Excerpt

Introduction

The Gender Police (page 2)

In many of the towns and cities where school shootings took place, everyone attended the same school. For those who were tormented during the school day, extracurricular activities were just extensions of the same environment. Many of these children seemed to have no way out. They felt beleaguered by other youth in their school, as well as by some school faculty who spoke derisively to them or who even joined in the bullying.

Ideally students shouldn’t need to find alternative spaces to feel safe and accepted. Schools are responsible for helping students become self-reflective, self-actualized, compassionate, and civic-minded people. Instead, teachers often become resented authority figures, while students become passive and docile, or rebellious and then accused of “acting out.”

The obsession with gender, status, obedience, and competition that occupies our students undermines their relationships with themselves and with others, as well as their ability to learn and thrive. In many of our schools, precious opportunities for creating community and developing critical thinking are lost; instead, perhaps more than ever before, cutthroat competition, cruelty, isolation, and anxiety prevail.

Over the last thirty years, school shootings have gone from a rare occurrence to a frequent tragedy. From 1969 to 1978, there were 16 school shootings in the United States. (Interestingly, 3 of them were committed by state police against student protesters.) From 1979 to 1988, there were 29 school shootings, almost double those in the previous decade. Between 1989 and 1998, school shootings just about doubled again, to 52; and from 1999 to 2008 they increased again, as 63 new shootings took place. Shootings continue to increase in number; there were 22 in 2009 alone.

By my count, there have been 166 shootings in schools in the last three decades (182 in the last forty years). Yet even as they become more common, with more than 500 students and 150 parents, school faculty, and other adults killed or wounded, these cases are persistently viewed as “aberrations.” Each new incident provokes surprise and shock.

Many of these mass shootings or rampages took place in predominantly white, middle-class or upper-class suburbs or small towns and have been treated by other scholars and critics as an isolated and unique phenomenon, sharing nothing with gang-related or single-targeted shootings or other forms of school violence.
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updated: 4 years ago