Life Competence, Social Media, And Crisis Situations

Cross the Parkland shooting with the ethical problems created by technology, and you get this..

One of our engaged readers sent me this story, about how real-time texting and tweeting have become standard fare during mass shootings and other crisis situations. The story is full of positive words for the phenomenon….

The texts hit a nerve with people because they’re so gut-wrenching and real, Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “They are highly emotional, and enable people to feel empathy and a connection to what the students were feeling at the time,” she says. Social media in particular is good for sharing these texts, Rutledge adds. “Removing the sense of mediation in connection is what social media does best,” she says. “It transports people into events and allows them to share the feelings more intensely.”

The messages are also stimulating to people and create a horror-story-type feeling — except they’re not made up, clinical psychologist John Mayer, author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. That can also make the experience more real. “They bring the reality of the dangers in the world into one’s life and right into your personal space,” Mayer says. “Therefore, it becomes even more frightening.”

The texts also allow people to experience the events vicariously, albeit from a safe distance, and can prompt feelings of gratitude and appreciation for the safety they do have, Rutledge says.

But these kinds of texts really resonate because they’re authentic and straight from the source. “They are real-time reporting of feelings and events,” Rutledge points out.

Well, it’s certainly nice that vivid reporting comes out of massacres! What would we do without social media and cell phones!

My reaction is completely different: Why are these people texting and tweeting in the middle of a crisis? Why aren’t they thinking? Organizing? Trying to solve the problem? Once a 911 has been sent, there is no further utility to communicating with friends and loved ones. That’s a distraction from the task at hand: survival. Don’t text, “Dear Mom, I’m about to be shot.” Throw the damn phone at the shooter’s head while someone rushes him from behind. Take action, don’t give us your feelings.

Our young, and increasingly the rest of us, are so addicted to constant electronic communications that we can’t even pull ourselves away from keyboards and little screens when lives are on the line. Lots of movies have exploited the new suspense cliché when a cell phone rings or buzzes while someone is hiding from a killer/terrorist/monster. This is worse. There’s an emergency, lives are at stake, YOUR life is at stake, and you are thinking about what touching messages to send to someone who can’t help you at all? Hey, why not take a selfie of you and the shooter!

Every single person involved in such a crisis should be trying to assess the situation and think of some way to improve the odds. Every one. Of course the chances are slim, but they are still better than wasting time texting. “Dear beloved: we appear to be out of ammunition, and the Alabamans will soon overwhelm us, and taking the Union flanks and winning the battle, and probably the war itself. It is hard to describe my feelings as a commander…”

Fortunately for the nation and history, General Joshua Chamberlain didn’t start texting when he and the 20th Maine faced disaster. He spent his precious time coming up with a desperate, crazy plan. And it worked!

We are raising a generation of incompetents and addicts.


Pointer: Andrew Myette


Filed under Childhood and children, Daily Life, History, Social Media, The Internet, U.S. Society

154 responses to “Life Competence, Social Media, And Crisis Situations

  1. Rick McNair

    I was hit today by a millennial who was too busy posting. This was not in a car thankfully, but as I was shopping in the supermarket. She hit me with her shopping cart. On one level it’s quite funny but on the other level quite sad.

  2. Perhaps Huxley was right:
    “What Huxley teaches is that in the age of advanced technology, spiritual devastation is more likely to come from an enemy with a smiling face than from one whose countenance exudes suspicion and hate. In the Huxleyan prophecy, Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. There is no need for wardens or gates or Ministries of Truth. When a
    population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.” (From Neil Postman’s “The Huxleyan Warning” – see

    Don’t think I can say it any better.

    What is often right in front of us is not as important as what is right in front of someone else.

    • The Unabomber said it pretty well too, though his message was a bit differentL that reliance on technology drained the humanity out of humanity, and made us slaves to our devices while life grades.

      Thanks for the pointer, Andrew; i’m sorry I had to twist it around, but I thought this angle would spark more debate. and reveal more in the process.

      • No, Jack, I don’t have any issue with your angle on this. Thanks for the clarification, but as I tell my students, consider the “what if…” – always. So, yes, what if students had taken action in the situation rather than stopped to send messages.

    • I read the essay. I imagine that you are using this text as some part of your courses? (I noticed the questions at the end).

      Although the more specific question being discussed here has to do only with the limited question of use of a communication device in a crisis, I have to admit that I am more interested in the larger social, political and existential implications, as of course was Huxley. (The issue is less that children are captured by their cellphones but that we are captured and controlled ourselves and cannot see how, and cannot resist because we cannot see and understand).

      He is an interesting intellect to consider because much of his important writing came out of the Interwar period. The ones that I read the most closely were ‘Proper Studies’ and ‘Do What You Will’. Quite frankly he is seen exploring what can only be described as fascistic realism and that his analysis and vision fits into a sort of ur-conservatism. This is one of the things I have often tried to point out in my writing on this blog, and which I explore independently, and that is the importance of both the fascist and the neo-fascist philosophers, political philosophers and the religious philosophers of the Interwar Period.

      The interesting thing about Huxley, and certainly “Brave New World” and then Huxley’s 1950s commentary on his own work ‘Brave New World Revisited’, is how scathing, cruel, uncompromising and condemning is his analysis of Americanism and the Americanopolis. Similar to Hermann Hesse I suppose (for example in ‘Steppenwolf’) he was horrified at what Americanism and the Americanopolis signified for civilization. But what is really really really strange is to consider the implications of this level of critical analysis while one is ensconced within Americanism and the Americanopolis.

      I began to think more about the outline which you submitted some days back. As an educator one must offer students such outlines and in the best of circumstances must train them up to a high level of critical thinking. But if one were to do that within the controlling limitations of Americanism and the Americanopolis (the world depicted in Brave New World) one would be essentially teaching an vision and outlook that would necessarily turn against what it critiques. That is: Americanism and the Americanopolis. This is, as I have come to understand it, a veritable problem for America as a polity, and very definitely within the acadamic and intellectual tradtions. It is a profound problem that is as real, perhaps even more real, than it ever was, and yet the more real and pressing the problem gets, the less one is allowed to bring out a critiique and the more the critical thrust, as it were, is resented. I am not sure if I make my meaning clear: we are living right on the cusp of a strange and new form of totalitarianism that, as in a sci-fi prognostication, is becoming real right in front of our eyes. Very hard to describe what ‘it’ is! It is both a ‘managed outer world’ of pixel manipulation but just as much a spiritual and perceptual issue of the invidual. It has to do with the creation of an exterior morass as well as a slow and increasing deconstruction of the inner structure of individuals. The end result? Nescience. But this is not an issue ‘out there’ it is our issue and it is ‘in here’.

      There is a key I suppose to decyphering the social structure of Brave New World, the dystopian world of Americanism and the Americaopolis. In my view it is an ultra-modern and applied Thomism!

      Huxley is illustrative for other reasons as well. He really did develop a rather stark ‘fashy’ vision in his early writing, but it has been said that after WW2 he ‘relented’ in some way the hardness of his analysis. Oddly, he would up in California taking mescaline and involved in the Human Potential Movement. How very strange it is to consider that his high-mindedness and his critical outlook would be, more or less, subsumed into the wackiness of California experimentation.

      • There is a really strange movie made by the same man who made ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ that has a scene that, I imagine, must reflect some truth about those days in California. The movie is called ‘Seconds’ and here is the scene: []

        The turn away from the ‘Apollonian’ into the pure ‘Dionysian’ which had such a profound influence on every aspect of American culture and now dominates consciousness. The orgy-porgy really looks, superficially, like a great deal of fun! But it ends with your own daughters sold into sex-slavery in XXX movies and civilization given over to concupiscence.

