Sunday, April 22, 2007

"Let's have a frank discussion. Just be careful what you say."

My daughter called last night with news of two California schools that were in lock-down late last week because of students who, during classroom discussion, appeared sympathetic to Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho. One student supposedly said, "I can see something like that happening here, the way things are in this school." The second student said something like, "Not everybody is actually going to go through with it, but with a lot of us, the desire is there. I know there are times I've felt that way." Both were males, both were arrested. Neither was armed. The latter student was suspended for the balance of the semester.

Two things here. First, what happened to, "I disapprove of what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it"?*

Second, and more important, how are we to access kids' thoughts, to get to the bottom of these feelings of estrangement and fulminating violence, if the first thing we do when kids voice antisocial sentiments is cuff them? How are we to have any hope of drawing people out in order to catch the ones who need help before they reach the breaking point? Seems to me that if you're going to say, "Let's talk things out in class," you should be willing to accommodate points of view beyond, "Gee, how horrible that was, let's all go out and build a nice memorial..." All we're doing here is driving the rage deeper underground, thereby ensuring that we won't learn what's really in their heads and hearts till the day they do bring a gun to school.

* The line is widely attributed to Voltaire, though he probably never said it, at least not in those words. Regardless, it was, of course, a cornerstone of American democracy and the free-speech protections that eventually were built into the Bill of Rights.


Mr. Spin said...

I think that's just another example of a radical thinking RIGHT physically demonstrating that freedom of speech is dead. Freedom of assemble is getting more difficult too -- next well me religion too.

Steve, say good bye to freedom as we know it -- no longer is it hip to be free.

Cal said...

This stuff is what worries me. The last two weeks have been very terrible for free speech advocates. The Imus thing and now this. Just like your post about Geraldo, I don't agree with his solution but he has a right to express it. If people are going to get arrested for talking out loud when there is no prior history of antisocial behavior, we are in very dangerous territory. I thought this country learned after the Bill Maher silencing after his 9/11 remarks, as well as the lambasting of the Dixie Chicks for their comment about President Bush leading up to the Iraq War. Maybe in a few weeks the hysteria will subside. I don't even understand the lambasting of NBC for playing some the killer's videotapes. This stuff about potentially inciting copycats is nonsense to me. Any crazie could watch certain bloody movies or video games to get these ideas.

Skeptico said...

The kids didn’t threaten anyone, and yet they were arrested. I wonder – what crime were they charged with?

Steve Salerno said...

Skeptico, my man, perhaps you're being ironic/rhetorical here--but if not, I'm motivated to ask: Which planet are you from? I intend no nastiness there at all. It's just, well, look at what's been going on throughout America even before VTech. You visit Islamic web sites once too often and you end up on a watch list. You start ANY sort of commotion, or what's perceived as a commotion, in an airport, and you have to explain yourself to the FBI. You go to any high-traffic area of almost any touristy downtown, and whatever you do is on video, 24/7. And on other fronts... Last year, a 4-year-old in Texas was suspended, and his parents later threatened with a fine, after he "sexually harassed" a female classmate by nuzzling her during a hug.

This ain't the America we signed on for, pal. Like it or not, we're in survival mode.