Front Page















School Shootings: The Time of the Signs
March 7, 2001

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

On March 5, two high school students had their lives prematurely ended. Thirteen other students ranging from 14 to 18 years old were wounded. Reports are that the 15-year-old alleged assailant was smiling as he brutalized his classmates, a horrid illustration of just how far into a web of destruction a young mind can sink.

All of this took place in the community of Santee, a previously unassuming suburb of San Diego. This dismal episode is particularly distressing because, as a society, we are forced to acknowledge that yet another catastrophe has occurred, one more tragic illustration to add to the series of repugnant news reports involving school homicides. It has been less than two years since two students executed 12 of their classmates and a teacher, and wounded 23 others, before killing themselves at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. America has never really been able to regain its collective consciousness.

These youthful brutalities have not taken place in the urban environs where such activity may be commonplace on gang-governed turf, but instead they have occurred in towns more akin to Norman Rockwell paintings. School shootings have taken place in Pearl, Miss.; West Paducah, Ky.; Stamps, Ark.; Jonesboro, Ark.; Edinboro, Pa.; Fayetteville, Tenn.; Springfield, Ore., Littleton, Colo.; Conyers, Ga.; Deming, N.M.; Fort Gibson, Okla.; Mount Morris Township, Mich.; and Lake Worth, Fla. These are the kind of locales that most people envision offer some sort of sanctuary from the oppressive and often heartless experiences of city life.

To help the public cope with the chilling fact that some of our youth are actually capable of plotting and carrying out such savage cruelty, the media have responded in their typical fashion by parading out so-called experts to provide their usual interpretations and generally less-than-profound solutions.

When a few of the initial shootings took place, some pundits thought that they had discovered a sound explanation for the aberrant and vicious conduct of the perpetrators. They blamed the Southern American culture, citing with an elitist air of contempt, that Southerners seem to have an unbalanced and inappropriate focus on guns and hunting. When the shootings manifested themselves in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Oregon, though, these analysts had to scurry back to their drawing boards in search of a new scapegoat.

In an effort to determine what is happening in society and to possibly find corrective methods of addressing our weighty problems, we are led to believe that we should turn to the pseudo-science of modern child psychology to find the answers. However, the public is not buying the notion that the way to deal with young, student executioners is to provide the sufficient amount of therapeutic counseling.

Psychoanalysis of individual offenders seems so wholly inadequate a response to these types of killings. Now is the time to finally get a grip on reality and take a serious inventory of our culture.

Our children continue to be indoctrinated with a distinct message. Although the directive has been given subtly, it has been consistent and repetitive. It has come from a wide variety of sources. Like the pieces of a puzzle, the message has been given in separate transmissions, and our children have assembled it skillfully.

Financial income and material wealth take precedence over the raising of our progeny. Life has little value, particularly when it comes to the unborn and the elderly. Violence is acceptable, even entertaining, as evidenced in our television programming, movies, computer games and rap music. Whether intentionally or not, we have sent a strong but ominous message to the youth of our nation.

To compound matters, many teachers, counselors, and even clergy insist upon spreading a gospel of relative morality. Whatever is thought to be right for the individual is deemed good. Our public schools have been stripped of any vestige of traditional religious moral teaching, and almost every opportunity for prayer has been meticulously erased. Political leaders of the country celebrate their ability to denigrate standards and avoid consequences. It is not surprising that a disproportionate number of students believe that it is perfectly acceptable to break the law as long as you don't get caught.

School shootings are the severest warning signs imaginable for our culture. Our situation is indeed urgent. If we focus our attention only on the symptoms, we are destined for further decline. The cultural message to our children must be transformed. Restoration of the authentic code of behavior that acknowledges the sacredness of life, the necessity of accountability, the worth of family and the benefit of prayer is the only way to reverse this alarming descent.

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

Copyright © 2001 -
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

All Rights Reserved