Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Can the cycle be broken

This is the picture on the front page of FoxNews.Com from this morning. This is Cho Seung-Hui, a student from South Korea, apparently an English major. What was the motive? I guess authorities are still trying to figure it out.

It may be too soon for a post like this, but it's what I'm thinking right now, and I just have to get it out there. Unfortunately, this is not the first shooting to occur on a school campus. Back in November, Dr. Deb wrote about a Map of School Violence between 1995 and 2005. At the end of her post, she posed this question - "What can be done to minimize such violence?" Here was my comment:
Dr. A said...

This is a very emotional issue, and the really sad part is that no one wants to take ownership of the problem. Everyone blames everyone else for the problem whether is blaming school officials to "not keeping school safe" to blaming parents for "not bring up kids right" to the media to exposing kids to too much violence.

Until someone steps up and accepts even a little responsibility for the problem, the blame game will continue and more children will be harmed - or even killed.

November 03, 2006 1:09 PM
History is repeating itself again with the blame game. There are already early articles being written asking whether there were Too Few Warnings at Virginia Tech? The outrage is beginning to build against the university and university officials.
Student Maurice Hiller said he went to a 9 a.m. class two buildings away from the engineering building, and no warnings were coming over the outdoor public address system on campus at the time.

Everett Good, junior, said of the lack of warning: "I'm trying to figure that out. Someone's head is definitely going to roll over that."

"We were kept in the dark a lot about exactly what was going on," said Andrew Capers Thompson, a 22-year-old graduate student from Walhalla, S.C.
Of course, people are outraged by this situation. I'm outraged by what happened. But, I've seen this too many times. We are shocked by what happened, we mourn the victims, we blame whomever we need to blame for what happened, then we go back to our apathy until the next tragedy happens.

Well, I'm sick and tired of this useless cycle. Instead of outrage turning into apathy, let's turn outrage into action. And, I'm not talking about knee-jerk reactions like firing some university official somewhere or a more strict student visa process or permanent resident visa process - like what's being talked about now.

Um, uh, wait a minute. As I think about things now (a couple of hours after starting to write this post), I'm thinking about what realistically can happen? Would it mean a radical change in American culture? A culture that celebrates violence? A culture that makes celebrities out of people like Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, and Cho Seung-Hui. Here's the latest press on this killer from the Chicago Tribune:
The suspected gunman in the Virginia Tech shooting rampage, Cho Seung-Hui, was a troubled 23-year-old senior from South Korea who investigators believe left an invective-filled note in his dorm room, sources say.

The note included a rambling list of grievances, according to sources. They said Cho also died with the words "Ismail Ax" in red ink on one of his arms.

Cho had shown recent signs of violent, aberrant behavior, according to an investigative source, including setting a fire in a dorm room and allegedly stalking some women.

A note believed to have been written by Cho was found in his dorm room that railed against "rich kids," "debauchery" and "deceitful charlatans" on campus.
Unfortunately, this is a culture that shirks at the idea of accountability. A culture that believes that it's someone else's job to fix the problem. A country and culture that feels no personal investment to fix its own problems. Am I wrong here? Please tell me I'm wrong. Is there a realistic way to curb the violence on school/college campuses?


Anonymous said...

dr. A, i only have questions...and a lot of mixed, confusing but all strong emotions. no single answer. so yeah, i don't know.


Barbara said...

Hindsight is 20/20 and people often forget that. There is no way that the university could have known or prevented the masssacre that followed the shooting in the dorm.

Personal accountability is my soapbox so I'll stop there except to say that yes, I agree with you on that point. Regardless of one's circumstances or surroundings, people make the choice to act the way they do. We have too many "rising from the ashes" and "Rags to riches" cases in history to convince me otherwise. It's all a matter of choice and personal motivation. The only thing in life that any of us can control is our own mental attitude. The sooner people understand that, the better off this world will be.

So enough excuses.

sophizo said...

You may be interested in reading this document from 2002 by the Secret Service:

The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative:
Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States

What's sad is that in almost every case of school violence, at least one person knows about either the plan or that something is going to happen. The question should be why won't people take responsibility and report if something doesn't seem right before violence occurs? If a friend or relative is acting strange or talking about violence, why doesn't the person report it to someone....anyone??? We can't profile these people, so instead of passing blame around after the fact, we need to start attacking the problem before it even happens.

If you do look at the report, make sure to also look at Appendix A and notice the increase of school violence over the last decade. And this doesn't even list any of the attacks after 2001. Scary!

Dr. Deb said...

