I want to begin this post by extending condolences to all the families affected by the incidents I am writing about.
In the wake of the incidents in Newtown, Connecticut and the mall in Clackamas, Oregon last week, there are many pundits calling for stronger gun laws. The fact is, the laws already in place were what failed us. More laws would not have stopped either of these incidents from happening, and in fact could have made matters worse.
America has a bigger problem. A problem that has developed for the last century, and is now reaching a predictable conclusion. It is a problem not with weapons, but with society.
Our society is breaking down. The moral compass that we are all equipped with no longer points to right and wrong. Yet the political élite from both political parties are corrupt enough to not recognize that to fix it is not another gun control law, but a series of reforms across several areas.
Through the Department of Education, and laws like “No Child Left Behind” schools are being pressured to do well in aptitude tests. To meet these numbers, many of the “life skills” that were once taught in the classroom have been taken out to make a bigger push for math and other “practical” skills.
But that is even failing America. I have lost track of the times I’ve gone someplace and a cashier had to depend on the computer to tell them how much change to give back, and then can’t even count back the change – just pushes a wad of bills and coins to you, with a receipt buried in the mess. If the person were to ever be stranded with no computer, or other electronic calculating device, they would be lost. Even today, some 23 years after graduating high school, I can do most basic math either in my head or on paper.
Likewise, the “golden rule” was well taught during those early years of my education. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” was taught to me not only in public school, but also reinforced in Sunday School. The irony is, while it has Christian and Jewish ties, it actually exists in most religions and in ancient history.
Speaking of History, we were actually taught the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and their meanings in historical and modern context. Now, the history has been rewritten to the point that entire events are no longer in textbooks. Can a graduate of the class of 2012 tell me what is the historical significance of Brown vs. Board of Education or the Federalist Papers are (without resorting to looking them up online)?
Even classic writings are shunned for more “modern” stories.
It is time for the education system to return to “traditional” teachings of “real” (not revisionist) history, and other life skills. Students are not automatons that will spend their lives taking tests – and their education should not treat them like that.
Prior to the 1950’s most states (and some larger cities) ran hospitals for the care of those with disorders that made them a threat to society. After drugs were available that could effectively treat patients and a number of lawsuits about the abuse of patients, most hospitals were completely shut down by the 1980’s.
This closure left families no choice but to deal with a family member that could become enraged if they stop taking the drugs. Without being charged with and/or convicted of a crime, there is no institution for them to receive in-patient treated at.
As a result, many of these people who before would have been placed in an institution end up homeless, in prison for violent crime, or worse, dead. Prisons are suffering from massive overpopulation, resulting in some of these violent offenders being put back on the streets only to commit more crimes.
It is a known fact that many of the people involved with mass killings in the last 20 years had a known history of mental illness, and were taking a drug based treatment.
Government should invest in mental health treatment programs, making institutionalization of problematic family members more affordable to those who need it the most. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration should re-evaluate many of the drugs being used in treatments to find if some of these incidents are a side effect of the drugs use or discontinuation of use.
The entertainment industry shares the burden. Between the release of ultra-violent movies, and the over-sexification on television, there are no movies and or television shows that really tell a story around morals.
In my school years, we had shows like “The Cosby Show”, “M*A*S*H”, and “Home Improvement” that while entertaining, also had a moral to each episode. Those shows are long gone, replaced with shows like “$#*! My Dad Says” and “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23”, that seem to shun morals for sake of being funny (and don’t get me started on the abuse of questionable language).
At the same time, the video game producers continue to crank out “first-person” games that give the player the feeling of being an invincible super killer, without any representation of reality. This results in young adults believing they are invincible.
It is long past time for those who create and market their products to re-think the strategy. Programs, movies and games involving violence (even simulated) should only be marketed during mature programming times (typically after 10pm Eastern/Pacific, 9pm Central times) and not to minors during the day and primetime.
At the same time, the news media needs to begin their own reforms, telling the truth, and not flooding our lives with the same stories over and over (look at how much the media is continuing to cover the Newtown story, while much bigger stories like “Benghazi” and “Fast and Furious” get no coverage).
Combining these factors with the fact that most parents have to work to make ends meet, means that a typical school student can spend many hours a night with nobody to discuss right from wrong.
That brings me to the last problem that needs addressing:
When I was a kid, I was fortunate, my father worked a job, while mom was able to stay home and raise us kids. Being a middle class family, my sister and I didn’t get everything we always asked for. When we wanted a dog, it was my sister and I that bought the dog from a pet store with money from our savings accounts. When I wanted my first computer, it was money from my paper route that bought it. When dinner time came, we all set at the same dinner table and discussed the day – we were truly a family.
I couldn’t hide from my parents for days on end, playing games or other activities without them noticing. Likewise, if I wanted a game or other item, it was with my money (which I had to earn) and not theirs – likewise, mom and dad had final approval to the game I wanted.
Parents have become so disconnected from their child’s upbringing, with little family social activities. The parents also seem set to spend whatever it takes to keep the kids happy, despite the repercussions. This could be letting them go to movies with questionable content, or violent video games.
We knew who the neighbors were, and they knew us. Even when we were outside the house we had to always be on our best behavior, because we knew that our parents would find out from somebody. Now, you’re lucky if you know your neighbor’s name, let alone even see them.
A parent needs to make time to spend it with their children. There are things that an adult can teach their child that will never be taught in school.
Society has taken a wrong turn, it is time for us to turn back and put us on the right track again. There is no better time than the present, with these events in recent memory to discuss them, instead of regulating what is not the real problem.