Monday, April 16, 2007

Cocoons and Why They Can Be Deadly-Va. Tech

There is no question in my mind that the actions today at Virginia Tech were the actions of a madman. In many ways your average preschool class is far more wary of strangers than the average college student. We spend all our time and effort pressing kids to ignore differences and embrace diversity. This attitude has made is an anti-social act to declare someone unbalanced or just plain nuts. We have conditioned an entire generation to the Sesame Street philosophy that everyone is "okay". Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

Our society's insulation of this generation of children from the dangerous, the stupid and the outright deadly has made them believe that they are made of titanium and cannot be destroyed. Your average teenager already has the idea that they are invincible, but our overprotective culture has fostered the idea that there is always someone else to blame-some corporation, some political party, some faceless group. But most serious crimes are perpetrated by individuals. It's much easier for an individual nut to cause serious harm than a group, because like your average rodent, they are harder to catch individually. That's why suicide bombers are so deadly. And so rightly feared.

But when it comes back to how we have raised kids dually to think that their every whim is to be fulfilled and that nobody can harm them, we set up a situation where the common sense ideas of personal security and personal responsibility become secondary to personal wants over needs. I am not in any way saying that these victims deserved this fate because no innocent person deserves to die like this. When I have students who have never seen the towers fall from 9/11 or who have no concept that doors are locked and curfews imposed for their own safety, then we have a problem.

There is no cocoon more complacent than a college campus. People leave doors unlocked to sneak in and out playing the eternal games of boy meets girl. People loan books, keys, laptops, apartments and cars to those that they barely know. Parties are thrown where even the host has no idea who most of the people attending are, or where they came from. This makes for good film footage on MTV Spring Break, but unless we start expecting our young people to use basic common sense on a daily basis, we are going to end up with a generation that runs cars into walls expecting insurance companies and lawyers to run to the rescue. Our nation was founded on the ideal of personal responsibility. When pioneers moved west they lived on their own, miles away from others. To fail was to die.

Today, failure is seen as a process, often one to be encouraged. And while I don't think failure should be met with death, sometimes in the real world, that is what happens. When you fail to alert an administrator or a boss that someone is acting odd or when you allow someone to enter without knowing who they are, or when you fail to use the instincts with which we are all blessed and allow bad things to happen through absentminded neglect, you are setting into motion situations that don't need to occur. There is no doubt that this is a tragedy. And it's one that people will talk about for awhile. That's good, but unless everyone is willing to take the steps necessary to make sure our kids are taking responsibility for their own safety, then it will someday happen again.


Dell said...

We might not agree 100% of the time, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn it was in the 98% range.

You write fearlessly and to the point. I find that incredibly refreshing. I try to write the same way.

Your comments on the VT tragedy are spot on, as usual. Everybody and his brother will be blamed, politicians will crow, gun control advocates will scream, and very little, if anything, constructive will be done. You've raised some of the very REAL issues...They are the ones that are too difficult to face.

As for it happening again? It wouldn't surprise me if it happened again NEXT WEEK.
The KellerKowboy

Ellen K said...

The very thought terrifies me. I warn my own kids to duck first and ask questions later, but since they are all good kids, instead they will try to be heroes. My daughter has already shown that tendency and I have little doubt about my sons. There was a rumor at my school that someone was bringing a gun on Friday. It turned out to be just a rumor placed by a freshman that wanted to skip school, but the scary thing is, it could have been real.