        As Other Bill wrote ‘We drank, and got bombed’.

        • Alizia,

          Your responses are thought-provoking, insightful, and intellectually stimulating! Wow!

          We do read Brave New World as part of the course I teach. We do address many ideas you raise here – but, of course, in not as much depth nor with the sophisticaion you do here (although you may want to check out this essay written by one of former students:

          I do want to check out the other Huxley texts you cite here.

          I like to draw my students’ attention to Huxley’s influence on popular culture, notably the Beatles (he is featured in the famous Sgt. Pepper’s Album insert) and the Doors, who took their name from Huxley’s “Doors of Perception” in which he espouses the use of drugs to explore the expanse of the mind (“Break on through to the other side”).

          I appreciate your responses. Fascinating!



    • joed68

      Old Aldous really had our number!

  3. Chris

    This is very wrong.

    The example of text messages you provided shows two young people saying their last goodbyes. It also shows them exchanging crucial information–one asks the other whether the cops have shown up. Wouldn’t you want to know that in an emergency?

    As for the idea that children should behave like generals in a crisis, I have no idea where you could have gotten that from. It shows an astonishing lack of empathy.

    • Chris,
      I don’t disagree with you re: the utility of text messaging during a crisis.
      What I find troubling, however, is when these texts – meant as private communications – are shared publicly and become “trivial,” hence my reference to Huxley.

      • Chris

        I can understand that position, and I assumed that was going to be the thrust of Jack’s argument before I read the post.

        • Just to get past your reflexive weenism, are you seriously maintaining that it is better for anyone, child or not, to spend precious time bemoaning fate and composing goodbyes during a crisis than ditching the devices and trying to come up with a plan? Or do you just empathize with useless surrender to victimhood? Or do you advise it?

          Students should be taught how to respond in such situations, and I guarantee that survival training does not include, “Text touching messages to as many people as possible so they can go “viral” after you’re dead.”

          • Here's Johnny

            The last few times I was involved in an active shooter drill, it was in a high school, and it was nearly 10 years ago, so things might have changed. Back then, the practice was to lock the door (mine always was anyway), turn out the lights, get all the kids into the safest part of the room and keep them quiet, away from windows, etc., and wait for the situation to be resolved, presumably by law enforcement arriving and neutralizing the shooter.
            Part of the idea was to make the room look unoccupied.
            The kids were told (directed emphatically, really) to follow directions, to do nothing but ‘shelte’ in place’.
            In that scenario, why wouldn’t kids text to family and friends to say good-byes and exchange what little information they had?
            Make a plan? Throw their phone at the shooter? Do something! Well, that might apply to those directly confronted by a shooter. But, I don’t think that was the case with the kids who were texting.
            Training for the ‘do something’ would be a difficult challenge, and training to the point where action would be reflexive (as per the military) would just not work in a school.
            So, nothing wrong with the texts and tweets, if they were done while in a ‘shelter in place’ mode. That they went viral is to be expected, given the media and sociey we have today.

            • And in the 50’s, kids were taught to hide under their desks to save themselves from atom bombs.

              I am not impressed with the public schools’ training regarding anything. But even in this scenario, everyone needs to stay alert and aware. It’s no time for multi-processing.

              • I think this is a deflection answer, not really answering back to the assertion but just implying that whatever the people in charge came up with is just going to be wrong or inefficient anyway.

                What were they supposed to do in the 50s? Think of a way to fight the atom bombs instead of being under their desks? 🙂 (Wasn’t the idea of the desks is they gave a layer of protection from flying and falling objects anyway?)

                • No, it was a ridiculous effort to appear to be doing something with full knowledge that the action was futile.

                  I mean to imply that whatever bureaucrats come up with is likely going to be wrong or inefficient anyway. That is the lesson of bureaucracies. They want to avoid risk, liability, blame, and accountability, not to aggressively try to solve the problem.

                  • I don’t know. I see the hiding under desks as the same thing as WW2 soldiers wearing that thin steel pot. It’s not meant to stop the direct affects of a hazard, but it may mitigate the effects of a hazard at it’s “margins”, where the hazard isn’t quite as bad, but could be.

                    The soldier’s steel pot of World War 2 was never ever going to stop a direct impact of anything, the absence or presence of the helmet doing nothing to prevent fatality. But, for a round or shrapnel coming at a low angle, that grazing a skull could incapacitate or severely injure a soldier WOULD glance off the helmet. Still rattle the cage of the soldier, but the soldier still lives to fight. Or on the margins of impact energy: soldiers just outside of a blast radius to where shrapnel still has enough energy to severely stun or injure a soldier if the shrapnel hit them without a helmet, the helmet would reduce such an impact to more like a bump on the head. Whereas within a lethal range of the explosion, helmet or no helmet, the soldier is dead.

                    I think that’s the notion behind hiding under the desks…if you’re close enough to the blast that NOTHING is going to save you, yeah, it doesn’t matter. But if you are far enough away from the blast that your worries are the *marginal* effects of the blast…hiding under a desk might make the difference.

                    These school shootings present a whole lot more complexity in calculating these “margins” – what would be marginal vs what isn’t, and what would be the best way to mitigate them.

                    I like you, tend to think aggressiveness, assertiveness, situational awareness, and proactive thinking, will tend, on average to result in fewer casualties over time.

            • Still Spartan

              Here’s Johnny — exactly. If I were hiding in a closet and told not to move, I would put my phone on silent and text my final goodbyes. As would everyone. I don’t even understand where Jack is coming from.

              • Here's Johnny

                We actually went a bit further in our planning. If the shooter were to gain access (by shooting out the door lock,for example), I would already be next to the door with whatever makeshift weapon I had, and all of the students would gang-rush the shooter, to overpower, disarm, and restrain. Never had realistic training (as if we could), but we did war-game it.

            • We have such drill scheduled at my school this week.
              Same plan as you outline in your first paragraph.

            • joed68

              I’ve got a better idea: find cover and concealment somewhere near a likely point of ingress, and when he comes bebopping in, BLOW HIS BRAINS OUT!

          • Chris

            Just to get past your reflexive weenism, are you seriously maintaining that it is better for anyone, child or not, to spend precious time bemoaning fate and composing goodbyes during a crisis than ditching the devices and trying to come up with a plan? Or do you just empathize with useless surrender to victimhood? Or do you advise it?

            What kind of plan? Tell me what you would have done. After all, you’ve had weeks to think about it, from the safety and comfort of your home, without the adrenaline, chaos and confusion that these kids faced. So tell me: what should their plan have been?

            There is every possibility that whatever plan they may have come up with would have gotten more people killed. Hiding really is the right course of action sometimes, Jack. Sometimes there is nothing you can do.

            Students should be taught how to respond in such situations, and I guarantee that survival training does not include, “Text touching messages to as many people as possible so they can go “viral” after you’re dead.”

            If that’s really what you think this kid’s motivation was when he messaged his brother to tell him “I love you” because his teacher had just been shot in front of him, I don’t know what to tell you. That’s not just cynicism. That is a disgusting way to think.

            • “Hiding really is the right course of action sometimes, Jack. Sometimes there is nothing you can do.”

              I think this is right. But I also think, that even when hiding, the very real possibility that a shooter will find your hiding place would immediately turn your plan of riding out the storm into a direct confrontation. And every moment spent looking at a screen while hiding equates to attention being taken away from situational awareness…a situational awareness that may just buy a hiding student enough mental leeway to think of another step to improve their situation as their hiding spot is about to be compromised.

              So, if one is going to text, it must, must, must be purposeful, sparing, after all possible improvements have been made and only when absolutely assured no shooter is remotely close to finding your spot.

