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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 20,300,583  

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Question of the Week: 32 - 3/12/2001

Why Are Kids Killing Kids?

And what can be done about it? Is violence so prevalent in societies today that it is inevitable that it will trickle down to our kids? What do you think are the causes of violence, uncivilly and alienation in today's world? What roles-if any-do you think the availability of guns, the 'cult of individuality,' the changing family structure or the fast pace of life play in these situations? Should schools keep the same hours as the workplace so those children are not alone for hours until the parents return from work? Are parents responsible? Should the right of all children to personal privacy be breached in order to curb the violence of some? Do Pagan philosophies offer any suggestions on how to help mitigate the problems facing a society in which violence is an almost daily occurrence?

 Reponses:   There are 60 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

I Bet Everyone Thinks Stuff Like That Only Happens In Public School... Mar 13th. at 10:35:54 pm EST

Amanda (Providence, Rhode Island US) Age: 21 - Email

I bet everyone thinks stuff like that only happens in public school.

One of my best friends, my boyfriend, and a few other people went to a private Quaker school system. While there, they were different, or geeky, and each of them earned daily beatings from the school bullies from it. Teachers were told, they talked to thier parents, nothing got done. My boyfriend's mom works for the local school system as a child psychologist, and told him that it wasn't really that bad, that he was probably just imagining that it was that horrible.

Once they got older, they found each other and banded together for support. After that, they didn't get beat up anymore, they just got taunted and teased mercilessly. Now, four years after graduating high school, one of them carries no less than 2 knives on him at all times (we're glad he downgraded from 4), and my boyfriend doesn't sleep well. Every time he wakes up crying from a nightmare he can't remember, I curse everyone who didn't do anything for him.

The other guys seem to be getting along better than those two, but it's obvious to anyone who listens to any of them for even 10 minutes that they all have serious self-esteem issues. All this was at a PRIVATE school. A Quaker school for pete's sake. You would think that a non-violent group of people like them would have less tolerence for bullies. Were they all born even five years later maybe the one that carries all the knives might have gunned down half the school. Maybe if they hadn't banded together, I would be denied the love of my life right now.

So for everyone who thinks it's someone else's problem, that it can't happen where they live, that thier kids go to a good school and things like that don't happen there, it can. I don't have a solution for all this, and I wish I did. No one should have to go through all of that.

PS. Those kids who teased Tempest *should* feel damn guilty. They killed her sure as if they tied the knot around her neck themselves.

This Latest Incident Really Has One Main Root: A Kid Was Teased... Mar 13th. at 10:46:43 pm EST

Annie (Williamsburg, Virginia US) Age: 22 - Email

This latest incident really has one main root: a kid was teased so much and so badly that he was pushed past the breaking point. Unlike many others in the same predicament, he decided to turn the anger, despair and pain OUTWARDS rather than inwards. He hurt other people instead of hurting himself- which is the more usual reaction. Isn't it interesting that he wouldn't have made national news if he'd just killed himself instead of other people?

First, I Should Say That I'm Not A Parent. This Is By... Mar 14th. at 3:14:26 am EST

Big John (South Amboy, New Jersey US) Age: 40

First, I should say that I'm not a parent. This is by choice, I think that I'd do a terrible job of raising anyone. But, I once was a kid and even though it's been 23 years or so since I graduated high school, I don't think the world has changed all that much. Kids are often cruel to other kids. It's not right, but school violence is nothing new.

Kids often reflect the attitude of their parents, if their parents are intolerant, aggressive, and/or violent the kids will follow these examples. The situation is amplified by small/broken families, parents with long working hours, the loss of open space for kids to play in, and the pressures both schools and parents put on the kids.

What has changed recently is the way the media focuses on school violence. I see news reports where a kid yells "I'll shoot you!" at another student and the next thing he knows he is suspended, the cops are called, the kid's home is searched and the story hits the evening news on all the major networks. This is insane! Half the people I grew up with would have never made it to high school under these conditions. These crazy "zero tolerance" laws aren't protecting kids, they are fanning the fires under the pressure cooker the kids are already placed in. With more stress more kids will snap, just like adults would under similar circumstances.

I was told many times that your childhood is the best part of your life. Yes, it should be, but it frequently isn't. All of us, kids and adults are caught in an evil cycle of corporate greed and government controls. We spend our childhood under fluorescent lights learning to be workers for the corporate machine, our souls and individuality washed away to fit some corporate ideal. Then we graduate to become good workers - trapped in that same machine. Our lives still withering under those fluorescent lights. Too tied up in the rat race to spend time with our kids. So how can their futures be any brighter? As adults we pass our anger and frustration on to our kids. This is where the violence truely comes from.

