • Alec Baldwin’s Threatening Message to Daughter. By TMZ. April 19th 2007
  • Tragedy at Virginia Tech, Gunman kills 32 in dorm and classrooms before taking own life. By Jonathan Zebrowski.  Princetonian. April 17, 2007
  • Virginia Shooter Spoke Little As Child, By Bo-Mi Lim, Associated Press.  SFGate. Thursday, April 19, 2007
  • Text of Cho Family Statement.  Seattlepi.April 20, 2007
  • Virginia Tech School Shooting. Once Again, Why?

    Footage of the Virginia Tech shooting on April 16th, 2007

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    It happened again.  This time it was bigger and bolder than all the times in the past.  At present, this was the worst massive gun massacre on a campus, in a community, since the inception of this country, unless you consider the numerous deaths that occur during war.  In combat, a single shooter or a pair of gun totters can destroy many lives.  Few are any the wiser.  American soil has seen many a battle throughout its short history.  Nevertheless, in recent times violent clashes, in quiet neighborhood are more abundant.  Today’s carnage is the most recent example.

    At least 33 people were killed today on the campus of Virginia Tech in what appears to be the deadliest shooting rampage in American history, according to federal law-enforcement officials.  Many of the victims were students shot in a dorm and a classroom building.

    The investigation continues.  For now, details are scant.  The shooter or gunman is deceased, assuming there was only one.  The armed man took his own life.  He was not carrying any identification.  Until families of the deceased are notified, names will not be released.  The circumstances were horrific.

    Sidewalks throughout the campus are stained with blood.  Everyone asks why.  Some thirty lives were lost needlessly.  The nation mourns.  Journalist, students, parents, and administrators question the police in depth and detail.  Earlier decisions are being scrutinized.  Could law officers have prevented the second and more extreme bloodbath.

    There were two separate shootings on the campus in Blacksburg, Va., the first at around 7:15 a.m., when two people were shot and killed at a dormitory.  More than two hours later, 31 others, including the gunman, were shot and killed across campus in a classroom building, where some of the doors had been chained.  Victims were found in different locations around the building.

    The first attack started as students were getting ready for classes or were on their way there.  The university did not evacuate the campus or notify students of that attack until several hours later.

    As the rampage unfolded, details emerged from witnesses describing a gunman going room to room in the residence hall, the West Ambler Johnston dormitory, and of gunfire later at Norris Hall, a science and engineering classroom building.

    I know not why this particular incident occurred; nor do I think this is the question we need to be asking.  Again, as I have stated in the past, for me, we must wonder about a society that nurture violence and brutality.  I inquire; what do we breed into our children, our adolescents, and adults?

    For decades, entertainment in America has been snide, rude, crude, and violent.  Shock-jocks fill the airwaves with racist, misogynistic slurs.  Rappers flood television and computer screens with denigrating images.  Movie pictures are gory.  Life on the streets is more gruesome.  Then there is the trauma and drama in our homes.  People yell; they scream, they slam and damn.

    We as a civilization might wonder why the gunman or shooters at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University did as they did.  Together we can ponder whether the police thought little of the initial domestic dispute.  Nevertheless, I believe, until we think about what occurs daily in our homes, or on our streets, nothing will change. 

    I propose that we contemplate why we as a country are so willing to enter into a war with other nations or other persons.  People in America are angry.  Our countrymen lash out.  Americans are not trained to talk with their friends, families, neighbors, or adjacent countries.  Until we consciously work to solve stresses calmly, through conversation, scenes such as this will continue.

    Again, I present an article written months ago, after other school shootings.  Then, simple solutions were postulated.  I penned my thoughts.  School Shooting Safeguards. Arm Educators? Aiding and abetting educators, airline pilots, police, campus cops, or citizens will not deter the crime.  The crisis will not end if everyone carries a gun.

    Blaming adults for their inaction or decisions during a single event will not prevent the next attack.  You might recall, another incident that occurred less than a year ago.  A young girl was assaulted and the community expressed concern asking of her elders.  I wrote, Second-Grade Girl Attacked. “Where Were the Adults?” Everywhere!

    Please, I plead; let us all ask ourselves what is causing such crimes, such chaos.  I beg; please do not blame others.  Ask yourself, how does my silence or my screaming contribute to what comes.  Remember, no man is an island.  We are each involved with mankind.  Our neighbor is as we are.  If he is in pain, we will be hurt.

    “All mankind is of one author, and is one volume;
    when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book,
    but translated into a better language;
    and every chapter must be so translated . . .
    As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon,
    calls not upon the preacher only,
    but upon the congregation to come:
    so this bell calls us all:
    but how much more me,
    who am brought so near the door by this sickness . . .
    No man is an island, entire of itself . . .
    any man’s death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in mankind;
    and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
    it tolls for thee.”

    ~ John Donne

    Shooting and Sources . . .

  • Virginia Tech Shooting Leaves 33 Dead. By Christine Hauser and Anahad O’Connor.  The New York Times. April 16, 2007
  • pdf Virginia Tech Shooting Leaves 33 Dead. By Christine Hauser and Anahad O’Connor.  The New York Times. April 16, 2007
  • School Shooting Safeguards. Arm Educators?  By Betsy L. Angert. October 8, 2006
  • Second-Grade Girl Attacked. “Where Were the Adults?” Everywhere! By Betsy L. Angert. May 11, 2006
  • John Donne.  Meditation XVII.  No Man is an Island.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University  The New York Times.