Its not a they world, but a me world
FTLComm - Tisdale - Friday, April 20, 2007

Some social scientist have a theory that it has something to do with April, while some journalists believe it has something to do with "copy-cat" behaviour and the influence of the news media. Ultimately, the causative factors mean absolutely nothing to the victims and the people affected by the spectacle of thirty-two individuals being murdered by what appears to have been, a mad man. The grandness of the event, coming only days before the anniversary of the killings at Columbine High School in Colorado shocked everyone who heard and saw the story unfold.

The event at Virginia Technical school really and truly is disturbing as from the moment it was learned that it had happened, until now, journalists and professionals alike, are trying to make sense of a clearly senseless act.

While North Americans suffer this tragic and incomprehensible event with endless hours and commentary by every television news service with their legions of experts, this week has seen several hundred Iraqi civilians killed in bombings and cross fire, as the United States continues its equally incomprehensible liberation of Iraq.

This may come as a bit of shock to you, but violence in schools is hardly a new, or modern phenomena. The self centred nature of twenty-four hour, on the spot news coverage, merely re-focuses reality, so that a catastrophe is shared and advertised world wide, as it is happening.

I served as a school principal for almost all of my twenty-seven years in the education business and from 1975 onward, I had in place, a working plan and briefed my staff each year on what to do in the event of a gunman in the school. The reason I had developed the plan was because I was faced with the real possibility of violence when principal at Weekes.

One day a person armed with a butcher knife entered the elementary school in Weekes and marched into a grade six classroom threatening the teacher and the students. The teacher in the room was the elementary principal and a woman who I will always hold in the highest esteem. She did the impossible. She ignored the knife and the threatening person and went on about the business of teaching the class. When she finished the lesson she went over to the person and suggested that it would be a good time for them to leave. Of course, faced with such courage, the possible horrible event did not happen, and the person left.

After learning of this story, I realised I had better prepare the high school for anything and one year later, with the sound of gunfire in the village, I implemented the lock down of the school when a woman and her child fled into our building seeking refuge from her gun totting spouse.

Violence is a possibility at anytime almost anywhere. That's why we have laws, that's why we have routines and regulations to make our society as safe as possible, but some times things will go off the rails.

What is different now, is that the means of distributing information has accelerated the process and the killings in that sleepy Virginia college town occur in our living room and we are personally affected. It was this immediacy that brought an end to the war in Vietnam. Coverage of that conflict was open and the new media believed then in fairness and honest reporting, two elements missing in our world of today. Were journalists able and willing to cover Iraq as they did Vietnam, the war there, would be over in a few weeks.

In general, we all can see our reflection in this world about us, and we know in our hearts that torture, war on civilians and war itself, is just dead wrong, just as wrong as killing students in their classroom. People are good, that is the way they are and violence, and madness, are not to be tolerated, by a deranged student, or a government, that has lied itself into confusion.

Timothy W. Shire

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Editor : Timothy W. Shire
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