The solution, as I see it, is to give the kids more freedom to grow. The question to ask is why are the kids in school in the first place? Yes, an education is generally a good thing, but why does it have to be for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week for 13 years or more? The real purpose to school is to train kids to be of value to the corporate working world. I think they spend so much time in school because their parents are forced to work long hours in that same world, so school becomes a baby sitting service. Also, it is very much a brain washing service.

While I don't see anything changing for the better in the near future I do have one suggestion: Once there are enough pagans who are interested in a local area why not start a pagan school? Not to force the kids into following our beliefs, that should always be an individual choice, but rather to provide an education with a sane structure. I believe, based on my years as a student, that the formal part of what kids need to learn (math, reading, writing, and basic science)can be taught in 3 hours a day for three days a week. Use the rest of the time for them to learn the things that are important for living - how to grow a garden, sing, play an instrument, dance, fish, swim, fly a kite, etc. Classes can be kept small - perhaps 12 to 15 students per teacher.

Perhaps this approach could help the general public to question the way education is handled in the USA and inspire some real changes that don't involve giving the kids less freedom, more homework, and a twelve month school year.


The Root Issues Are Respect And Personal Empowerment. Instead Of Being Socialized... Mar 14th. at 3:55:16 am EST

Secular Pagan (Minneapolis, Minnesota US) Age: 37 - Email

The root issues are respect and personal empowerment. Instead of being socialized by the community to respect people regardless of differences and "weirdness, " often kids are having their prejudices reinforced and even encouraged by the significant adults in their lives. They are taught to look down on those who are different, odd, geeky, or otherwise don't fit in or fit the "right" image -- which might be something as pathetically insignificant as wearing the "wrong" brand or style of clothing. I will never forget when I was in junior high, and being subjected to the typical taunting and harassing that kids that age are so good at dishing out, and the school's guidance counselor suggested that I should try wearing a different brand of jeans, the popular brand, because if I dressed like the other kids then maybe they would like me better. HONESTLY! And sad to say, this kind of idiot, shallow thinking is alive and well, even today; not universal, thanks be, but certainly present.

When kids feel beaten down by continued harassment, they feel powerless, helpless. Some withdraw into books, music, fantasy, studies, art; some withdraw ultimately, via suicide. Others lash out, rebel; those with access to guns may even end up doing damage, to others, to themselves. And how are the schools dealing with this? By taking away what little power is left to these vulnerable-feeling students: the power to freely discuss these shootings. A lot of teens (and not a few adults) "process" traumatic events by joking about them, or by detaching from them emotionally and discussing them analytically. Such talk has gotten at least one teenager into trouble, as paranoia flares.

So the schools are cracking down on normal teenage attempts to deal with their fears, all the while doing NOTHING to address the root problems of social stratification, materialism, shallow values, disrespect, cliqueishness, and feelings of helplessness and disempowerment. To quote an old protest song: "When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?" Teach and model respect, care, acceptance of diversity. Help students to discover their own, positive, constructive, inner power over themselves and their lives, and I'll warrant that the desire to exert destructive power over others will diminish accordingly.

Kids Have Taken To Destroying The Lives Of Other Children Because Of... Mar 14th. at 10:08:10 am EST

Taryn Wagner (Hampton Bays, New York US) Age: 19 - Email

Kids have taken to destroying the lives of other children because of the tremendous degree of suffering imposed upon them by their peers. If you look at these kids that were driven to ending the lives of others, their family backgrounds were at least a little shaky, they were mostly alienated kids, ridiculed by their peers and were basically forced into mental and emotional breakdowns. Kids need to be taught at home, from an early age not to judge based on wealth, physical attributes, religion, race, or any other reason kids are so cruel to one another. Had these kids been accepted into these cliquey high school groups this, more than likely, would not have happened. On the question of Pagan philosophies posing any answer--it is right there in the rede--"and ye harm none do what ye will." Emotional torment is a form of harm placed upon especially an elementary or high school aged child. Had the children who taunted them for years been taught that--under no circumstances should they hurt emotionally or physically any person, animal, etc in any way, this would not have happened. In no way am I condoning the shootings of children simply because the gunmen had been haunted by them for years. However, I think that children should understand the consequences of what they do--even when joking with a friend. It's the little jokes taken literally or one to many derogatory comments that layer until the animosity can no longer be controlled.

