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Josh Greenberger

 

 SCHOOL VIOLENCE

 

 Is our school system contributing to the rearing of kids as dysfunctional human beings with almost monster-like personality traits?

  

 

To say that school violence has increased over the last few decades would be a gross understatement. What has changed is not just the incidents of violence, but, most dramatically, their severity and brutality. Whereas a disgruntled student of, let's say, the '60s might have started a fist fight and, if he were really violent, used chains or brass knuckles, today's disgruntled student can take his discontentment to the extreme of the wanton killing of fellow students, teachers, and anyone who happens to be in proximity to ground-zero of the carnage.

 

Why? What has happened in the last few decades that would account for such a sharp decline in the behavior and moral fiber of our youth?

 

If you listen to some of the proposed "solutions," you get the impression that the problem is merely one of "kids falling through the cracks," and resolving the problem is as cut-and-dried as putting some rules into place, much as you would in a prison system: "Put metal detectors at the entrance to schools," "Punish more severely those who bring weapons to school," "Punish parents who don't keep guns locked up," "Have cops patrol school halls," and the "solutions" go on and on. But are these really solutions?

 

Back in the '50s and 60's, were any of these "solutions" in place? Absolutely not. Yet, the kind of extreme violence we see in schools today was virtually unheard of then.

 

What has changed?

 

Violence on TV and in the movies? Hardly likely. War movies were one of the hottest things in the fifties -- but students didn't generally come to school packing hand grenades and machine guns. Cowboys and Indians, and violent Westerns in general, were also extremely popular in the '50s and '60s -- but you didn't hear of students scalping each other.

 

Media influence, although probably a factor, just doesn't appear to account for the steep decline in student behavior and general moral decay.

 

What has changed is society's attitude toward the values this country was founded on.

 

Despite the fact the Thomas Jefferson called for "separation of Church and State," our founding fathers saw fit, and obviously not contradictory, to have every courtroom display the phrase "In God We Trust." All our money carries the same phrase. Why? Isn't this in direct contradiction to our founding fathers' principles? And the contradiction is so striking and obvious that it's difficult imagine that it never crossed the minds of those who inaugurated it.

 

And if it did cross their minds, what were they thinking?

 

 Perhaps they were thinking that the simple concept of God didn't have all that much to do with religion. What, you say? God has little to do with religion? How do you figure that?

 

Let's see if we can explain it this way. Does doing a few laps in a pool make you a good swimmer? It depends on who you ask. If you just learned to swim, your instructor will probably call you a good swimmer. If you ask someone who trains olympic athletes, unless you're really exceptional, he's more likely to call you a slow boat to nowhere.

 

The analogy is simple. The moral values of earlier generations were such that the simple belief in God did not make you a religious person. Religion usually involved a host of rules, rituals, customs and/or ceremonies. Without them, you couldn't really claim to have religion in your life; you were simply a believer in God.

 

Today, on the other hand, the values of society have declined so drastically that the very basic, fundamental concept of God is seen as religion. Is it?

 

The fact is many scientists, after delving into the complexities of our universe, have come to the realization that there must be a Creator. Does this make them religious people? Not at all. After discovering some mind-boggling phenomenon, scientists seldom sit around talking about Santa Claus or Bar Mitzvahs. But they have been known to indulge in reflections of a Creator. Apparently, religion is religion, "God" can be arrived at logically, quite independently from religious dogma.

 

Although a belief in God may be the first step in becoming a religious person, just as learning to swim may be the first step in becoming an olympic swimmer, that first step, in and of itself, does not make you a religious person or an olympic athlete.

 

And this is what, I'm convinced, our founding fathers were thinking. Bringing "In God We Trust" into courtrooms and inscribing the phrase on our currency in no way goes against the grain or gist of the principles our country was founded on, and certainly not against the constitution. If our government were to start telling us when we should or shouldn't eat meat or when we should or shouldn't make Bar Mitzvahs, that would be fusing "Church and State." But simply acknowledging that there must be a God, that's not religion by any standards. That's just as much of an intellectual outgrowth of the human thought process as acknowledging that if it's raining there must be clouds up above.

 

Now, what does all this have to do with school violence?

 

The problem with all the "solutions" of locking up guns, more cops, more security devices, more severe punishment, etc., is that they were not in place years ago, yet we had nowhere near the severity of violence then as we have today. And even if we were to implement many of these "solutions," there are only so many cops to go around, budgets will never allow every school to always have every security device, and, the bottom line is, you will never be able to watch every student every minute of every day.

