Work to do

By Khea Pollard

There is so much tragedy in the world today. In my lifetime, I don’t recall the future ever appearing this dismal. If things were always this way, I wasn’t conscious of it. Now more than ever, news headlines alert us of one tragedy after another, every morning, noon and night. We can’t take a vacation from evil.

I don’t own a television by choice. According to my budget, television ownership is fairly low on my list of priorities. These days it’s easy to catch up on television shows and news via the internet when I have the time. Our news outlets are utterly depressing. No matter how many times you change the channel, you will inevitably be buried in grief and loss. Because of my television deficiency, I am shielded from constant devastation. I know I sleep better when I don’t watch the nightly news. Still, I can always find depressing stories in the newspaper. Reading exposes me to them, but for that illness, the cure is to put the newspaper down and focus on something else.

Today there are teenagers shooting other children and teachers in school. It’s sickening how commonplace this has become. Sometimes the perpetrators are even younger. Kids are abandoning Pokémon cards for guns at an alarming rate. The shooter at Sparks Middle School in Nevada was 12 years old. When I first heard of this shooting, my initial response was, ‘Not another one.’ Yes, I’ve become frighteningly accustomed to hearing tragic stories such as this. I flashed back through history and I remembered Columbine. The massacre at Columbine High School in 1999 is one of the first and most horrific examples of our deterioration as a people. Our society has failed somewhere, in some aspect, to have produced human beings capable of calculating an undertaking so atrocious. Where have we gone wrong?

I was just 6 years old when I heard about Columbine on the news. It has been over a decade and these incidents have multiplied substantially. Though not as bloody, they are just as tragic. Teachers are learning to fear the students they instruct. Instead of worrying about how to engage their students in the learning process, they must worry about protecting themselves in case of assault. We’re ramping up security for protection so much that our schools resemble prisons. French philosopher Michel Foucault was on to something profound when he wrote “Discipline and Punish.” If the state of our modern prison facilities resemble schools and vice versa, how might this contribute to student delinquency? If we aren’t careful, our solutions to the problem of violence in schools will only facilitate the cycle of violence. Caging students into locked down institutions like animals will produce the very animals we fear.

I’ve written this before and I’ll write it again. Each horrific story is connected; human beings are not are isolated islands and a society is only the sum of its parts. If one cog in the machine is faulty, there is much to be said about the machine in its entirety. Crime should be examined more holistically than it currently is. It is always easier to pinpoint an individual solely for their transgression without considering their background or the environment that bred them. Sentencing and conviction are simpler this way and we can collectively turn our backs to the transgressor and label them as defective. Imprisoning a human being in a 6×8 cell is not teaching them to value life, nor is it positively altering their mental state. Prison doesn’t reform people, people do.

But instinct tells us to increase our security, to tighten the reins and get a firm handle on an uncontrollable situation. We’re concerned about innocent children being murdered by their classmates, as we should be. Now is the time to introduce new modes of thought to confront New Age problems. This will not be easy. Still, we have to be prepared to abandon the familiarity of the social structures and systems we know today.

As students on campus, our connection to each other is especially strong. We are all here for a common goal: to educate ourselves, to graduate. I remain hopeful that our university will produce future leaders that will make positive changes to the world as we know it. Maybe the future is brighter than I can imagine.