I Think That A Serious Look Needs To Be Taken At How... Mar 14th. at 10:25:50 am EST

Silver (Calgary, Alberta CA) Age: 20

I think that a serious look needs to be taken at how kids are treating other kids. Also, how are the parents of those kids who are bullies treating their children? What are they teaching them? I was a victim of bullies all through school, and I did not often get much reprieve. I was very different from others, and I didn't often like to participate in games with the other children because I was quite shy. But, I only remember one or two instances where a teacher stepped in and stopped the bullying from happening. Those teachers will forever stick out in my mind as ones who cared. I have read that teachers often do not know what is happening, and that they cannot do anything about bullying unless it happens right in front of them (from articles in the Calgary Herald about the shooting in San Diego). Though I realize that teachers can't be everywhere, it isn't hard to notice a child who is being bullied. They are often quieter, hang around by themselves, and just generally skittish.
I don't think that workplaces should have the same hours as school (or vice versa), but I do think that corporations need to have more flexible hours so that parents can be home with their children more often.
I think that all children have a right to personal privacy, and I don't think that privacy should be violated. In the case of Brandi Blackbear, the school administration took her writing notebooks and she got in trouble because of a story that had a boy with a gun on a schoolbus in it, which she was trying to write like Stephen King. I think that administrators often overreact to things, and read threats where there are none, where there is just imagination.
I think that Pagan philosophies offer a great number of suggestions for violence. They promote respect for all, and responsibility for one's actions. They do not support any kind of bullying, or one-up-manship that seems to be so prevalent. They show that every person is valuable, and none more valuable than others.

Brightest blessings!

Youthful Imaginations Are Wonderful Things, Often Fruitful And Bearing Fantastic Ideas. Children... Mar 14th. at 12:57:31 pm EST

Meara Skye (Worcester, Massachusetts US) Age: 17 - Email

Youthful imaginations are wonderful things, often fruitful and bearing fantastic ideas. Children imagine all sorts of scenarios; those of happiness, of fun, and of joy. I do not remember in my childhood having violent fantasies of watching my peers writhing around in exruciating pain. I do not remember feeling the need to extract revenge on those who hated me.

I was always the oddball. People feared me because I was very mature and reasonably intelligent from day one. I refused to be like my peers, so caught up in their own superficial and insignificant lives that the world began to revolve around their circle of friends. I was therefore shut out, cut off, ostracized, harrassed, teased, and dare I say it - hated.

Indeed, I dreamt of revenge. I dreamt of writing novels with my persecutors as the villains, receiving their due reward - but by being exposed as the self-centered frauds that they are. I dreamt of my own successes which I could throw in their faces and say, "Look at where I am now." Never once did I wish death upon any of them, nor did I ever wish to inflict bodily harm on them personally. (I admit, I may have requested acts of the divine periodically to sew their mouths shut, but nothing worse than that.)

Now we read statistics that the average eight year old has seen several hundred deaths in their short lifetime. Children's games have moved beyond the old standard "Cops and Robbers" or "Cowboys and Indians." Now children construct complicated scenarios involving machine guns and Matrix-esque martial arts. Children are robbed of their innocence at a terribly young age by the single largest malignment-factory in the world: the mass media.

I cannot blame the media for pushing what sells. Unfortunately, the things we as a society buy now are sex, violence, and gore. The media knows how to make anything sell, and when the adult themes in adult movies, shows, and songs are often embodied by young adults, children see them as accessible. Children want to be adults. They look up to adults. And it is adults who are pushing terrible things upon them - things that are far beyond the average child's ability to grasp.

Violence in the schools is primarily caused by the insensitivity of children. Insensitivity is another thing taught by the media. Collapsing family lives do not combat it; they intensify it. When compounded with the ideas of violent, gory revenge suggested by any R-rated movie or "TV-MA" television program, the young, immature mind reacts explosively. Children lash out, not realizing the dire consequences of their actions. And worse, they often believe that those wounded or dead "deserved it, " for their actions toward the perpetrator were somehow worse or more devastating than their payment.

The adults of this country need a good swift kick in the ass. Children need examples of how to live as human beings, not human animals. Perhaps they are a viable market, but at what cost? How many more children need to die before somebody realizes that we, as a society, need to move away from this obsession with destruction and violence?

