How Teaching Conformity Leads to Violence
Teaching, Conformity, Leads, Violence
School shootings have been a widely debated and ongoing topic over the last decades. From the Stockton Schoolyard shooting in January of 1989, to more recently the Douglas High School shooting in February of 2018, school shootings are still a prevalent problem.
To help stop and prevent these shootings in the future, it is crucial to look deeply into the shooter’s past to understand what could trigger this brutal violence. Fortunately, we have the tools and resources to comprehend the minds of some of these shooters, such as Erich Harris from the Columbine High School shooting of 1999, along with scientific evidence that could be helpful in preventing these shootings in the future.
A common theme seen is the unmeaningful education these students are receiving and therefore resorting them to violent acts. This leads to deeper questions about our educational system and if we are really teaching students how to be critical and impactful thinkers for our world.
Are the strict and conformed atmospheres of teaching prohibiting students from developing thoughts and ideas apart from what they are being taught? Is the system taking away their individuality and shaping them into people we are expected to be? This, among other motives, was one of the main arguments Eric Harris reiterated which ultimately led him to make the decision to shoot up Columbine High School in April of 1999.
He was convinced the schooling system was rigged into making everyone the same which took away their individuality and uniqueness. Although it was later confirmed that he had psychological issues, he does bring up similar points to Staples’s research article Violence in Schools. Staples also argues the point that children need to be able to express their individuality, which schools have been taking away from their students.
Lastly, the most viewed Ted Talk to date by Sir Ken Robinson titled “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” claims that from when children set foot in the schooling system, all they are taught to do is not to make mistakes and that mistakes are possibly the worst thing you can do, therefore leading them in a direction only not to make mistakes and not question the status quo.
In Eric Harris’s journal entries, he is very convinced about the idea that schools take away student’s individuality and brainwash them to all believe and be taught the same things. He writes passionately that school is “…society’s way of turning all the young people into good little robots and factory workers. That’s why we sit in desks in rows and go by bell schedules, to get prepared for the real world cause ‘that’s what its like’” (Harris 2).
He then goes on to talk more broadly about life in general and how this schooling affects all of humanity in the future, “Human nature is smothered out by society, job, and work and school. Instincts are deleted by laws. I see people say things that contradict themselves, or people that don’t take any advantage to the gift of human life” (Harris 3). Despite his imminent anger towards the world, he does provide important insight into why he ultimately made the decision to shoot up Columbine.
Although Harris did suffer from psychological disorders, his claims are backed up with reasoning and research from political scientist Staples. In his article, Violence in Schools, he argues that our “broken world” is due to the lack of engagement of people in meaningful ways and our consumerism mentality. Staples writes that “Greed, boredom, and distraction as elements of a broken world lead the individual to seek escape from the immediacy of the fundamental
yearning for significance in a crazed dialectic that never resolves itself” (Staples 33). Each stage of our “broken world” then leads from one to the other in a chain reaction. “Greed sated leads to boredom, which seeks to escape through distraction or a return to greed” (Staples 33). Ultimately, because of this, we are consumed by these qualities rather than engaging with the world in a meaningful, and productive way.
We have lost our “…fundamental yearning for significance through engagement in the processes of reflection, creativity, compassion, and the gift of self to others” (Staples 33). The lack of all these significant attributes one should embody leads us to desolation and unfulfillment. In response to this problem, Staples writes, “Violence is often merely a response to the emptiness in which they find themselves” (Staples 34).
To understand the root of this problem, Staples looks at institutionalized schooling in America. He says that schooling has “…become a routinized process, lacking sustained meaningfulness. It is experienced by many students as a boring, fearful series of daily rituals that have to be endured as a means to some future end, one not even decided by the students themselves” (Staples 36).
In response to this, it makes sense that students then feel powerless in their education and feel like they have no control over where their lives take them. They feel trapped. This creates anger and frustration, as seen in Eric Harris’ journal entries. Staples argues that “…violence in our schools exists in increasing proportions because the fundamental yearning for significance has been thwarted or perverted by the cultural milieu in which we live” (Staples 31). This lack of personalization alienates students from a world of significance and discovery, where we need future generations to be inspired to investigate and learn more about.
The most viewed TedTalk to date speaks on the topic “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” by Sir Ken Robinson with over 64 million views. He starts his talk by giving examples of children and how most children will take a chance and not be afraid to be wrong because they have not yet learned the consequences of being wrong. When these children reach adulthood, they lose this capacity. Robinson says, “They have become frightened of being wrong.
And we run our companies like this. We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities” (Robinson 5:14). This fear of being wrong has shown us only to do what is taught in classes or workspaces as right. As spoken about before, this conformity and lack of meaningful engagement cause students to lose their individuality and make them feel like they have no purpose.
Another insightful example Robinson gives quotes Picasso. He says, “Picasso once said this, he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it” (Robinson 5:57).
This is an interesting perspective to think that schools are actually educating students out of their own creativity that they innately have. It is then our job to make sure this does not happen for future generations. The reason this Ted Talk has so many views is that schools have the intention to give the best education to children, but in that process, they are also taking away important qualities that cannot be taught and must be nourished.
In conclusion, the main factor for violence in school is the feeling that students feel like they have lost their sense of individuality and have fallen into conformity with school policies. This is seen not only in school but in workspaces and large institutions as well. The only way to reverse this normality is to start accepting failures as a part of life and growth. We need to stop punishing those who do not conform to institutional norms and start using their individuality as a tool for growth and discovery.
Harris’ journal: Langman, Peter. October 2014. Version 1.3.
Robinson, Ken. “Transcript of ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?”.” TED, Feb. 2006, www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_do_schools_kill_creativity/transcript.