In the days following the recent school murders in California, I was struck by how predictable the media have become in reporting these incidents. First, only gun-related violence commands such saturation coverage. The Los Angeles incident several weeks previously in which a teenager deliberately ran down and killed four people in his auto made only one overnight news cycle. Next comes the expectation that the Federal government (read the President) should have an immediate response coupled with new policy initiatives designed to “do something” about school violence, particularly guns. Why not? Clinton always did. Then there is the “why?” dialogue involving teachers, parents, friends, and psychologists, usually accompanied by an analysis of the “feelings” of everyone remotely associated with the affected community and a discussion of the need for counseling to achieve “closure”. In both the Littleton and Santana cases, there was the further analysis of the incidence of the teasing and “bullying” of the perpetrators as a possible explanation for their acts and even the suggestion by some that sympathy is in order. Much of the reporting seems to be designed to paint a picture of rampantly increasing school violence, particularly gun-related, across America. In fact, the opposite is true. According to the National Center for School Safety, there has been a decline in all forms of school violence and criminal activity for ten consecutive years. Have we heard anything about this lately?
Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute has written an essay entitled “The Republic of Feelings”, in which she challenges the commonly held assumption that venting our emotions like grief is necessary for “closure” in cases like Santana. Some recent studies document the reverse, that repression is better. Don’t try and convince our Rousseauite friends in the mainstream media of that. To them, feelings are paramount.
Incidentally, as to the “why?” of these school violence incidents, The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators 2001 is available at www.empower.org.