August 21, 2007

From Dale Pontius:

Re: Behind school shootings, rejection and anger (Aug. 20): Back when Columbine happened, some people began looking at the whole issue of “young adult bullying” and its effect on the less popular students. It appeared that a necessary discussion was about to take place. But somewhere in the emerging process, the opinion started emerging that somehow the popular, the jocks, etc were the real victims, and the debate was diverted and shut down. The societal focus on bullying is still strictly in the lower grades.

When I was in school, I was one of those less popular students. I was also one of the best scholars in the school, and that status got me a “pass” from most of the young adult bullying. My son was not as good a student, and we moved him to a private (Catholic) high school primarily for a more benign environment. While I in no way condone school shootings or violence, through life experience I can understand and empathize with these people’s frustration and anger. As an adult, I also recognize that high school is simply the most socially savage environment most of us will go through in our lives. No college, university, or workplace would put up with the degrees of utter social (insert expletive word here) that occurs in high school. The other place socially worse than public schools is prison - isn’t it interesting that both feature mandatory attendance.

In getting my son out of the public schools I wasn’t isolating him from the real world, I was accelerating his entry into it. I realize this isn’t an option for all, and to be perfectly honest I can’t offer a solution. I will suggest that the trend away from “tracking” and the focus on less-capable students has probably aggravated the problem, by de-emphasizing the positive role model of the excellent students. (If you can’t win in the system, win by opposing the system.)


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