              I think situational awareness is a dying if not already dead skill that children can learn.

            • “Sometimes there is nothing you can do” Especially if you never think about what you can do..

            • joed68

              Hiding in a situation like this and waiting to be shot like fish in a barrel is RARELY, if ever, the best course of actions.

      • I did mention the usefulness of some of the text messaging, but most of those cited in the article were not useful to the texters. Of course the texts will become sentimentalized and publicized, but how is this different from Anne Frank’s diary?

        • I’m not sure of this reference. Are you saying Anne Frank was wasting her time writing her diary, instead of thinking of ways of fighting the Germans? I don’t really think you meant that, but it sounds that way.

          • What? The reference was in response to this comment by Andrew, reflecting his concerns when he flagged the story:

            I don’t disagree with you re: the utility of text messaging during a crisis.
            What I find troubling, however, is when these texts – meant as private communications – are shared publicly and become “trivial,” hence my reference to Huxley.

            My response endorses the utility of that process, and that it is not necessarily trivializing. In other words, it doesn’t trivialize the event or the response when the reactions of victims are publicized.

            I see that there were 11 comments between the statement I was reacting to and my response, so it’s understandable that you would be confused. but if you read them together, I think my meaning is clear.

            • Sorry. That’s why I was saying I don’t think that’s what you meant. I see afterwards that there was some nesting and followup comment orders on this post from the blog software as well.

    • Don’t say goodbye, take action so that goodbye isn’t necessary. I’m not surprised, given your orientaton, that you would find reflexively giving in to victimhood worthy of sympathy, but even children can learn survival skills. Empathy is closely linked to low expectations and complacency.

      • Chris

        “Low expectations” aren’t the issue here. My expectations are normal. Yours are unreasonable. They are children, and your expectation that people try and charge a shooter or something instead of saying their last goodbyes in a situation like this wouldn’t even be reasonable if applied to adults. As crella pointed out, adults wrote their last goodbyes on the planes on 9/11. That was your generation.

        • Faye Smallwood

          My first thought was 9/11 when I read this post. You underestimate the power of surprise.This was not expected. The security guard was trained professionally and he failed. You cannot throw a phone at a powerful gun.

    • crella

      It struck me as more frustration than lack of empathy.

    • I don’t know. I think it’s understandable that many people’s natural reaction is to think about their loved ones and appreciate the comforts of being anywhere other than a situation in which they very likely could die. I think most people naturally spend time lamenting their situation and regretting the forgotten “I love you” than they do improving their situation.

      I think it’s a human condition.

      But I also think, like most human conditions we want it to improve. I would agree that if 10 seconds of actions might increase survival or improve your situation, it’s better spent doing just that. I think, Jack’s commentary, though rough to handle, aims for a higher human condition. Since I agree that, though we can forgive and understand the texting student’s preference to say their last good-byes, we’d prefer they take some sort of action to improve their deadly situation, then the only way to get there is by stating, unequivocally that action is better than lamentation. If most of society were on board with teaching that, passing from parent to child, from teacher to student, from civic leader to citizen, from old to young, and simultaneously encouraging such behavior through example and training, I would submit that you’d see more of the “improve my situation” conduct and less “lament my situation” conduct.

      It would seem to me as well, that if society were actively priming itself for “improve my situation” conduct, then in these sorts of emergency situations, there may very well quicker resolutions. Today, one of my co-workers mentioned how a boy brought a firearm to his high school (back in the 80’s), and pulled it out to begin his own personal massacre. But nothing happened. No one was shot. The boy was bum-rushed by the crowd before a shot was fired and tackled to the ground and disarmed.

      Yes, it’s moral luck that no one was shot, but if someone had been shot, it would probably have been maybe one or two students before the rest had the shooter down.

      I can understand the texters, but I don’t think it’s wrong to point out what one believes is a higher road, and given enough years of inculcating a more aggressive or assertive approach to life, society, on average, will exhibit more of what I was called “improve your situation” conduct and less “lament your situation” conduct. I’m also not certain that it’s a lack of empathy to prefer a more aggressive response. If a more assertive or active response had been taken by more students and it ended up only 4 dead instead of 17, how is not wishing for greater aggression on the part of would-be victims not also be seen as an empathetic response?

      Sure, Jack’s commentary is rough to swallow, but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable assessment, however unpleasant to modern ears. Then again, our current culture has been primed to hear anything that isn’t sugar-coated and emotions-oriented as being insensitive.

      • Chris

        I would agree that if 10 seconds of actions might increase survival or improve your situation, it’s better spent doing just that.

        That’s a big “if,” though, in a situation like this. It can’t be assumed. If that’s the argument, then Jack needs to demonstrate that there was a specific action the students could have taken that had a strong likelihood of being a better alternative than staying where they were. He hasn’t done that. I don’t think he can do that.

        • No doubt each individual texting student could be evaluated on a case by case basis…forming a type of “bell curve” of “should this student be texting or should this student be doing“. That being said, I still don’t see the argument against calling society towards a value system that teaches the young to tend towards action in these situations and less towards texting in these situations.

          It’s all averages, which is why it’s appropriate for Jack to make these assertions, while simultaneously one can find some of these texts fully understandable and expected.

          • I’ll agree, if nothing else can be done to improve one’s situation in an emergency, and the means are available to “arrange one’s affairs” (so-to-say), then I can’t say it’s wrong to do so. But, I’d be hard pressed to wonder if there is absolutely nothing else that can be done to improve one’s situation.

            • Yes, Chris’s advice is to give up, lie down, make peace, and go quietly into oblivion while leaving touching notes that move the living to tears. Good lesson for the next generation.

              We’re in the middle of the anniversary of the siege of the Alamo, by the way.

              • Yep, and I’ll be down there this weekend…it’s what the religious Alamo fans call the “high holy days”. Never been down there during the ‘height of the season’, though I won’t be there on March 6th.

              • Still Spartan

                Jack’s advice is for the CHILD to rush the shooter, alerting him to the presence of numerous students previously hidden. Both the child would die as well as those who were previously safe.

                • It’s a gigantic prisoner’s dilemma matrix, if you want to discuss it in terms of game theory.

                  In one column you have “take action” and in another column you have “hope for help”. When you cross the blocks of columns, you get in the bottom right, a situation where a mob swarms the shooter and take him down, maybe resulting in 1 or 2 casualties. In the upper left cell, you get a situation where everyone hides and hopes, maybe resulting in dozens and dozens of casualties. In the upper right and lower left cells you get situations where ones and twos want to take action while everyone else hides and so you end up with 10-20 casualties.

                  I think our culture is somewhere in the upper-right and lower-left cells, I shudder to think what things will be like if we got to the “everyone sits and hopes”, and I think the thrust of Jack’s vision, is that we inculcate the values in our people of being a society where everyone tends towards action.

                  • Still Spartan

                    If I’m hidden, I would stay hidden — and probably text goodbyes. If I’m in the hallway and facing the shooter, I would hope that I would rush the shooter even if I died in the process. If I were in a position of safety but thought I could take down the shooter, I would obviously do that. As I am an adult now with children in my care, I would sacrifice myself to save them if at all possible.

                    Many years ago, I once was walking down the street late at night with my boyfriend at the time and a car came by, stopped and two guys pulled guns on us. (I think I am remembering this correctly, but honestly, all I remember is “GUN!” and little else.) My immediate reaction was to scream at the top of my lungs (I have a loud, high pitched scream) and jump behind my large, 6’4” boyfriend. If you would have told me ahead of time that I would have reacted that way, I would have laughed in your face because I am generally a tough cookie. But guns and crisis situations all make us behave in ways we never would have expected.

