Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Shootings

No fancy opening paragraph here; no clever word usage or tricky introduction.

I think more than anything I just need to use this vehicle, a blog, to vent. Everyone else has, via Facebook or Twitter or comment threads under news stories. To me, 99 percent of it is crap: emotional reactions to a horrific event. It's understandable; we're humans. Maybe 99 percent of what I'm about to say is crap, too.

I see this school shooting in Connecticut from two angles:

Firstly, it pisses me off that only after some terrible event like this, do people get outraged. Recently, in Chicago -- one city in America -- they passed 400 gun-related deaths in 2012. One city. One year. Where is the outrage here? It struck me as so ironic that the President of the United States -- a Chicago native -- barely mentioned the epidemic of hateful violence that has his home town completely terrorized. And I would guess that almost all of those deaths in Chicago were caused by criminals with illegally-obtained weapons. So where is the outrage? Here is the part that really irks me: Only when terrible things like this happen to white people, or white children especially, in middle-class America, does it make the really big headlines. Nobody really cares if black kids in the inner city are being slaughtered. It might make the local news, but the next night there are other murders to take the place in the news cycle. Nobody really cares, nobody remembers.

For the next several weeks the media will be lamenting what happened in Connecticut, and people will hold vigils, and pundits from both sides will raise and then deflect the issue of gun control. Finally, the public sentiment will die down, and folks will move on. Not in Newtown, mind you, but across America. The fact is, something like this will probably never happen in Newtown again. Yet in Chicago, and other cities across America, the violence will continue, day after day. Where will the outrage be then? It will be absent. Who cares about black kids or inner city crime? Some give it lip service, but nobody really cares. It's the kind of hypocrisy that really pisses me off.

Secondly, I don't have a problem with banning assault weapons. Americans have the right, whether one likes it or not, to possess firearms. It's not an option. But one doesn't need an assault weapon, even to protect one's home and family. Ban them, I don't care. Do it. Quit giving it lip service. But realize that doing so will not stop people from killing each other. People kill other people because of what is in their hearts. People have always been crazy; and evil has always existed. But there is something that used to exist strongly in our culture, and doesn't really exist there any more: God. God has been pushed aside, sent to the sidelines to observe, and taken out of mainstream America. When the Founders set this country up, they knew that the country needed religion in order to restrain themselves, because so much freedom would exist. We have so many gun-related deaths because we're a free society, and it's easy to abuse that freedom. There must be some kind of restraint.

I have taught sociology before, and one of the things I try to tell students is that aside from one's personal beliefs, generally speaking, nations need religion in order to exist, long-term. It gives the people a common bond, a common set of morals to live by, and common consequences to avoid -- even if only perceived. And the more free a nation is, the more it needs religion. More freedom requires more personal restraint. The problem in this country, I tell them, isn't the different religions that exist. It's that the more different religions there are, the less we are -- as a group -- bonded by common beliefs. Diversity can be a strength, but in some ways it can be a liability: It is better for the long-term stability of a country if everyone is on the same page. What is even worse today is the fact that so many people are choosing "none of the above." You can still be a good person without religion of course, but long-term, for the group, it really helps to have these common traits. Personally, I believe that God, and more specifically Jesus, is the way. I cannot tell my students that (unfortunately), and I would not attempt it. It's just my personal belief.

Honestly, we take God out of society, out of the public view, out of schools, and -- this is ironic -- out of churches, and we wonder why our country is going to hell?

If we really want to stop this trend of mass shootings and gun-related deaths, and violence in general, then we must accept the fact that contrary to what the culture is telling us, we really do need to look to higher powers for help here. We must accept that we're not as smart as we thought we were, and maybe, just maybe, we don't always know what is in our best interests. Maybe science isn't everything. Maybe we should have a more humble attitude. Maybe we should ask God for help.

In fact, the best place to start is "me." As a song lyric says, "the problem with the world is me." It's true when you think about it. If we all stopped blaming circumstances, blaming other people, blaming government, blaming guns -- all of that stuff -- and examined ourselves and what was in our hearts, we would take a very real and significant step in changing the world. Guns, mental health, society, culture, school security, video games, violence in films or music -- pick your poison. These are all problems worth addressing. But the real solution is something much more basic and real. As a nation, we must turn back to God. I absolutely guarantee he will be there waiting for us.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fall Reflections: A's and B's

As we come close to the Christmas season, I thought it might be a good time to update the ol' blog, since neither of my Fall classes has required blog entries. I have taken two very good classes, one of them exceptionally good, and I'm about to finish that second one in a couple of weeks.

A debate has resurfaced during this latest class, which I don't know the name of right now, but trust me, it's been good (actually, not being too specific gives me some leeway here). The debate is over how to best train teachers to adapt to using modern technology in the classroom right now. A couple of people in my class have insisted that we need to train teachers to use Google Docs, or Glogster, or other current popular web tools.

My opinion is that we need to help teachers learn how to accept technology, love technology, and find web tools on their own. After all, the web tools of today could be gone tomorrow; or swallowed up by some mega-company.

That may seem a little paranoid, but about a year ago I fell in love with Fridge (, a site that provided easy setups of private social networks. It made sense to me, with parents rightly concerned about allowing kids to log on to Facebook or Twitter during school hours, to set up a private network with all of the bells and whistles that was isolated from the noise and disruption that is Facebook. Students could collaborate, teachers could keep track, students could connect and chat without the teacher being able to pry, friends could be made, assignments could be completed -- everything a social networking tool should be to a classroom.

But soon after I had signed up, got familiar and started telling others about Fridge, the company got bought out by Google. Now Fridge is being "folded into" Google+. Well, I like Google+, but I hesitate to use that in the classroom for the same reasons I would hesitate to use Facebook or Twitter: There's just too many jerks out there.

Hunting and trying out web tools is a time-consuming and difficult job; and that's why tech gurus that do this for us and share the good ones are so valuable. But a good one for me might not be a good one for you. A good one for Student A might not work for Student B. Realizing halfway through a lesson that one of your students needs a certain learning experience requires teachers that know what they need and know how to find it.

I guess I'm splitting hairs to some extent. We need teachers that want to learn; and want to find new tools and new ways to use the old tools. As long as teachers are eager, and curious, and engaged, we'll be OK. I just want us to avoid spending a lot of time learning about Tool A when it could disappear tomorrow, and Tool B might be better anyway.