July 30, 2014

Dec 21, 201201:30 PMEducation Matters

What Can We Do To Lessen Our Kids’ Exposure to Violence?

Dec 21, 2012 - 01:30 PM

In just one week, the Dec. 14 deaths of 20 innocent children and seven others in Newtown, Conn., have moved a nation to start talking seriously about the root causes of the violence.

From coffee shops to school bus stops to listservs, people have been debating where to place the blame: If only we had stronger gun control laws, this horrific crime wouldn’t happened, some say. If only our teachers were armed, those kids’ lives could have been saved, others argue. We wonder whether turning our local schools into fortresses would keep our kids from harm.  

There are those who place the blame on the lack of services available for the mentally ill. Others find fault with the violent video games so popular with our kids.

Any number of causes may have played a role in this tragedy and it’s possible that positive change will come from President Barack Obama’s pledge this week to take action so that such a massacre can’t occur again.

But maybe it’s time for all of us to consider a culture change in our own minds, especially toward the violence in the media that’s designed to entertain us and our children.

Here we are horrified by the violent deaths of school children. Yet many of us took our own kids to see The Hunger Games, the hotly anticipated movie based on the immensely popular trilogy by Suzanne Collins whose main plot revolves around children killing other children.

Kids from elementary school to high school couldn’t get enough of those books. Who didn’t have at least one girl dressed as heroine Katniss Everdeen show up at their front door on Halloween?

Though the books were pegged for young adults, that didn’t deter younger kids from reading them.

My husband and I despise guns and don’t understand why anyone would want keep one at home, especially if kids live there. Yet we consider it a fun family outing to take our two daughters, ages 12 and 15, to see action movies like the latest James Bond film and the Mission Impossible series—whose body counts should leave us numb. And while I may cringe as I suddenly see the violence unfolding on the screen through the eyes of an adolescent, I don’t make everyone get up and leave the theater.

It takes a horrific act like the Newtown shootings to pierce us with the understanding that we live in a violent culture and it’s time to change.

Even kids are feeling a need to do something.  Take a look at this online petition addressed to Congress and President Barack Obama and created by 10-year-old Wally Osborne of Silver Spring:

“I would like your support in getting children to stop playing shooting games, or watching violent videos. I would like you to tell the nation that gun games aren't good for us. I have played gun games, and known that people had been shot before, but these never connected in my mind. But the recent massacre in Connecticut has shown me how serious guns can be. I would like your support to show Americans, especially kids, how serious guns are, and that guns aren't a laughing matter.”

In an email to the listserv for Woodlin Elementary School, mom Sarah Osborne said that starting the petition was Wally’s reaction to the Newtown shootings. “It was completely Wally’s reaction and his idea,” she wrote, asking that people sign and circulate the online petition. 

So far, 134 people have signed the petition on change.org.

“I hope Congress & the White House will take a page from his book and act. This is Wally's action—where is yours?” Osborne wrote.

Indeed.

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About This Blog

Education Matters will discuss the news and issues affecting both public and private schools in Montgomery County. We want to talk about what’s happening inside—and outside—the classroom, who’s making the grade and who isn’t.

Julie Rasicot is a former newspaper reporter and managing editor who’s been writing about education for 25 years. She’s a veteran PTA and classroom volunteer who’s the mother of two girls—an eighth-grader and a fifth-grader—attending MCPS schools. None of that seems to matter, though, when she’s struggling to help her kids with their math homework.

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