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Who Is Really to Blame?

Who Is Really to Blame?

by Don Lobo Tiggre

While watching the blame-game go into high gear in the wake of the Littleton shootings this week, an interesting pattern emerged. As in any mud-flinging contest, if you want to find the real culprit in a confused environment of flying accusations, look for the one clean spot with no mud on it, and that will be the place from which most of the mud is coming—i.e. the people most interested in drawing the attention elsewhere. In this case, it’s the education establishment, including researchers, administrators, and policymakers.

Consider the people and things that are being blamed. Guns, of course, and video games top the list. The internet itself is being blamed, as well as entertainment and communications companies we could call "the media," and parents. Parents are responsible for their children, of course, though no one can be 100 percent responsible for the free-will actions of other human beings. The media too should rightly be blamed, but not for their responsiveness to customers that like violent content; they should be blamed for their willful cooperation with and participation in victim disarmament. As for guns and games, well, other authors have already addressed the myopic foolishness of blaming inanimate objects for the horrors produced by twisted minds.

A CNN Interactive Poll (4/22/99) asking, "Who or what is most responsible for school violence?" produced the following results:


Survey: Who is to blame for school violence?



Number of Votes

Kids 13 1,592
Parents 30 3,775
Schools 2 288
The Media 18 2,292
Access to Guns 15 1,867
All of the Above 17 2,122
None of the Above 4 509
Total 100 (rounding) 12,445

Now who does that leave out?

Where’s the category for "politicians"? How about "education researchers"? Or "educrats"?

As mentioned above, parents are rightly blamed, and it’s interesting that they received the largest number of votes by a wide margin. But let’s face it: most parents ship their kids off to school and then go to work, perhaps interacting some with their children in the evenings and weekends. This isn’t necessarily a problem, if the parents are proactive enough to retain primacy as moral authorities and exemplars for their children, but increasingly, this is not the case. Kids are spending more and more time at school, and parents are abdicating more and more of their roles as parents to the alleged experts at the schools—including, most significantly, the teaching of values. This may indeed make parents as responsible as the CNN poll suggests, but it’s not necessarily because of their parenting as such; their great fault is in abdicating their most important responsibility to others.

So, what about America’s new oracles? Do we hold teachers accountable for their teachings? Apparently not, according to CNN’s poll, which showed that only 2 percent of the respondents really focused on the schools as being most to blame. Now that’s quite remarkable. The institutions where school children spend most of their days, and those who run them, are given the least blame. To an extent, this may not be entirely unjustified, as teachers and even principals are caught like ping-pong balls in bureaucratic table-tennis education policy games. Most of them just want to teach. However, the research coming from education departments at universities around the country, the directives from the U.S. Department of Education and Congress, and the multiplicity of regulations and mandates from state offices of education drive them hither and yon in pursuit of the latest education fix. The average result of all the directives, mandates, and regulations has been an increasingly socialist socialization (not to say "brainwashing") that minimizes the importance of the individual, and hence individual responsibility.

Moral absolutes, of course, can’t be taught at all, because no one has—or can—invent "average American morals" that everyone agrees upon.

It would be bad enough if parents were abdicating their responsibilities to teach right and wrong to others who actually did so, but the real tragedy is that they are abdicating to a vacuum. No one is teaching the vast majority of today’s kids any serious sense of right and wrong. Well, the greens are; they have the National Education Association (NEA) helping them to push their "people are evil and the planet would be better off without them" agenda. That’s a morality of sorts, but if anything it’s one that might justify shooting sprees—after all, the rain of lead is helping to wash the tortured face of our poor planet free of the vile human infestation.

The One-Room Schoolhouse

This is the current trend in American education, but it hasn’t always been so. Consider the one-room schoolhouse of last century. Is it even imaginable that something like the Littleton shootings could have occurred in such an environment?


And there are reasons for this. The first and foremost would be that parents back then did not expect the school teacher to teach their children to become responsible, healthy, moral adults. That was their job, and the teacher was there to teach letters and numbers (which he or she did with a success rate that would put many modern schools to shame).

Another important reason is that the school was too small for any misunderstood outcasts to be neglected. The teacher would know much of the life history of each child, would know their parents, would understand their unique situations and challenges. Even if the teacher wasn’t particularly sympathetic, he or she would at least be knowledgeable about every single child under his or her care. There were probably mal-adjusted outcasts in most one-room schoolhouses, just as there have always been outcasts—how long ago did Hans Christian Andersen write "The Ugly Duckling"? But those unhappy souls would have a much better chance of getting the attention they needed back then than the misfits in today’s massive indoctrination centers.

To say that the increasing size of today’s huge urban high schools is a contributing factor to school violence may seem to be making the same mistake that people who blame inanimate objects (like guns) make. But who designs these giant, politically-correct reprogramming factories? There are people, individual policymakers, who have been pushing things in this direction. Who are they, and where can we write them letters of protest? It would be useful to find out and let them know that we will hold them accountable.