                    By the way, the hold-up was averted because another car came by and that scared them off.

                • Rich in CT

                  No, Jack’s advice is to be alert for changing circumstances. Sometimes, most times even, the best answer is to lay low, but that could change, and rapidly.

                  I used to work in a school, and have thought about this and listened to advice on experts. I’ve imaged, in vivid detail, taking a baseball bat or fire extinguisher to a shooters head, including the sickening sound of his nose or skull breaking, and eyes rolling back into his head that left me shaken up for hours.

                  Following the shooting at Virginia Tech (which but by moral luck alone, my now best friend could have enrolled at that year), experts stated that the best course of action is to take cover, evacuate if safe, and be prepared to actively resist if necessary. They said said that persons in a room the shooter enters should be prepared to throw whatever they have at him (textbooks, food, desks, chairs) to overwhelm and disarm him. These steps, or any other steps, can only work if everyone is ready to pounce and take the shooter by surprise. Composing one’s obituary is only going to divert your attention.

                  So no, Jack is NOT telling a student, a “CHILD”, to rush out unprepared and alert the shooter. But he is saying that texting instead of planning a back up strategy is a form of surrender.

              • Chris

                Yes, Chris’s advice is to give up, lie down, make peace, and go quietly into oblivion while leaving touching notes that move the living to tears. Good lesson for the next generation.

                I can’t believe you wrote this after accusing me of making a strawman argument. I have not given any “advice” at all.

                • You wrote: “this is very wrong.” Correct? If advising students to be proactive and to refuse to surrender to despair and wrong, then what are you advising with that statememt? The opposite. You are so incoherent that it’s hard to know what the hell you mean. But emotional responses soaked with “empathy” will do that.

                  • Chris

                    You wrote: “this is very wrong.” Correct?

                    Correct, and I stand by it.

                    If advising students to be proactive and to refuse to surrender to despair and wrong,

                    That’s not all you did in your post, and that’s not what I criticized as being wrong. Read my comments again; nowhere did I say or imply that it’s wrong to advise students to be proactive and refuse to surrender to despair. I criticized your tone (which was one of condemnation) and your lack of empathy.

              • My brief absence this weekend was partially because instead of going straight down to San Antonio to recharge my Alamo batteries, I took the 3 year old daughter on a road trip through Gonzales, to Goliad, to Coleto Creek and then back across to San Antonio.

        • Zanshin

          In a comment above Chris wrote, He hasn’t done that. I don’t think he can do that.

          Well, I can’t speak for Jack but I sure can come up with,

          a specific action the students could have taken that had a strong likelihood of being a better alternative than staying where they were.

          Disclaimer 1. The text below is a possible scenario for a fictitious class involved in a school shooting. This is in no way intended to criticize schools, teachers, students and others who have been confronted with real school shootings.

          One specific action could be … Oh, this is so good; this one is for you Chris … Haven’t you seen MacGyver? I believe he was part of (y)our generation. He would be so proud of this fictitious class who by relying on their unconventional problem-solving skills saved not only theirs but also other lives.

          The teacher and about 5 of the strongest kids, may be members of the wrestling club, and yes, someone like Mack Beggs, who was born female and is transitioning to male while taking steroids, can also participate.
          The entrance, the closed door is the one spot where one can get very close to the shooter if he/she tries to get in. That’s his/her vulnerable spot.
          So, the other kids hide in the safest spot. But the ‘welcoming committee’ stands on both sides of the door. With all the weapons and shields they can garner. Sticks and stones, a sharpened pencil, a can with hot water, pepper spray may be, certainly some chairs and tables. [I am here assuming the door opens to the outside.] On one side of the door you stack a few tables with one of the smaller kids on top with the can of hot water or a bag with the content of the waste bucket or what-ever one can throw on him from above (and that will not endanger the attackers on the ground).
          On the other side of the entrance one of the kids has a broom.
          The doors open, as the shooter takes the first step across the threshold the kid on top of the stacked tables throws what he has over the shooter. The kid with the broom wipes the legs of the shooter under his body with a big sweep. They throw chairs and tables and what-have-you on him. The bully of the class jumps on the shooter with the baseball bat (If he gets shot, it is sad, very sad, but (a) the other children of the class had voted him/her to be the vanguard volunteer and (b) it is his/her chance to redeem him-/herself for all his/her past misdeeds.)

          Well the rest would be (literally) history.

          For added bonus points.
          a. One of the kids could from the diagonal corner of the door (but never the corner where the other kids are hiding) distract the attention of the shooter by making as much noise as possible.
          b. One kid could be appointed to document the whole action using the video camera on his smart phone; may be using something like Facebook Live or Periscope; Instead that, in line with Neil Postman’s “The Huxleyan Warning”, the school kids become an audience and their slaughtering a vaudeville act, they become producers of their own heroes movie; a revival of America’s values is a clear possibility.

          Chris also wrote in a previous comment,

          After all, you’ve had weeks to think about it, from the safety and comfort of your home, without the adrenaline, chaos and confusion that these kids faced. So tell me: what should their plan have been?

          And he is right, the above scenario demands the utmost creativity, willingness to cooperate, and the willingness to sacrifice ones live. In other words, as apple pie as American values are/used to be.

          So some preparation beyond the official lock down drill is advisable.

          As a teacher, one could prepare by:
          a. thinking through scenarios like the one above but tailored to your own situation;
          b. know your students from this perspective. Ask yourself questions like, who are strong? who can one trust with a difficult task? whom of the girls is transitioning and taking steroids? who is the bully of the class? which kids are specially gifted and need to be as much out of harms way as possible? et cetera;
          c. make sure you have stuff in your CSB (class survival bag) fitting this and other scenarios. In any case, things that can be used as a weapon and are at the same time (legally) allowed to have with you;
          (An example of such an item could be a CD disc. If you break it in two, you have two very sharp pointed weapons.)
          d. discuss with your class the concept of OODA loop developed by military strategist and United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd;
          e. Read together and discuss the 1989 novelA Prayer for Owen Meany by American writer John Irving.

          Chris, in again another comment, referred to a comment of crella. She wrote, referring to people on the planes on 9/11 who wrote letters to their families,

          Fight, flight, or Tweet

          Before 9/11 the official stated policy was that it was very wrong for crew and passengers to fight with terrorists who hijacked their plane.

          The assumptions underpinning this policy were that,
          a. hijacking took time. Hijacked planes had to land somewhere, there would be some negotiations, a hijacking could take several days.
          b. in many occurrences most passengers would survive. Sometimes there was a shoot out but also many times a release of all (/most) people aboard;
          c. the hijackers were somewhat to reason with because they also wanted to get out alive;
          d. the officials were best equipped to handle these situations.

          After 9/11 it became crystal clear that these assumptions are obsolete.

          That’s why in several situations passengers on planes, trains and automobiles took action. See for instance 15:17 to Paris Clint Eastwood’s latest movie where three Americans stopped a terrorist attack on a French train in 2015.

          Well, the same is true for school shootings,
          a. a school shooting is, depending on the kind of weapon and the amount of ammunition the shooter brought with him/her, over within 5-10 minutes?
          b. most (real) school shootings don’t end very well; a very high casualty rate;
          c. most of the shooters keep killing until killed;
          d. one thing the Florida school shooting teaches us is that we can’t rely on officials like FBI and local police.

          Therefore, as in hijackings by terrorists, teachers and students have to take matters in their own hands; and thereby ultimately risking their own lives.

          So, in the above scenario there is certainly a risk that kids would die. But they would only act if the shooter tries to get into their class room thereby elevating the situation to the Fight-stage (The current training by the Federal Government distinguishes three stages: Run, Hide, Fight).
          In that case the option is 0-3 kids (probably including the class bully) die as heroes vs. all (25-30?) kids die as ignorant sheep — not even knowing who killed them because they were busy texting.

