We are all shaken by the catastrophic event in Sandy Hook Elementary School. It is beyond what our minds can handle – a troubled man targeting hundreds of young children and adults who serve them in one of the most sacred of places, a school. As a college educator, I think that while this tragedy certainly filled us with utter shock and disgust, it may also help us to reconsider a few things to shape our future for better.
We need to challenge the ways our contemporary culture glorifies violence and horror – as evident in the music industry, video gaming and internet sources – in ways that are very accessible to even young children, who might grow up not having developed the clear distinction between a positive act and a harmful act. It is very easy for a mentally unstable child to think that such an act could be justified as it is modeled for him through violent video games and music clips where there is something charismatic and mysterious about the villain characters. Research demonstrates a record amount of violence in the media, with its negative effects through teens and adulthood. Perhaps by reflecting and soul searching, we can look at these elements beyond viewing them as just harmless entertainment.
We need to make sure each and every young child grows up surrounded by positive friendships and play experiences. People who are isolated from peers and communities might lose their sense of belonging, responsibility and grace that evoke a sense of loyalty and ownership of the people and children in their communities. