Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 11:19:29 -0400 (EDT)
Random Thought: Littleton Tragedy

Tragic, tragic, tragic. The events in Littleton, Col. The tragedy is so widespread. We have lost so much of the future. The tragedy lays in those people who had their lives snuffed out--shot and shooters alike-- in the mourning families and friends left behind to wonder, in those kids--and they were kids--and their families, who did the shooting and others who may have been involved. It would be even more tragic if the rest of us let ourselves be victimized and placed things far out of proportion and not into some perspective however difficult that may be, if we pulled out our soapbox and used this monstrous human event to further a political or social agenda with a series of finger pointing "should haves," "could haves," "would haves," and "I told you so's." That's inevitable, but let the mourners mourn before we publically bemoan and accuse and blame.

I just told someone, using the vulgar vernacular, "shit happens." That sounds so callous and clinical and disengaged. I don't mean it to be. I passed my locked synagogue last night and said a small, silent prayer in the parking lot. I did the same thing on my walk this morning. But, Littleton events are by no means rampant. We shouldn't let ourselves rush to judgement and panic into thinking that the extreme abberation is the norm; we shouldn't see potential shooters around every corner, in every tattoo, in every body piercing, in every dyed hard, in every song and blouse; we shouldn't imprison ourselves or our kids in unreasonable concerns or fear; and we shouldn't look for quick and simple answers however initially they may be emotionally satisfying.

We always look for quick simple answers and want hardened guarantees. The cottage industry of pop-psychologists and professional talking heads are in full action standing atop their electronic boxes pontificating about security, guns, television, movies, music, family values, and on and on and on. In the process of the search we grossly distort the truth, whatever that truth may be. Maybe the truth is that there are no simple answers and there are no guarantees and there are no sure predictabilities simply because simply because we cannot control all people or events around us, and more importantly because each person is a unique variation on any generalization we can concoct. Each person is the authentic exception to the artificial rule. In cold statistical terms, school is still the safest place to be, your car is the most dangerous. I am about to fly off to present a teaching workshop. They tell me that flying is safer than driving. Of course, statistics don't mean a thing , and you don't want to know from statistics, when it happens to you and/or your loved ones, and your number hits for better or worse.

Now, I don't know the what, whys, and especially the who's, of what happened, who those kids were--and they were kids--whether they were outcasts, unnoticed, belittled. I do know, especially from personal experiences with my younger son, that in our rush for efficiency, in our concentration on controlled discipline, in our focus on grades, SAT scores, and the like we often unwittingly engage in a subtle form of human sacrifice in which students are unintended dispersonalized, screened, tracked, weeded-out, discarded, disregarded victims. We often lose sight of the truth that teaching is real and personal; that each student holds up a sign, as the TV ad tells us, that reads "I AM" and wants you to read, and which we must read; that the real magnificance is not in the technology, information or technique--not in the score or grade--but in the person. Each student, conformist or non-conformist, adjusted or troubled, in or out of the mould is a three-dimensional, valuable, unique human being. The mission of a teacher is not just to raise the SAT score, or to transmit a certain amount of information, or merely to appended a grade. It should be to wake up a consciousness, to make people think about things they haven't thought about before, to offer hope, to change attitude towards life, to give each person an intellectually, emotionally, spiritually healthy start in life. So maybe if there is a lesson to be drawn, it is that each of us teachers should step out of the academic frame and bring back love and caring into a too often otherwise lifeless, cold data banking system.

Now, it is easy for me to write that no one should be left out, that no one should go uninvited to the party, that no one should be ignored or made fun of or whispered about, or left out in the cold. It is easy to profess a faith and hope in each person; it is easy to have a strong belief in each person. I find that the hard part is living my faith and hope and love, or, as they would say, putting my heart where my mouth and fingers are. But, living rather than merely professing, I have discovered is the only cure to an emotional and spiritual heart disease.

Make it a good day. 


Louis Schmier           
Department of History    
Valdosta State University
Valdosta, GA  31698                        /~\    /\ /\
912-333-5947                       /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
                                  /   \__/     \/  /     /\ /~      \
                            /\/\-/ /^\___\______\_______/__/_______/^\
                          -_~     /  "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\
                             _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -\____

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