          Disclaimer 2. I have quoted and paraphrased parts of comments by other commenters. By using their texts I do not imply that the original commenters agree with this comment.

          Disclaimer 3. I have not properly referenced all the quotes I have used/paraphrased because it would take away of the flow of my comment and the quotes are easily traceable to the original comments.
          If you recognize my usage of a part of your comment and you want recognition for it, let me know and I will acknowledge the said so being the case.

          • Well THAT’S a Comment of the Day if I ever saw one, and especially gratifying since I would have had to write it if you didn’t. Oh…you appeared to double the comment, and I removed the duplicate. If I made an error in doing so, let me know. I kept the part I cut just in case.

          • crella

            “ She wrote, referring to people on the planes on 9/11 who wrote letters to their families“

            That was not in reference to 9/11…I said that, like the situation in 9/11, I can see last messages. What I cannot see is continuous live texting like we are seeing lately.

            “ I understand last messages, people on the planes on 9/11 wrote letters to their families…last contact is something people think of, but not all of this is that. “ referring to the texts now making the rounds.

      • I think the problem is you’re just as likely to end up with maybe 40 dead instead of 4 if more assertive action is used. That’s why they determined the best course of action is to lock the doors and get out of line of sight.

        • This can only be the best course of action if children are already in classrooms or can reasonably reach an unlocked classroom before it gets locked. But we aren’t discussing that situation. The Florida shooter pulled the fire alarm and the hallways were flooded with children.

          Even then, once in a presumably secured classroom, it is still better to prepare to fend of a shooter who may breach the door than it is to sit there sending out your farewells. The fight for survival isn’t over until it’s over…seeming respites should never be an opportunity to drop your situational awareness or let down your guard.

          No one is asking a classroom of children with no knowledge of what is immediately outside their door to cry “God for Harry, England and St George” and then fill the gap with their American dead. The hope is that children will maintain guard, situational awareness, and methodically seek to improve their situation and information of their immediate surroundings. Which, over time may prove that they discover they have a drop on a shooter that has passed by…how many school football players could sneak out and tackle a shooter or club him over the head.

          Again, the razor here is “is it better to take proactive stance” or “take a submissive stance”?

          • Are 20 dead kids who fought back and won better than 25 dead kids who didn’t fight back? Which I think is a gross exaggeration. The individual power of a firearm is awful for the individual who gets shot. The individual power of a firearm is very very very highly overrated when faced with a swarm of people from multiple angles. It’s a huge prisoners dilemma.

            • (A prisoner’s dilemma, which my gut tells me, would be generally overcome or “overcome enough” if we raised our children from early childhood to be more assertive, aggressive, problem-solving, etc)

            • It’s a high enough powered rifle that the bullets will go through one person and strike the ones behind. You’re shooting down a relatively narrow hallway where a few can run at you at one time. This isn’t a wide open field where you have some coordinated strike force to come in many angles. You have a high firing rate with a large capacity magazine. It would be a slaughter. And that’s even if there is only one shooter involved.

          • I think at this point they’ve stated they’re not sure if the fire alarm was pulled by the shooter, or if it just went off from all the smoke from the shooting. Either way that was confusion on the part of some of the people. The lesson learned is don’t leave the room during an active shooting if the fire alarm goes off unless you see a real fire. Not to run out and try to tackle the shooter.

            You can prepare, but that can be done in about 30 seconds. There are no weapons in the room, and you want to be off to the side so you’re out of line of sight from the window in the door. Which leaves just a couple of people who can be by the door. They open inward, against one wall, so the open side wall where the door doesn’t swing is the one place to be near and stand, and also the place where the gunman might expect someone. The doors are made of metal (or a metal sheet inside them), so it’s not like they’ll just bust in. These aren’t like doors in your house.

            Come on, really? How are they to know when the shooter has snuck by, as they’re staying out of sight. How do you open up a big, heavy door without alerting someone, even if their hearing has been impaired from gunfire. What if there is more then one shooter? They had no idea at that point, and will have no idea in the future. Now you’ve given the shooter(s) an open door to get in, or just shoot through.

  4. Inquiring Mind

    It was the 20th Maine, not the 10th Maine…

    • He was just talking about half of them.

      • And didn’t you mean “Jeff Daniels”…not “Joshua Chamberlain”?

          • You know, one of these days I’m really going to take action when you misstate what I write like this. I did not say that it was “unethical” to text, or that the kids doing so were unethical. It’s a constant trick you play, or habitual intellectual sloppiness…in any case, its a cheat. If you can’t deal with the actual commentary, shut up. Spare me the lies and straw men.

            • Where ever I misstated what you wrote, I’d like to know so I can rectify it.

              • Chris

                He meant to address that to me, Michael.

                Jack, I assumed that, like 99% of what you write here, your critique of the children’s texting was based on ethics. This was neither a lie nor a straw man. It was a safe assumption, even if it turned out to be an incorrect one.

                • You just did it again. Why is English such a problem for you? The post was about life competence, what values society comveys, and whay we teach our children as well as how technology affects character and the dangers of addiction. Obviously that touches on many ethical issues and ethics values. The post did not involve calling the students unethical or their texting unethical. I wrote that in a correction of your previous misstatement, and you then write here that I have said that the post wasn’t about ethics.

                  • Chris

                    You just did it again. Why is English such a problem for you? The post was about life competence, what values society comveys, and whay we teach our children as well as how technology affects character and the dangers of addiction. Obviously that touches on many ethical issues and ethics values. The post did not involve calling the students unethical or their texting unethical. I wrote that in a correction of your previous misstatement, and you then write here that I have said that the post wasn’t about ethics.

                    This isn’t a comprehension problem then, it’s a logic problem. I don’t see how you can say the post was about ethics and then say you don’t think the kids behaved unethically. Yes, life competence is an ethical value. You are saying that the kids failed to demonstrate this ethical value by texting instead of taking action against the shooter. The logical conclusion from those premises is that the students behaved unethically. Can you show me where the logical error is in drawing this conclusion?

              • You didn’t. Chris did. Again. Did the comment nest strangely?

          • Though I was impressed by Jeff Daniel’s out of character portrayal.

            • Unrecognizable…the best thing I’ve seen him do. In a movie that critics weren’t pre-pledged to sneer at, he would have recieved some acting honors…Richard Jordan too.

              • All I can find are soldier memories that Chamberlain made a speech that shame most of the deserters to rejoin the Army, are there any sources that document any of Chamberlain’s actual comments to the men?

                Not that Michael Shaara’s version wasn’t awesome, I just wonder.

  5. Here are some facts.
    1. This text thread was at 2:46pm.

    2. According to the shooting timeline of events the shooter left the building at around 2:28pm with other students, so the last shots were prior to that point in time. According to one timeline the shooting only lasted about 7 minutes.

    3. At the time of the text thread there hadn’t been a shot fired in at least 18 minutes.

    4. We don’t know exactly where either of these students were when these text thread was in progress.

    I don’t care who you are, after a violent shooting like that and then silence (meaning no shots fired) for 18 minutes I don’t think it is unreasonable for anxious directly and indirectly affected people to have the adrenaline start to wear off and want to start communicating in the easiest and quietest manner possible to find out what’s going on and is it safe now.

    Based on available information, I cannot and will not condemn these young people for this texting at this point in the timeline.

