Three teenagers attack an art teacher and beat her to the ground on video… A group of teenage girls trap and beat another teenage girl until she’s in the hospital severely injured… An elementary school child is pushed on the playground, tells the pusher not to do that again and gets punched for having said anything. The child who is punched doesn’t fight back because he doesn’t want to get in trouble at school and, therefore (he believes) with his parents at home. What do all these events have in common? The demonstrate a growingly common mindset in the United States: don’t fight back. No matter why the teacher didn’t fight back… no matter why the teenager didn’t fight to escape… no matter why that elementary school child didn’t defend himself, all of them failed to exercise a basic human right: that of self-defense. I can’t help but wonder, why?
I believe this has something to do with an ever-growing, ever-expanding belief system that designates violence in any form, for any reason, as wrong. I can’t say for sure where such an attitude started, but I do have some beliefs about how it has become so widespread in our society: first and foremost I believe the zero tolerance policies which have existed in our public schools for decades now have something to do with it.
Think about it… when you were in elementary school (if you’re anywhere near your mid-40s or older) and got in a fight, then the teacher’s first question was, “Who started it?” Such questions as:
Who started it?
Who threw the first punch?
Who pushed you?
…were commonplace. The person who started the fight was the one who got in trouble. Sure, the kid who fought back got a lecture about how fighting doesn’t usually solve problems and two wrongs don’t make a right and all that, BUT he didn’t normally get punished. Skip forward a decade or two and watch the zero tolerance policies crop up. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like those policies reared their ugly head about the same time as the hippies of the late sixties and early seventies got their heads semi-straight and started entering the work force… some of them as teachers. Give Peace A Chance. Make Love, Not War. What a confusing picture we paint for our students today…
First we tell our kids, from the first day of school, that violence in any form for any reason is wrong. We all need to be nice and find ways of peacefully solving our problems. Then we tell them that holding hands is wrong; hugging is unacceptable; writing notes, sending instant messages or texting… these are all things that are non-violent and they are just as wrong as fighting? Think about it from the KID’S point of view: obviously they are just as wrong if they bare the same weight of punishment. I have an idea: how about, instead of creating all these definitive policies that are next to impossible to enforce, are hardly ever fair, and can confuse the piss out of our poor children… how about if we actually start using some common sense?
If you can walk away, walk away.
If you can’t walk away, talk your way out of it.
If you can’t walk away, and you can’t talk your way out of it, WIN.
Would that work? It doesn’t promote violence in place of peace, and it certainly sets standards that promote peace over violence. However, it also empowers our students to defend themselves as necessary. I mean, I don’t know how the rest of you readers feel about this, but if my son happens to get in a fight at school, this is my outlook:
First, he’d better not have started the fight.
Second, I hope he tried to walk away from it.
Finally, if the other person wasn’t listening or was bound and determined to fight – so much so that they threw the first punch – then I hope my son wins with speed of violence and aggression. And you know what? If that’s the case, I don’t care what punishment his school gives him. I won’t be upset with him – I’ll be upset with the school!
It’s much like our larger society: All over our country there are laws that can be violated simply by defending yourself. Quite thankfully, there have been a number of states who have passed laws enabling citizens to defend themselves and their homes without fear of legal punishment. However, think about the analogy. In schools there are teachers and principals and other staff to maintain a peaceful and orderly environment. In society there are law enforcement officers to maintain a peaceful and orderly environment. When people break the rules, then those peacekeepers take action. However, until the peacekeepers arrive, it’s entirely up to the citizen (student) to fend for him or herself. And to make the point even better, the courts have repeatedly ruled that the police are NOT responsible for the safety of each individual. Individual safety and defense fall on each person. Knowing that… and we can’t deny it at this point… but knowing that, why would we then turn around and teach our students (children) that violence is never an acceptable option? Have we considered where this will inevitably lead us?
Let’s remember how this country was founded. It wasn’t founded by a bunch of people who were afraid of a fight. Can you imagine how different our country would be if our founding fathers had never been willing to take up arms to secure their (and our) independence? Yet here we are today… teaching our children through school policies that violence is never acceptable for any reason. We’re on our second generation (if not third) of such teachings. I have to ask a couple questions: Is it any wonder we’re having a hard time finding people to serve in uniform (of any kind)? What’s going to happen after another generation or two when our country is faced with a threat? Who will fight to defend THAT generation of children? Your children’s or grandchildren’s grandchildren? Are you willing to write off the next two or three generations of Americans to whatever group of people might decide to bring a fight to us? I’m not.
That’s why I teach my children that violence, after all other reasonable means of avoidance have been expended, is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it can be necessary. My children will never get in trouble for fighting in self-defense. What about yours?