Yet another act of mass violence in one of America’s schools hit the headlines this morning. This time it’s not a shooting, but some 20 high school students stabbed with a knife. Allegedl by a sophomore. Children stabbing each other.
Acts of violence on such a large scale ought to wake us up to the fact that something is seriously wrong with the atmosphere of many of our educational institutions. But they don’t. Instead of facing up to the root problem, we’d rather put it down to an act of a single deranged individual. It’s so much easier to think these are random, unrelated acts.
Acts of violence on our campuses aren’t merely individual acts — this is a falsehood we like to tell ourselves. They represent a collective problem. A problem we — each of us – is a part of.
When a student goes berserk like this, it signals that they are without truly meaningful, close connections to their classmates. You don’t stab or shoot people you are deeply connected to emotionally, people you care about and love.
School violence is all about a failure of connection.
Attacking fellow pupils is but the last straw in a chain of events that have created a feeling of isolation and alienation in the one who finally loses it — a chain often going back years. The problem is, those who act on their impulses in this tragic way are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how alienated countless young people feel in their school environments.
The school classroom and playground are for many some of the loneliest places on earth. Kids are taunted relentless by other students, ridiculed, picked on, bullied and most of all isolated. And then we’re surprised when they hit back?
Feeling disconnected from others isn’t a rarity. It’s par for the course for millions of students across the planet. Every day, children everywhere are subjected to inhuman treatment. For some, it will push them over the edge.
The problem is in the atmosphere of many of our schools, which is a reflection of many of our homes. There’s a serious disconnect in terms of the level of closeness and feeling part of a family. That’s when things go wrong.
All of us long to feel a part of a family, and by extension the wider community. Instead, we have “in” groups that act superior, putting down and excluding others. Our schools are some of the cruelest venues.
Daily, acts of verbal and emotional violence are perpetrated on millions of young children who long only to be included, and to feel like they belong. It’s little wonder some react by lashing out.
Why the need to alienated others? Why the willingness to bully, taunt, isolate? It’s because these are the real feelings of many of our young people — feelings developed in their homes.
When students exclude someone, it’s a reflection of homes in which they themselves feel excluded. At a deep level, there’s a disconnect in the home, no matter that such families appear so “together” as model families.
The emphasis on curriculum, backed by correction, needs to change to an emphasis on connection. That’s what my book The Conscious Parent, soon to be featured on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, is all about.