    Now to address another point: many of our youth are absolutely addicted to instant messaging, live video, selfies, likes, sharing snippets of “entertainment”, etc, etc, this is a huge problem for their own safety and the safety of those around them. Jacks point about texting in a crisis situation is a very valid point, he just missed some details in the timeline. Addicted youth seem to be compelled to send out messages completely ignoring safety, I see it all the time. Their tunnel vision obsession surrounding that little handheld device isolates them from the real world and immediate safety issues.

    • Who condemned them? I condemn a culture that is failing to inculcate the young in self-reliance and life competence. It’s just moral luck how the timeline played out—while they were texting, the shooter could have been preparing his next onslaught.

      • Jack Marshall asked, “Who condemned them?”

        Forgive me if I misunderstood your intent, but this sure sound a whole lot like condemning to me.

        Jack said, “Why are these people texting and tweeting in the middle of a crisis? Why aren’t they thinking? Organizing? Trying to solve the problem? Once a 911 has been sent, there is no further utility to communicating with friends and loved ones. That’s a distraction from the task at hand: survival. Don’t text, “Dear Mom, I’m about to be shot.” Throw the damn phone at the shooter’s head while someone rushes him from behind. Take action, don’t give us your feelings.”

        Condemn: Express complete disapproval of.

        • I completely disapprove of the conduct, which is useless and self-defeating. That is not condemning the students. It’s not their fault that they have been brought up to expect others to take care of them, and to capitulate to despair if the rescue doesn’t come. Nevertheless, the conduct is incompetent. Or do you encourage it? Yup, it’s terrible that they found themselves in this position, but also pathetic that their instinct was to start texting. They needed leadership more than pity or symapthy. If there was someone capable of leadership, he was distracted by his need to emote.

          This reaction risks getting more victims hurt or killed. OK, they are kids. Kid who are properly trained and taught can do amazing things.

          • Chris

            also pathetic that their instinct was to start texting

            No, their instinct was to contact their loved ones before they died. That isn’t “pathetic.” The medium is irrelevant, and the “Kids these days with their smartphone addictions” angle is a red herring; it has nothing to do with why they had the basic human instinct of trying to contact their loved ones before they died. There was nothing unethical about their actions at all.

            • I’m wrestling with this. I want to say there’s a line between “instinct to think about one’s loved ones” and “instinct to contact one’s loved ones”. I’m not sure how to express it, but I think the former is natural and fine and actually can generate the motive for follow on decisions, whereas the latter actually is one of the follow on decisions that may or may not be the best choice in a given situation.

      • Zanshin

        Just a technical / linguistic question,

        Zoltar wrote,
        Based on available information, I cannot and will not condemn these young people for this texting at this point in the timeline.

        Jack replyed with the question, Who condemned them?

        Besides the way Zoltar responded what do you both think of the following responses:

        a. Hi Jack, I wrote, “I cannot and will not condemn [etc.]” This is of course about me. What makes you think it says something about you?
        b. Hi Jack, As far as I can tell, nobody condemns them. You didn’t even use the word condemn before I used it and I used the word ‘condemn’ only to state that I cannot and will not condemn them

    • Chris

      This is a good comment, Zoltar.

  6. As far as I’m concerned; the addiction people have with instant messaging etc is turning them into ignorant sheep expecting everyone else to watch out for them to keep them safe. I think it’s better to be the sheepdog than the ignorant sheep.

    I’ve watched my wife slowly get addicted to texting with our children, it doesn’t matter when that damn thing goes off now she has to stop what she is doing, pause everyone’s life so she can read and answer the text. I had to force her to put it on airplane mode or completely off at dinnertime.

    I’ve been on the phone with businesses where the person on the phone got a text message and put me on hold to answer it. Been at restaurants where the wait staff are texting by their station and ignoring customers, I’ve had to walked over and interrupt them to get things done. I’ve been walked into by tunnel visioned texters everywhere I go. I’ve seen texters walk out in front of rapidly moving traffic. I watched an idiot at a gas station texting while their gas tank was overflowing on the ground. I can’t count how many texters I’ve watched walk into closed doors. These people are completely oblivious to their surroundings.

  7. crella

    Some of them were texting while the shooting was going on, one example in the article was ’they just shot through the wall, one of my classmates is hurt’. I understand last messages, people on the planes on 9/11 wrote letters to their families…last contact is something people think of, but not all of this is that. Divided attention in the midst of a crisis or a threat to life is dangerous, and not human instinct, at least not until Twitter. I am not criticizing these kids, just really perplexed by the phenomenon. A friend and I have been researching the effects of social media on social interaction and behavior, and it’s clear that our behavior patterns are changing to prioritize electronic communication. The first thing people seem to do now in answer to anything is grab their phones. Fight, flight, or Tweet…

    Why were they shared? Is nothing private? There is a lot of language in the article like ‘went viral’ and ‘tend to go viral’, but these were private text messages…they could not become public without the recipients making them public. Nothing can ‘go viral’ ( hate that term!) unless someone first releases it. As a parent, I can’t imagine releasing texts received in such a situation. People feel differently about these issues, but I have to admit to not really understanding it.

    Are we (as a society) addicted to emotional hits provided by social media? We can experience many more ‘hits’ of strong emotion a day by reading posts about others’ tragedies and heartbreaks, and watching cat/dog/bird videos than we can just living our own lives. The stronger the emotion, the more dramatic the situation, the stronger the hit. With no personal risk at all…

  8. Jim Wallace

    wow….nice to see some commenters taking on Jack when he reveals a faulty logic imbued with cynical regard for the Florida students in the midst of their nightmare. Real bully stuff there, Jack….Trumpian, even! congrat

    • Of course, no one has actually been willing to say that the most practical conduct is to spend one’s time in peril texting good-byes and expressing anxiety. My son has been taught to since childhood to take action, be proactive, not to be a victim, to fight back and not go gently into that good night. In a crisis, I’m betting on him rather than the texters.

      My logic is impeccable. When tragedies involving kids are involved, nobody wants to hear logic. That’s all your comment tells me.

    • Stupid computer just glitched…

      Jim Wallace,
      Your comment was 100% ad hominem trolling.

      Jacks’s “do better” is way too nice for me; you’re trolling, you’re acting like an asshole, either stop it or leave.

  9. Vitaeus

    Current training by the Federal Government is Run, Hide, Fight. Had to sign the training roster just yesterday.
    These are the same children we are expected to listen to about complicated policy. Pick one, either they are delicate flowers or they are policy setters.
    Personally I would rather my child act in a manner Jack is suggesting.

    • I agree and some students did act in a manner that could have offered protection but this story seems like it got buried because it took an acquaintance to point this one.

    • “Pick one, either they are delicate flowers or they are policy setters.”

      Huh? I think this needs expansion because if my pre-conceived notions of what you are talking about are true, then I think this is a false dichotomy.

  10. Rick McNair

    How would you apply this to the calls during 9/11 from buildings and planes?

    • Rick M.

      Looks like this was already covered. My bad!

    • I think once it became apparent the intent of the hijackers, then action would have been better than final words. But, prior to 9/11 the vast majority experience with hijackers has been that hijackers land the plane somewhere and after a lengthy standoff, are either killed or surrender, with most people on board the planes making it out relatively unscathed.

      Given that experience, I have a little more patience with the 9/11 texters than people in an active shooting.

      • Rick M.

        What is especially tragic is the texting/calls made from the towers. And the jumpers? That is heart-wrenching beyond description.

      • I nearly brought up Flight 93 [CORRECTED from “90”]…it’s a perfect example in many ways, but I decided it was a morass. Those passengers had learned about the other three planes and their fates and purpose. What would the Stoneman high students have done if there had been three other school massacres that day wgere everyone had been murdered? That would be like Flight 90. And, of course, the passengers were adults, and many some had special training.

