Five years after Columbine, you’d think the number of school-related violent deaths would be at an all-time low. In fact, according to the Denver Post, this school year was more violent than the last two combined — 43 deaths already.
Still, when you consider the millions of kids who attend school every day in the USA, that’s an incredibly small percentage, meaning our schools are remarkably safe.
In retrospect, let’s remember that Columbine wasn’t really a school safety issue. It was a bad parenting issue. If Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s parents had done a better job keeping an eye on their sons, they might have noticed the pipe bombs in the basement, the anger festering in their teenage brains, the resentment towards
classmates, etc. Just one parent living up to their role could have prevented 13 deaths that spring day in Littleton, Colorado.
Unfortunately, we don’t heap enough blame on parents in our culture. Instead, we ask the schools to do more and more. As the son of two educators, with other teachers in my family, this saddens and maddens me.
Ask anyone who has worked inside those brick walls recently. You can’t just be a teacher today. You also have to be a cop, a psychologist, and a counselor. You have to make sure the kids are wearing the right clothes, that they’re not drunk or high, that they’re not dirty dancing at the prom. Of course, you don’t get paid more
for that extra effort.
Parents complain that educators should teach their kids morals, make them watch less TV, have more respect for others. These should not be considered part of the teacher’s job — these are the basics of parenting. For some reason, we’ve allowed this responsibility to be shifted out of the home and into the institution.
The blame for failure has been misplaced, too. Under the No Child Left Behind program, when a child doesn’t succeed in the classroom, it is the school that is punished. Teachers and principals are threatened with losing their jobs, their funding, their living. Yet no mention is made of whether the parents fulfilled their
obligation to work with the kid at home, making sure they read, do their homework, and understand what they were taught that day. This is the equivalent of blaming the dentist because your kid eats candy and doesn’t brush her teeth.
This trend started with my generation, the late baby-boomers, but it has been exacerbated by the next generation, those whose children have entered the school system in the last decade. Somehow they took the “it takes a village to raise a child” concept — a completely valid one, which requires participation at various
levels from all sorts of people, but begins and ends with Mom and Dad — and turned it into “let the village raise my child, I’m too busy.”
Sadly, I see no end in sight for this blame-the-schools syndrome. For the most part, American kids have been given a safe place to learn. Now if only American parents would do their part.