There were early warning signs herein with this student and more should have been done to address the brewing rage and actual violence this student expressed.

Very sad, indeed. But early action is key.

Anonymous said...

I have just learned of this tragedy, as our area was hit hard by the Nor'Easter, leaving us without power.

I could tell you there are steps being taken to protect the school age children, but can't say an awful lot about this. There are a lot of things underway, major changes, and they have been in the works before this tragedy.

One of the things that upsets me so much, is some of the parents attitudes when I restrict them from entering where our children are in classrooms. They will complain that I block them from going anywhere they want to in the building. I've told them, "I am here to protect these children, I don't know "who" you are, their safety comes first." Would you want me to back down?

I could never live with myself if I didn't do everything within my power to see that these children remain safe.

Anonymous said...

I taught an undergraduate student who was overly quiet and retiring in a clinical nursing course. I discovered that he lied about providing care to a patient, and had actually neglected him. So I called him into my office, at which time he admitted feeling depressed. I offered to walk him - AT THAT MOMENT - to the student health center where they had on the spot emergency mental health services. He refused. He was not actively suicidal or homicidal. I asked him if he would speak to his academic advisor, who happened to be a psych. nurse clinician. He agreed, and I contacted her with him present and made an appointment. He never went. I failed him in the clinical course, after having offered him tutoring and him subsequently telling me that he was switching majors voluntarily to engineering. Months later, he petitioned to have his grade altered to passing. I refused, and my chairperson overrode me and passed him. After I left that university (partially over that incident), the student's brother - his lawyer - contacted me by letter and threatened suit.

I telephoned him, got his assurance that the student was having the brother represent him, and proceeded to tell him about the depression, the refusal to take part in counseling, tutoring or to follow basic clinical instruction, and hence, to keep his patient from being endangered (not being his healthcare provider, my role as an instructor allowed me to share more than I could otherwise). Never heard from either of them again - but he had many red flags: passive, quiet, then rage and anger. What else can one do?

Anonymous said...

n=1 says it all.

Anonymous said...

If this gunman did not kill himself and let's say, was captured by police, I think people would feel different about blame. If Cho was going to stand trial for his crimes, I don't think so many people would be wondering who is to blame. Because he is dead, the vistims get no justice....so they must find someone else to pay. Looking at this problem as a whole...this IS a society that celebrates violence. Want proof? Look at video games, TV shows and things that are shown on the news on a daily basis. I know everyone can make their own chioces, but at some point there are problemed people who lose touch with reality and will snap. In Europe, they do not show violence on TV like they do here in America....ever notice that you rarely if ever hear of these things happening there? So Dr. A, the problem is with in all of the things you listed....behavior starts at home...parents, turn off the TV, don't allow games that glorify violence, and if your child seems withdrawn...GET THEM HELP. It's not always a phase.

Rositta said...

I have to agree with Anonymous, the amount of violence on tv is over the top, blame Hollywood. When my grandsons were growing up, they did so without tv unti the age of 10 and then heavily monitored by their parents. The parents spent time with the kids and not one of them (3) has any agressive behaviour. By the way, we have had 3 school shootings here in Canada with deaths the last one just a few months ago in Montreal and we have GUN CONTROL here...it's not guns that kill people, it's people that kill people...ciao

twilite said...

Pardon this pedantic comment: is this the result of freedom of speech and action which leads to apathy and no or little accountability...to each his own..."Am I my brother's keeper?"

Personally, I believe in censorship and discipline... without these there is little understanding on freedom.

Anonymous said...

I think even if the gunman was captured alive, people would still be looking for a reason. It is human nature to look for whys in the unexplainable and tragic. Had he lived people would be looking at his parents, teachers, habits, past disappointments, music or tv much as they probably will anyway in his death. With or without his death, people are going to be cutting apart his life looking for clues and answers...which really doesnt matter much to the families left behind to suffer their own personal loss.(does finding out he watched one too many violent thriller killer shows make a difference NOW?) Reasons dont justify evil behavior. Cho Seung-Hui made a choice to kill. Ulitmately he made the deadly decision and the blame is his alone. Muddy

Anonymous said...

I commented on the last post, before checking these comments. My comment had much to do with a situation such as n=1 states here.

I commend him, or her, for taking steps in that very moment to get that student help. We all need to pay close attention to what they write, what is said, how they look, all of it.

I see the problem as having more of a twist. It isn't about the officials not picking up on the warning signs ( in some cases), but it's starting to look like the issue is now, about the individual in question refusing to take the help offered them.