  11. Rick M.

    Folks handle stress and critical life threatening different ways. Jack has the pro-active approach that he instilled. How many do that? And if you do will your response kick in? We saw supposedly a highly trained officer who may well have shirked his duty during the crisis. For kids this is their comfort blanket – texting. That is their preferred method of communication and involvement. The whole situation reminds me of the character Ruby in the movie The Fifth Element.

    • It’s the responsibility of the greater culture to inculcate the values we consider best for the culture into upcoming generations. If we decide that we’d rather our children be more aggressive and assertive in emergency situations, then its the duty of the greater culture to take measures to work on that.

      If it seems that most of our people shy away from these situations when they could do something and that something might stop the bad situation, and we want our people to take action rather than avoid it, then we have to teach those values.

      That’s what Jack is doing here.

    • That’s the big unknown: nobody can know how they will react in crisis.

      • Rick M.

        Some have experienced such a crisis. I have on two occasions and each has a difference in response and circumstance. The first was the need to make a quick decision. It was on an aircraft (small) and if I didn’t act and act appropriately we would have crashed. This was a 30-second time frame. The second is one I have always questioned my actions or lack of.

        SE X-Way late at night and over 40 years ago. I witness a horrific crash and subsequent flames. The vehicle is on fire. Maybe a minute after the crash? You never know time in these situations. I have stopped as do a few others. No one is exiting the vehicle. I freeze. How long? Five seconds? Thirty seconds? Two others rush to the vehicle and I follow. Why? Was it a herd mentality? Did some type of positive response kick in?

        But then my actions are precise. I go to the passenger side (no flames) and the door will not budge. The others are on the driver’s side and having trouble. I have martial arts experience, so I do a reverse kick and break the glass. I get the door unlocked but am having trouble and yell to the others. Size matters and they are linebacker size and easily extract the two unconscious in the car. Meanwhile, the flames have subsided thanks to others.

        I reflect this day on my actions. Did I freeze over fire? That is a natural human response. I was in no danger so was that the reason I hesitated? With the aircraft, I was a goner without action. Was I “forced” into actions by the others not hesitating? Would I have finally moved without the motivation of others? For my own personal condolences, I will say I did the right actions when necessary.

        • Rick,

          Shock can stop even a trained soldier. One is in the frame of mind when combat is pending, but a surprise can give anyone pause.

          The brain works by pattern recognition when fast response is needed. This is why repetition drills are emphasized in military training and in fighting. What we call ‘muscle memory’ is a combination of trained muscles and pattern recognition in the brain.

          I have been in the situations you describe, first on scene in a wreck, several times. Each time, the new situation requires an effort to get moving. In one case, I watched a car wreck in front of me. I had time to think my response through, and in the 20 second it took to park, get out and run to the car had recalled my training and knew what to do.

          Another time, my wife fell and hit her head. I watch the blood drip for an endless time (5 seconds max, we later figured out) before jumping in and applying direct pressure, etc. I froze, if you want to call it that. Surprise and shock.

          It is not how you initially react, it is if you can get moving to do the right thing despite that, as I teach my kids. Deal with the crisis, break down later (and I did, too)

          All that to tell you: you did nothing wrong, and likely saved those folks lives. Be proud of your contribution, despite any delay, you acted in time.

          • Rick M.

            Thank you, Willy. I have four sons that have served and all have spoken to me about battlefield situations. I will always have those most nagging doubts despite what you say is what I really should concentrate on.

  12. I think it’s time to make something perfectly clear in this thread…

    Jack’s core point that when in a immediate life and death crisis situation grabbing a cell phone to text is anti-safety and could in fact, in situations like an active shooter in a school, actually endanger the one texting or endanger students receiving the text. If you send an emotional last goodbye to your Mommy and Mommy replies, that means the noise from your phone could identify your location to an active shooter and put your life in imminent danger. Jack is absolutely correct that students need to take personal responsibility and be prepared to defend their life if confronted with a shooter and that requires some thinking to prepare the brain so when the time comes they can implement the plan instead of cowering like pinned in sheep – attack like a viscous snarling sheepdog wanting to tear the head off the shooter and shit down his throat.

    If the first ever school shooter in the United States was taken down by a classroom full of snarling angry students and beat to death with their crayons, cellphones, books, chairs, shoes, pencils, pens, notebooks, purses, emptied desk drawer, Bunsen burner, chalkboard erasers, etc. etc. do you think future school shooters would think twice about walking into a school to shoot it up?

    Part of changing schools from soft targets to hard targets is for those that occupy the target zone to choose not to be sheep and you simply cannot accomplish that if “everyone” in the target zone is wallowing in self pity trying to text their Mommy.

    • Seemed clear to me that the thesis was:

      1) All things being equal, action in support of survival is better than texting about one’s imminent doom.

      2) Our culture ought to train its young to have an instinctively assertive and aggressive mindset, so that when emergencies arise it’s not a matter of willing oneself to do something must it’s 2nd nature to do so.

      • Chris

        Seemed clear to me that the thesis was:

        1) All things being equal, action in support of survival is better than texting about one’s imminent doom.

        2) Our culture ought to train its young to have an instinctively assertive and aggressive mindset, so that when emergencies arise it’s not a matter of willing oneself to do something must it’s 2nd nature to do so.

        That thesis could have been communicated in a less mean-spirited way. I know that because you just did it, Michael. You should have written the post. As it stands, the overall tone is one of complete bafflement that anyone might want to reach out to a loved one during a near-death experience. It reads like it was written by an emotionless alien studying our species. Had Jack shown any understanding of what motivated the kids to do this instead of “Boy, this generation sucks with their texting and social media,” the reaction to this post would have been a lot different.

        • I’ve been on an internal dialogue about your concerns with Jack’s strength of communicating this topic. I mean, I’m a younger generation than him…born in ’81, and I can see where the message comes across as off-putting to those of us raised by “sensitivity oriented” methods.

          But I also think about, when I’m trying to teach my son something that is life and death…I am a bit more urgent and forceful.

          When he was about two or two-and-a-half he went running after his ball towards the street. I barely got to him and yanked his arm back and scolded him in a very unpleasant voice: “Don’t you ever go into the street without your mommy or me– there are fast moving cars that you may not be aware of that will hurt you very very badly!” then (hold the parenting debate for later), I informed him if I ever saw him in the street without either of us, he’d be spanked.

          My care for his feelings, and my “empathy” with him not fully understanding why, paled in comparison to my greater care for him not being in a situation he was not ready for the hazards of which would be final and irreversible.

          If Jack harbors this kind of urgency over raising the next generation to be a little more assertive in these types of situations, I think we can give a pass for the strong method he communicated the message…?

          (Happy ending of the story: the little guy now can be sprinting at top speed towards the street and stop as though a magic force field were at the curb…and I never actually had to spank him for testing the boundary after the limit was established…and the lesson has rubbed off on his sister two years his younger and we only had to calmly admonish her…though she’s fonder of testing boundaries…little punk)

          • I’m seldom equivocal in priming these discussions, even if I could be. It’s part of my charm. I view the fact that this topic has over a hundred comments already as an unqualified success.

          • We raised two boys… two HARD headed boys. I only had a brother growing up, so understood boys. If you were not yelling, you were not serious, to their minds. Great emphasis was the only way to get their attention.

            THEN we had a girl. And at about the time she started walking, I had to stop her from walking into danger, from too far away to grab her. I yelled. She cried

            I was nonplussed. I was flabbergasted. Why was she crying?

            Turns out a calm voice worked with her: to this day too much harsh or loud upsets her (she is 15 now). Girls are different.

    • Since most classrooms are pretty wide open and lack secure places to hide, how would you prepare a classroom full of scared students to fight for their life if necessary.