I Believe That Kids Are Killing Other Kids Because Thay Have Not... Mar 14th. at 8:59:31 pm EST

WillowDragon (Weatherford, Oklahoma US) Age: 23

I believe that kids are killing other kids because thay have not been taught how to rid themselves of aggression and frustration. They have not been loved, disciplined, or paid attention to by adults. When some parents or guardians are on the ball about these things, others do not teach common decency and respect for fellow man. The kids doing these things are often taunted by the other kids to the point where they feel this is the only way to stop it. If not these reasons, then perhaps because of the attention given to those before them who have done the same. Perhaps, for whatever reason, they feel it is the only way to be heard.

Parents Are Responsible Only As Far As How They Relate Or Fail... Mar 15th. at 10:00:57 am EST

Stephanie Long (Terre Haute, Indiana US) Age: 28 - Email

Parents are responsible only as far as how they relate or fail to relate to their own children. Acceptance is key. Of others and of ones own self. We have lived in shadow for too long and those of us who are pagan need to become ivolved in our local communities to educate and support otheres so that the children do not feel so alone. Not all are comfortable with the idea but we have to stand in the light. Too many myths surround and abound. Darkness has no place in the life of pagans and shall find no succor. Frear is a powerful thing and knowledege is power. Not all can start a support group that is visible for whatever reson although i belive it is key to help not just the children but those older ones just finding the path to the Goddess. If we do not stand we will surely fall. Goddess blessing to all. Light and Love.

Because No One Says Anymore: Don't Do That. It Is Wrong. People... Mar 15th. at 3:14:41 pm EST

Scott Peterson (Columbus, Indiana US) Age: 39

Because no one says anymore: Don't do that. It is WRONG. People are so paralyzed by trying not to be "controlling" or "judgemental" that kids, when (Note I do not say "if") they push the limits, find no boundaries. And pagans have to stop seeing "wrong" as being a four-letter word.

Because Their Amount Of Copeing Resources Isn't Equal To The Amount Of... Mar 15th. at 4:07:42 pm EST

angel (Madison, Wisconsin US) Age: 19 - Email

because their amount of copeing resources isn't equal to the amount of pain. they are kids, and although society is continually telling them they have to reason, think and behave like adults, they minds have not had enough experiences to grow into an adult mind. for everyone of the kids who breaksdown and either kills others or kills themselves, their are plenty of other students teased, harrassed, abused, be-littled and degraded just as much. killing is not the only option, but many, thinking as children besieged with only partial ideas of adult scenarios think it is.
we need to teach children that while yes they are children, and are allowed to have those experiences (8 year old should not be worrying about how to keep the family together, for example), that they are humans, and need to both treat others with tolerance and respect, and that if they are not recieveing this treatment, they need to speak up until someone listens. too many times when the adult they choose to tell doesn't "get it", they assume that no adult will help, and they have to figure out how to cope on their own. trying to actualize that copeing robs them of their childhood, and sometimes pushes them too far.
the behavior needs to change, in how we all treat each other, but exspecially how children are treated since they can't cope and deal as well. and the thinking needs to change- instead of 'oh, its no big deal, i got picked on/beaten up/abused/tortured too when i was a kid' we need to think along lines of tolerance and understanding and respect...basic human rights.

I Am Posting This Before Reading Any Of The Other Responses So... Mar 15th. at 10:20:33 pm EST

Loyalty LionRose (Shreveport, Louisiana US) Age: 20 - Email

I am posting this before reading any of the other responses so that my opinion wont be affected by the comments of others. So why DO kids kill kids? Is it a result of teasing? Music? Movies? I dont think that we can choose any one thing and say "Yes, thats it! Its ALL ____'s fault and we must be rid of that to save our children!" I do think that the taunting from peers is a major part of it. I dont personally put much stock in the movies, music, media theory. In my opinion, ANY of these things, even the teasing, will not have such an adverse affect on anyone who is not already mentally or emotionally unstable. I was teased myself all through school, and I have yet to kill anyone else or myself. But this does leave me with a bitter after-taste of sorts... I still dont trust a lot of my peers, especially those I knew in high school. And it leaves me wanting to believe that all it would take is special attention in our schools by teachers and faculty to avert future disasters. I want to say that all we need is to teach our children tolerance from an early age. I like to think of myself as an idealist. But truthfully, my friends, this situation seems to be getting nothing but worse, despite the attention weve been giving it. Or perhaps because of it... some kids may only be in it for the fame, who knows? I suppose the point of this rambling is this: I dont know what to do. I feel helpless, and Im sure Im not the only one.

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