Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why another massacre and why primary school children?


We struggle in this world today to come to terms with many things that each of us can see is wrong. We may all have similar concerns or widely differing concerns.  Whether it is a moral issue, an issue that is more tangible, lack of proper education, fast food versus home cooking, parenting issues or behaviour issues in society with both peers or the youth of the day, we worry the issue and try to understand it.
The question of youth violence and the massacres that have taken place in the world, not just the USA, wrenches at the gut of society. Intelligent kids, overly sensitive and bullied, take a turn down the road of darkness and despair. They have access to firearms in the USA much more readily than in many other countries, but that is not the problem. The problem is the mentality of the person wielding the firearm.

I spent 7 years in the nineties in Israel. I spent a year on Kibbutz in 1986 in Israel. My boyfriend at the time, had taken part in the Lebonon war. Many of his unit were killed in an ambush. He lost friends who had been to school with him. He was in a paratroop unit. If anything his combat experiences made him hate war and killing more. I saw that dislike of killing in the army haverim I had the honour of teaching English to down in Sderot. They were people who had spent up to 25 years in the IDF.
You get on a bus in Israel and you share it with army soldiers all armed. But for these kids and they are kids mostly, around the same age as Adam Lanza and many younger, a gun is not an instrument to wield in a mad rage against a person or group of people who have hurt or injured them and their family. It is a tool to be wielded in defence of their country, the citizens of their nation who they serve and protect, often with their lives. Every high school class that graduates in Israel, those kids know that one day, they may be standing in front of the open grave of one of them within a couple of years and saying Kaddish (Jewish prayer for the dead). They make jokes about it. The humour is often very dark and biting in Israel, but it is often how people survive emotionally and psychologically. If you do not laugh, you cry and rather than cry all the time, you make jokes about things that stress you and make you want to cry. Sounds crazy and maybe it is, but you know something it is far healthier to laugh a bit now and then, than to cry non stop.
The Israeli army psychologists are pretty good. They do not allow anyone with the potential for mass murder to serve in sensitive positions. The concept of arms and what weapons are is different.
By the same token, I do not see much difference between the Adam Lanza's, Derek Klebold's and Eric Harris's of this world and many of those people wielding guns and firing into the air in Aza and Syria. All of them take up arms without thinking. They are driven purely by instincts that are aggressive and irrational. Instead of thinking their way through to the future, they prefer to fight it out to the finish of the world and themselves. It is a nihilist approach to problem solving. Very scary. I prefer personally to talk things out. Most of us do. Some of us can't.

I read this article and found it interesting. Very interesting. Interesting because I think personally there is a level of detachment there between the son she is having problems with. There is something about his personality that she is not dealing with. He feels rejected or on the outer from her.  He is not being challenged and he is seen as defective or wrong and that is what is frightening for a child.

In a way you have to wonder how long her rejection of him as a person has been going on and how this has affected him. Highly sensitive individuals do not deal well with subtle rejections. You can either find out what happened between this kid and his mother very early on in life and I am talking about reassurance, affection and actually parenting skills and his connections with his siblings and how the parent's rejection of him has somehow affected their reactions to him.
I have seen this sort of complex but highly subtle rejection of a family member in a family with divorced parents and four kids. One kid was picked out as the 'problem family member' and all this stuff was loaded onto the boy who was not present because he was living with the father who was 'in denial that there was something wrong with the kid'. What struck me as strange was that the mother sat with the three other siblings and ripped this kids apart with friends and there was not one positive word said in this boy's defence. It was scary. I ended up feeling like I wanted to meet this kid and ask him to write out for me ten positive things about himself to give his side of the story and to start a healing process.
One thing you have to realise as a parent, if you cannot stick up for and defend your child, don't expect others to do so. You can be firm, but fair. You can set boundaries, but your child must know those boundaries are because you love him or her. They are not to restrict him or to hurt him unnecessarily. You can lock him or her away in a room, but you will lose your child. You will never really know what makes that child tick. He or she will become unknown entities. For a child, you as the parent are their sun - their life giver and source of goodness. Only later for the religious of us, do they learn it is G-D and we are the instrument of G-D in their lives.
In 18 years of teaching, I learnt a few things and one of the most important lessons I learnt in the classroom was that students respond to positivity almost without fail. There are the odd one or two that take more time than others, but if you treat them with positiveness, a caring attitude and enjoy teaching them they will eventually respect and respond accordingly. Sometimes that positivity can be blighted by the odd person or two who is determined to try and destroy a certain teacher's calm or lesson but that is usually a cry for help. Like the person who walks into a room full of people listening to a speaker and coughs loudly or makes comments about the talk that are offensive to others to draw attention to him or herself or the prima donna who always has to make an entrance late to a function because there is the need in that person to be 'noticed'. Some people are slightly narcissistic, and yes, we know they are and tolerate it because they have other positive aspects to their nature and they can be fun at times to be with, but others can be toxic to be around.
I often wonder at the brazenness of a person who can walk in late to a function and make a loud entrance or the person who can wear a dress to a wedding that over shadows the bridal gown. Those people have no boundaries that allow others to take centre stage, apart from themselves. They are total egotists.
Now what happens with a child like Adam Lanza? Had his personality become so negated by the needs of those around him, that he could only reassert himself through such an act of sheer terrified murder, not self defense, maybe in a some macabre way it was to his way of thinking.
Why did he chose that primary school? Why the primary school if his mother did not work there? Did he go there and something happen in that Primary school that had some bearing on his mental state at this time in his life? G-D only knows and we have to pray for kids like Adam Lanza as much as we must for the 27 other murder victims that included his own mother.
Simply horrific that those children, those little babies were gunned down in cold blood and their families are dealing with something that no family, no parent and no sibling should have to deal with. You imagine explaining to older and younger siblings what has happened. I simply cannot.

 I simply cry for you America. Something is seriously wrong in your education system. Something is seriously wrong with the way highly sensitive and intelligent kids are treated in the system, not just in America but world wide. They are being labelled as developmentally delayed and given other tags. What if they are not? What if our education system is becoming so out moded and so dangerously narrow, that many worthwhile and highly intelligent kids fall through the cracks as much as those who are different and do have recognisable syndromes. The latter should also not be treated disrespectfully and should also be able to get an education that is supportive and relevant to their needs.
We should not drug kids to control them. I have had this argument many times with people who argued with me that Ritalin is necessary for kids to be able to study properly. I am against drugs and feel we should be taking a whole health approach with kids and that means regular routine, good diet, enough sleep and enough exercise as well as learning. You need to look at how lessons can be modified for kids who learn differently. Modification does not always mean easier. Modification means looking at the core outcomes and asking yourself, what do you want the students to learn and how can this be achieved in several ways apart from the conventional. How do you motivate a group of students? You also need to know who they are and what they like? What are their pastimes and recreational activities and build learning into those pastimes and activities. Try and broaden their interest base and develop curiosity and a thirst for knowledge in many other disciplines. That is easier in History and English than say Maths, says me who dislikes maths, but if you put maths and gematria together I enjoy it. I do like problem solving.
We need to do something about the Adam Lanza's of the world and there is no lazy way out or no cheap way to do it. Education needs to be a priority and education needs more finance and more work on dealing with the kids who have what others perceive as 'problems'. There is no easy or safe answer. It could have been my kid or your kid on either end of the spectrum. We are all parents and we need to be aware and caring. We need to leave our egos behind and look at the child before us. More money on child care. More attention to the developing kids and their health. Their mental health and that may mean only 16 kids in a kinderclass and not 20 or 25. Education is crucial for us all.

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