      Here an idea of what to say, “If a shooter walks through that door we must combine our strengths together into one fighting force and take down the shooter. I will ambush the shooter first and then everyone else attacks in mass with anything that can be used as a weapon and don’t stop attacking until the shooter is disarmed and completely immobilized. Today even our pens are a weapon. If that shooter comes in here, that shooter will be stopped right here! For now remain quiet, confident, out of sight, and focused”

      Modify that to your hearts content and be completely honest with yourself; what would you say to a classroom full of scared students that might die in a few minutes?

      Absolutely no reason to reply, just actively think about it.

      • “I AM Michael West. And I see a whole classroom of my countrymen here in defiance of tyranny. You have come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What would you do without freedom? Will you fight? Fight and you may die. Run and you’ll live — at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell this school shooter that he may take our lives, but he’ll never take…. OUR FREEDOM!!

        In less than an hour, students from here will join others from around the school. And you will be launching the largest school resistance to a school shooter in the history of mankind.

        Mankind — that word should have new meaning for all of us today.
        We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore.
        We will be united in our common interests.
        You will be fighting for our freedom, not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution — but from annihilation.
        We’re fighting for our right to live, to exist.
        And should we win the day, it will be the day when the school declared in one voice:

        “We will not go quietly into the night!
        We will not vanish without a fight!
        We’re going to live on!
        We’re going to survive!”
        Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!

        It’s a topsy-turvy world, guys, and maybe the problems of our class don’t amount to a hill of beans, but this is our hill and these are our beans!”

        • But seriously, and I hope I’d rise to occasion, I’d let them know in stark terms their options and the likely results of sitting around hoping, and if no one else rose to the occasion, I’d let them know, fine, I’ll try by myself and start prepping for a possible direct confrontation at the point of entry…as Zanshin identifies: the door.

          Then ideally the mere body language might inspire others to stand and deliver.

          • Chris

            We all realize that some kids texting their loved ones while hiding doesn’t rule out the possibility of other students, or perhaps even the same students, taking action against the shooter once he gets closer, right? I keep seeing these two options presented as mutually exclusive, but that strikes me as a false dichotomy. I’d prepare my students–those who were capable, emotionally and physically–to charge the shooter if necessary. I’d also text my fiance if I thought it was safe in the moment to do so.

        • COME ON.


    • If the first ever school shooter in the United States was taken down by a classroom full of snarling angry students and beat to death with their crayons, cellphones, books, chairs, shoes, pencils, pens, notebooks, purses, emptied desk drawer, Bunsen burner, chalkboard erasers, etc. etc. do you think future school shooters would think twice about walking into a school to shoot it up?

      I love this paragraph! It sounds like a great movie.

      As often happens, I was reminded of a John Wayne movie, “The Cowboys,” which Pauline Kael slammed because it showed children taking out the bad guys, led by Bruce Dern, after they killed the Duke and stole his herd.

      • Jack Marshall wrote, “I love this paragraph! It sounds like a great movie.”

        Glad you like it. I built the scene in my head to be played out on stage using very harsh red oblique lighting from both wings using wide angled ellipsoidals with a gobo to break the light into segments and music similar to Jaws when the shark was creeping up on it’s victims.

      • And if it were the Los Angeles school district, some of the kids could just pull out their guns and not have to throw a chalkboard eraser.

        But in seriousness, anything is better than nothing. We were taught (of course this was military training) that if faced with a shooter, throw anything at them, or even, while you bum rush them, throw your arms up and to the sides (almost monkey like). The shooter, whose own adrenaline is pumping will instinctively interpret anything out of the ordinary as a dire threat to his own survival and will react, even if that momentary reaction is distraction towards the random object or hands. Those moments mean closing the gap with a shooter to where guns don’t matter any more.

        Granted, a calm and cool shooter (implying training and experience) would be harder to distract, but again, anything is better than nothing in THAT situation.

  13. I’m going to go against you on this one Jack. I didn’t see a problem with it. Particularly as, for the most part, we have no context on when these were done, where the kids were, and what danger they might have been in.

    I happen to live in Broward County, 15 miles or so from Parkland, and a have daughter in middle school. I can tell you the best response they have found for a shooting situation in a school is for kids to get, or stay, in their classroom, lock the doors, and then go to the wall back where you can’t be seen from the door. All the doors are thick, heavy, doors made of metal or with metal in them. You’re not going to kick them down. They’re made to prevent fires from spreading (hence the metal), and in Florida they’re particularly thick and heavy as the schools double as hurricane shelters. Then they’re to wait and remain generally silent. Not that any shooter would hear them anyway after the sound of gunfire in their ears.

    At that point, there is no real issue against texting. One is to say goodbyes if they feel the need for that. The other is for comfort for those who may need it and might panic otherwise. The third is to give and gain information, this is how some people communicate. They can let people know where they are if need be, and find out information of what’s happening rather then sitting there wondering, guessing, or hoping. Phones are put on silent mode. You don’t have to have it buzzing or ringing when receiving texts, or typing on them, it’s all easy to make them silent. Kids surely know how to do that to hide when they do it in class already. It’s not like they’re going to give themselves away on it. Heck, if you call 9-1-1 they ask you to stay on the line, which is surely louder then texting.

    No shooter is going to sneak up on them in the room. You can’t kick the doors down. At best they could try to shoot them, but even that is difficult to do, and certainly even the most absorbed person on their phone would hear that. I think it takes about 5 seconds of thinking to see what weapons you might have (which aren’t many, they’re schools, they’re made to be safe). Unless you’re in a special lab, you have desks, pencils, and what’s in your backpack. The doors all open into the classroom, so you can only approach them from the side wall, where the teacher will likely be if the shooter gets in to act first.

    And for the most part, it works. Pretty much everyone who was killed was either outside, in the hall, or in the first 3 rooms he shot into when he first arrived. Once he got past those 3 rooms, he went down the hall and up the stairs, but all the doors were locked and he couldn’t get in them. I think one kid died on the 2nd floor, not sure if that was when the fire alarm went off or not. But he then continued up to the 3rd floor, shot up the place but didn’t get anyone as they were in the classrooms, and then dropped the weapon and left with the evacuating kids.

    Point is they did what they were instructed to do, and at that point there is no harm in texting. I think this is another generational gap as well, as for them this is their communications method. Of course they’re going to use it, and use it when they can. There are only so many things you can think of to do when you’re told to do something. Their leaders are the teachers in this case anyway. That’s who they’re instructed to follow and look to guidance for in this case. Much like when General Chamberlain was hatching his plan, I’m guessing most of his soldiers were in their tents complaining about the weather and what they were doing there.

    • Good comment, but again, I think the gist of post is not that hiding in a classroom is a bad choice to make, but rather, once hidden, is it better to continually seek to improve your situation or to not do so?

      As for Chamberlain: He hatched his plan as his men were dying around him and the Union flank he was guarding was about to rolled and routed by the advancing Confederates.

      • There’s only so much to do in a classroom. You should know in the first minute or two what you can do (find any weapons, figure what to do if the gunman manages to get in). After that you’re waiting. The best way to improve your situation at that point is probably to get information, which the only place they could get it would be on their cellphones, even that you have to take with a bit of doubt considering how confusing the situation is. Not to mention the psychological boost of being able to communicate with your loved ones rather then just sitting and waiting.

        Sorry, not as knowledgeable with all the Civil War battles and didn’t look it up. Was just referring to the fact that there is a leader in the classroom (referring to initial comments of needing a leader), and it’s the teacher. That’s why they do drills for shooting situations at the schools.

  14. Wow! I just want to add:

    This is the type of dialogue I want my students to engage in!

    Love it, one and all.


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