Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Today's Cleveland High School Shooting-Spree...

"Your journey can begin here! SuccessTech Academy is a small, nontraditional high school that provides a learning environment in which all students believe in their ability to succeed. Students will achieve their goals as they progress through our problem-based, technology infused curriculum." --from the Mission Statement of SuccessTech."

Cleveland, Ohio
--I understand that the school's mission statement emphasizes the philosophy of "solutions through technology" (at least that's what MSNBC is saying), which sounds an awful lot like the anagram for SAIC (a defense/intel contractor): "Scientific Applications International Corporation." My thinking is that the kid took the school's philosophy literally and solved his problems (other kids starting fights with him for whatever reasons) with technology (a gun). Was Asa Coon just sick, or was he being abused by a number of people? Or was it a cycle containing both elements that fed-on-itself? But we're not a proactive culture, we prefer letting things happen, which is why we're reactionary. The best thing is to detect these problems early-on, hopefully neutralizing them. Unfortunately, that means responsibility.

Also, for a country that overemphasizes militarism and violence in its culture, why should something like this be so surprising? I know that it hurts to think that way, and we pride ourselves on not learning anything from our mistakes, but I mean it--he solved his problems with a gun, it's just true. What's good about this one is that he wasn't as cold-blooded as the guys at Columbine, or the young man at Virginia Tech, he just couldn't finish the people he shot. You could say we have a second chance in this case, and we might even stand to learn something from it if we look closer. Eventually, we're going to come to look at these school shootings as routine, and that's scary.

This 14-year-old kid is dead, and so, his problems have gone with him. So have many of the answers as to why his rampage occurred at all, and that's why the time is now to ask the hard questions. The trail can start cooling. Was it taunting, bullying? Did the teachers and students he shot put him in a catch-22 situation, was it his 'metal health issues,' or a little of both? Was it a combination of stress, his age-range, and bullying? The school was partially created from an original endowment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but guess who was across the street? The Cleveland FBI office, according to AP as of this writing (Midnight EST).'The shooting occurred across the street from the FBI office in downtown Cleveland, and students were being sent to the FBI site,' writes Joe Milicia (AP, 10.11.2007). I'm not casting aspersions on Mr. Gates, just our society in general and the FBI. We all own a piece of it. Regardless of how you feel about this event, we all know full-well it's going to happen again-and-again because we're not learning anything from these shooting-sprees. We should note that the FBI was completely impotent and ineffectual in this situation, but no police agency can stop everything, a fact that's contrary to their implied promise that they can protect us if we just hand over more of our rights.

I'm also not trying to paint the school with a smear--there should be many more like it, and it only holds 100-per-year--give-or-take--which is pretty inadequate. Therein lies the problem, and a possible source of the explosion, the stress must be considerable, especially in the inner city of Cleveland (or anywhere in America), but the shooter named Asa Coon was white. He appears to have had a history of mental health issues, but that's a subjective call at this point, there could be more to the story. Why not investigate his family life for one? At least the Plain Dealer has obtained some of the juvenile court records of Coon, and they aren't pretty. The smell of domestic abuse might be present. Where are the real details? What aren't we learning from these events? Sure, there will always be people who are sociopathic, but that doesn't explain all of these sprees.

It underscores how isolated and meaningless life has become in our modern world. What's the cure? We're trying so hard not to learn anything from these episodes, and we could be detecting something like this and start being proactive. Coon told students he was going to come and shoot some of them. Does talking sound like a good start? I think so, which is odd for a school that prides itself on instilling communication skills, with an emphasis on technology. It appears that technology can also separate us, we know this.

Taking control of technology and understanding how it affects us might be a good start towards limiting these killing-sprees, as well as recognizing that we're all responsible for these outbursts. There is such a thing as collective-guilt. But it could have been worse: some are saying there was an altercation between the now-dead shooter and some other students on Tuesday, and that he'd made threats before. We could be seeing the cost of not dealing with these situations in a proper and even-handed manner. Sometimes low-tech meets high-tech. Low-tech frequently win, as nature always wins in the end. And no, metal detectors won't matter when low-tech solutions can always find a way around high-tech solutions. When you apply stress to an organism, it must strike-back, it's an immutable law of nature. What was the pressure in Asa Coon's life, what were the stresses? It's a sad event. 'Solve your problems with violence, kids.' That's the message we're sending our children. My advice? Start using those constitutionally guaranteed rights, and pester those morons in Washington as much as possible about what a lousy job they're doing. Happiness is a warm gun, yes it is.