 

But, wait, there is a device that's very cheap and can keep an eye on every student every minute of every day. It may not necessarily completely eliminate all violence, but it certainly can reduce its severity and incidence, as it has done very well in the past. This device was in virtually every public school in the fifties, yet it's been banned from schools in recent years. This "device" is "God."

 

Giving kids a conscience can, and has, and does in many communities, greatly reduce violent behavior. I can just hear it now: "But God is religion, and public schools are run by the State." Nonsense. God is not religion; after you believe in God, there's still a long way to go to religion. I know of no mainstream religion that would consider you a religious person if all you believed in was God.

 

We must put "God" back in our classrooms, and in grades is low as kindergarten. This is our only hope of reverting to previous, less violent times.

 

And for those who will still argue that God is religion, which of course it is not, and that it is "unconstitutional," I say this: It is unconstitutional to hold people against their will, but we do it to jurors regularly so they can render a just verdict. We hold kids in school against there will, in the interest of giving them an education. Martial law is also unconstitutional, but during natural disasters we routinely institute curfews to keep people from looting or rioting.

 

In the interest of saving lives and families we can certainly push aside -- legally, as we do in other cases -- an issue which, at best, does not contradict constitutional requirements and, at worse, perhaps it does, but is perfectly acceptable in favor a greater benefit to society.

 

Teaching kids that if they kill or steal they will be held accountable is not a constitutional issue. It's the law. And the notion of including God as one those who will hold them accountable, doesn't suddenly turn a civil issue into a religious one. It merely adds another dimension to the mandates of a civil society.

 

I must concede, however, that to teach kids in public schools about God from any particular religious perspective would, in my opinion, infringe upon their religious rights and would be unfair to their desires to stick to their own religious views. But to teach kids about God in the most basic and "generic" form, in a form that's common to and agreeable with most mainstream religions, in a form that a scientists can arrive at simply be observing the universe, in a form that says nothing more than our civil laws say, this cannot be religion or an infringement upon religious views.

 

And anyone who can object to teaching kids about God on "principle," is only fooling themselves -- they have no principles. If "principles" are more important to anyone than human life and kids growing up as decent human beings, such a person doesn't deserve to live among human beings. To say that you have the "right" to remain an atheist is like saying you have the right to remain uneducated and ignorant. You may have the right to remain uneducated and ignorant, but that doesn't give you the right to take your kids out of school. By the same token, you may have the right to remain an atheist, but that doesn't give you the right to deny your kids the opportunity to grow up as decent human beings, and it certainly doesn't give you the right to deny those who might get killed through violent student behavior life itself.

 

Ironically, not teaching kids about God is NOT giving them a "choice." For people who were never taught about God when they were kids, God becomes a foreign concept, not a "choice." It's only when you teach kids about God early on in life that you give them a real choice -- God becomes a realistic, viable option. And if they choose not to incorporate it in their lives, well, then they've truly made their own decision.

 

I think, "God" and some basic issues of "right" and "wrong" should be made mandatory in every public school, over all objections, in the same way that we overrule objections to other matters in the interest of a greater good for the community at large. And we don't have to worry about, "If we allow this, then the government will start running our lives in other ways." Nonsense. We have similar "unconstitutional" mandates in many areas of our lives, but we still have a live and vibrant democracy in this country. We had more rules, restrictions and mandates on our personal behavior 50 years ago and perhaps even more two hundred years, and not only did we have a democracy then but those days were a foundation for the great nation we have today.

 

We have to start realizing that "democracy" is not just some play on words. It was intended to give everyone the right to live as he or she pleases, while still conforming to rules that make for a coherent and civilized society. When our constitution starts giving the impression of infringing upon our civil liberties, that is, when we become frightened of something as fundamental as sending our kids to school, then it's time to clarify the true intent of "separation of Church and State." And if it doesn't satisfy everyone, perhaps we need to go as far as amending the constitution do declare that the concept of God by itself does not constitute religion.

 

Either way, we have to make our laws work for us, not against us. There's no glory in the "freedom" to live in fear. True freedom comes from giving people true choices, not from concealing them. Guns don't kill. Kids don't kill. A complete breakdown of the sanctity of human life -- that kills.

 

 by Josh Greenberger

 

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