Also, these observations about the size and impersonality of most modern high schools are made in the context of the understanding that the decay in the moral fabric of society is worst in our public schools. In this context, the size of the schools can be viewed as an exacerbating factor, more than as a direct cause in itself. It is precisely because of the amoral context of modern education that the amassed anonymity of huge high schools is so dangerous. Who has time to notice or care if some neglected misfit is nearing the boiling point?

And it’s because of that amoral context that the boiling over of angry students is becoming increasingly dangerous.

Remember, it’s not that the one-room schoolhouse didn’t have its ugly ducklings. There have always been outcasts—it’s an inherent part of the human condition. And back then, it wouldn’t have been all that surprising to find a number of possum guns among the coats, books, frogs in boxes, and assorted other items stacked against the walls of the schoolhouse. So, the key variable is certainly not that kids have greater access to guns these days.

The Education of a Misfit

Heck, I was a misfit in just about every one of the more than 20 schools I went to, and I didn’t shoot anyone.

My parents moved around a lot when I was a kid, so I was always the new guy. Worse yet, speaking frankly, I was smarter than most of my classmates and they hated me for it (it didn’t help when the teacher would pretend I was a computer and ask me to answer the questions other kids missed). Even in the best private schools I went to, I was always the outsider, and loneliness was my predominant emotion. Anger would have been a close second. After some particularly egregious contact with members of "in" groups, or the bureaucrats who ran the show, my anger would often boil up.

If school administrators had developed "profiles" to target potential troublemakers as they are doing today, I would certainly have been singled out: I played Dungeons and Dragons, I got involved in misfit activities like medieval re-creation, I had few friends, and I was known to look down on "Jocks". I’ve never had any respect for authority (though I have always had a tactical sense of what I could get away with) and hated stupid and rights-violating school policies. I even experimented with different explosives and pyro techniques. I even—horrors!—knew how to shoot.

I also went to some huge public high schools with more than a thousand students in each grade, where I experienced anonymity and neglect first hand, but I never even considered violent—lethal—revenge. NEVER. What fantasies I had concerned leaving it all behind, and maybe coming back to show then how wrong they all were when I became rich and famous.

Some of the other misfits I knew would occasionally joke about burning the school down (there was that "Teacher Hit Me With A Ruler" song), but I never knew anyone, in any school, who I thought would actually carry out such fantasies of aggression. I may not be able to speak for all the misfits of my generation, but I encountered a good sampling of them and can tell you that we were not as murderous as today’s troublemakers seem to be.

So, what’s the difference? What has changed?

Answer: the stage had been set for tragedy by the impersonal, bureaucratic anonymization of public education, but the decay in morals had not yet released the brakes on children’s angry impulses. We misfits might even have had a better sense of right and wrong than the jocks and studs we despised and envied—we were sensitive souls.

And now that last protection is being torn down. In an environment where the highest moral percept is that it is wrong to be insensitive to the feelings of trees and kangaroo rats, is it really any surprise that kids are acting out the values (or lack thereof) they are being taught?

In this environment, does it make sense to:

1] Ban guns?
2] Ban trench coats?
3] Ban gang colors?
4] Mandate dress codes?
5] Strip kids of what few rights they have left?
6] Turn schools into mini-police states?
7] Ban violent video games?
8] Censor movies and books?
9] Censor the internet?
10] Sue gun makers and game companies?
11] Putting youthful-looking under cover cops in our schools?
12] Mandating metal detectors in all schools?
13] Do anything else besides address the real root causes of violence among schoolchildren?

Notice that I say "violence among school children." It’s not gun violence, or school violence, or violence by any other inanimate objects. It’s violence by people, young people Americans have entrusted to the care of self-appointed experts.

End the Education Monopoly

It’s time to tell the real culprits that we’re on to them!

It’s time for parents to take back their responsibility for the moral character of their children, and it’s time for their agents, the people in the education establishment, to be confronted with the fruits of their policies.

The pundits are right about one thing, this shooting should be a wakeup call. But it shouldn’t be a call for more of the same laws and policies that set the stage for such tragedies in the first place. It should be a call for all caring people to tell the public education establishment, bureaucrats, union honchos, and legislators alike that we’ve had enough of their incompetence. And we want out of their destructive monopoly!

If you’re a parent, the most powerful and direct action you can take is to simply unsubscribe your children from public schools. Get them out of those "disarmed victims waiting to be shot" concentration camps. There are many things that can be done, but this one act cannot be ignored or misinterpreted; it says "no confidence" louder than any number of letters and phone calls. If you are not a parent, you can forward this article to people who are. It doesn’t matter who you are, it only matters that you take action—not next week, not when you have time, not after the next mass murder: do it now!

Don L. Tiggre  is the founder of the Liberty Round Table , an activist organization that focuses on non-electoral political action, and co-editor of _Doing Freedom!_Magazine , which specializes in information and services for people who want to live freer now. His first novel, Y2K: The Millennium Bug, a 1999 Prometheus Award finalist, can be found at Being as much a rabble-rouser as a writer, DLT likes to remind people that freedom is a choice, it's something you do, not something you get from an election or any other kind of social sanction.

from The Laissez Faire City Times, Vol 3, No 17, April 26, 1999

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