Violence reflects culture shift

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 2, 2006

When was the last time your pre-teen or your teenager seriously questioned your judgment regarding an issue which was absolutely vital to their world, but, which, in the grand scheme of things, you knew was another portal through which they must pass in their development?

The answer? – almost everyday in our current environment.

And this presents one of the root causes of the difficulties some youngsters, and by extension, some of our schools, are suffering often to the tragic detriment of the children, but more obviously to the declension of decorum and civility in those schools.

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We all shuddered in horror when we heard of the plot by some students in a Kansas high school who planned to “attack” the school and kill some students and some teachers because the plotters had been “picked on” or “rejected” by their peers.

The villains in their view were “the jocks” or the “beautiful and popular” students.

This same scenario was repeated in Washington State.

The egregious cabal of this caste of students seems to feel completely justified in making such plans and in carrying them out in emulation of the horrible tragedy at Columbine High School in Colorado a few years back.

In fact, they see the Columbine thugs as some kind of new cultural heroes.

The scene is reminiscent of many movies coming out of Hollywood today – the not-too-popular students become emboldened by video games glorifying violence and vengeance and seek their revenge in a “real” setting without considering the consequences.

Sadly, this is a part of our social shift from an agricultural/industrial world view to a technological world which can manipulate fantasy into a type of reality for these plotters.

After all, their worlds have been formed by television ever since it became the most convenient babysitter since having a real Nanny in the household.

Some parents cannot spend the time with their youngsters because they have to work, while others simply abdicate their responsibility in favor of their own selfish quests.

The outcome – we have an ever-growing group of disenchanted, alienated, intelligent cadre of students who find escape in video games which do not allow them to differentiate between the fantasy of the video and the reality of the world existing outside of their video worlds.

This is compounded by some school counselors who encourage their students to dismiss what parents are saying and doing at home because the parents are putting “limits” on them, the children.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Parents are putting “limits” on them!

How outrageous!

You mean, Papa, I can’t do what Jimmy’s allowed to do?

And it undermines the authority of the parents, as well as alienating the students from a society which is full of limits – along with the consequences for violating those limits.

The genesis of this phenomenon can be debated endlessly.

The growth of access to information, of economic stability and success, the ever-maddening advertising industry which begins to target our children at very young ages, and so on, all are ingredients to this socially lethal potion.

The point is this – parents today not only must contend with the onslaught of highly questionable values being presented to our children by television advertising, but some well-intended educators who facilitate alienation of

children from their parents merely by listening only to the students, while dismissing parental authority as yet another plot to “limit” the children.

Now, I know youngsters need to explore.

It is part of cognitive development.

But a vital part of that development is understanding “limits”, particularly at an early age today, because advertisers, along with Hollywood fantasy-makers, such as Steven Spielberg, present children a view of the world in which they have become victims of parental “limits”, as well as victims of the “cool” kids who seem to be able to ridicule them without penalty.

One of the more negative outcomes is that we have other children who do, in fact, understand and respect the “limits” their parents impose, who are now in fear of their lives when going to school.

The problem, as I view it, is not that the counselors are trying to invade and erode the authority of the parents, or that Steven Spielberg wants parents left out of children’s lives.

No, the problem it seems to me is that somewhere along the way from the agricultural/industrial age to the technological age we have forgotten that we must teach our youngsters that there are “limits” in life.

There are “Stop Signs” for the simple reason that we all live in a social construct which is supposed to allow each of us to achieve our highest, personal level without seeing those “limits” as personal inhibitors to that which we

want to do at the moment.

And if we dismiss “limits”, then even the Ten Commandments have no meaning.

– Dr. Arthur Ogden is the Campus Director for Alabama Southern’s Demopolis Campus and holds all his degrees in philosophy.

He can be reached at