Here is the second of two Comments of the Day regarding the post-Parkland gun control freak-out, authored by recent addition to the commenter ranks, OhThatGuy, on the post, Unethical Website Of The Month, “March For Our Lives” Edition: Change.Org.
(The first is here.)
The real issue, at least from my perspective, isn’t guns and gun control. Yes, this is one of the big emotional triggers right now, has been for years, and will continue to be so as long as there exists a gulf between those who enjoy the rights and benefits granted by the 2nd Amendment and those who do not.
The underlying concern to me is the lack of independent thought. While this is somewhat excusable in kids, it’s not in what are supposed to be adults. Displays such as the walkouts and marches are nothing more than peer pressure or what I call the Bandwagon Principle or Bandwagon Effect– doing something simply because others (in my peer group) are doing the same thing without any actual thought put into the decision. I see this on a daily basis – I teach juniors and seniors in high school.
Growing up, my parents, especially my father, were as near as I can remember, completely objective about things. There were no passionate appeals to emotion regarding the hot topics of the day. I was encouraged to read and form my own opinions about things as none were supplied to me from Mom and Dad. We (my friends and I) read the two newspapers available each day as well as Time, Newsweek, and other publications. This was in the early to mid 80’s so we weren’t subject to the cacophony of modern media but were as well informed about current events as most teens could be. The short version is, if I was to have a publicly stated opinion about something, I’d better have some idea what I was talking about and some facts to back it up. Any discussion of an issue that started with “I feel that…” or “They need to do SOMETHING!” wouldn’t have lasted very long. I don’t remember ever being told anything about what to think on a subject or even led to a conclusion to fit what my parents thought I should think. It simply wasn’t how they operated.
Fast-forward to now. Many, if not most kids I see, haven’t ever had an original thought in their lives. Yes, 16 – 18 year old’s are still young and not really ready for adulthood in many respects, but they should be starting to see the world through their own eyes by this time. Yet they’re programmed, by parents and family, their physical friends or peers, and alarmingly so, the larger social groups they identify with, not to do so. They jump to and fro with frightening speed based on what the group chat thinks. If questioned about why they think a particular way, many answer with whatever the group-think is at the moment – “Guns are bad, they kill people, I don’t want to be killed so ban guns.” Try to get an actual conversation going about what “ban guns” means and there’s nothing there. No concept of what “ban guns” even begins to look like as they don’t even have an understanding of how our society works and what’s at stake. I know I’m using a large brush to paint with and not all teens fit this description but too many do.
In my humble opinion, the lack of thinking stems from a lack of parenting. Yes, schools are certainly culpable as well. You don’t need to tell me how bad things can be in public education, but education, real education, begins at home. Home is where one should learn respect, ethics, morals, and critical thinking. Schools should open new doors and avenues of thought but the basics of how to be a citizen and participate in society should taught at home by parents who are themselves responsible members of society. Instead, we have parents turning out mini-me clones of themselves, expecting the kids to mimic what the parent thinks and act the way the parent acts. Or we have the totally detached method – let your kid do whatever he or she wants because you’re too busy or lazy to deal with him or her and then expect society to fix or take care of the problem.
I don’t have an answer to fix the problem, but try each day to make a difference with my students so that they leave a little wiser and a little more prepared to think for themselves.