Friday, February 22, 2008

Can We Stop School Shootings?

By Michael N. Nagler
(672 words)

In terms of human suffering, killings in schools is one of the most anguishing forms of contemporary violence. So far, there has been virtually no discussion of the underlying causes of these suicidal outbursts. Virtually all discussion, be it in the media, in academic settings or private conversations, begins and end with the particulars of each individual case: was the killer a loner? Did he just break up with his girlfriend? Were they bullied? And recently, in one op-ed online about the most recent shooting at NIU, were the school buildings run-down and depressing?

No doubt all these things are true; but as a Greek philosopher once said, the first step in the ignorance of any subject is to fail to see the principles for the particulars.

Even if we were to ask ourselves why this tragic phenomenon has hit schools in general it would not quite get us to the underlying reason. The underlying reason is, we have allowed ourselves to drift into a culture of violence. School violence is a symptom; so is gang violence; so are domestic violence, workplace violence, and, yes, “shock and awe” violence – our policy for devastating foreign countries. All of these without exception arise from and feed back into a violent culture, and it is only by addressing that culture — a challenging but doable job — that we will reduce and some day eliminate avoidable and ‘meaningless’ violence from our lives...

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Michael Nagler is the author of The Search for a Nonviolent Future. His UC, Berkeley course on nonviolence can be reached through He recently received the Jamnalal Bajaj International Award for Promoting Gandhian Values Outside India.

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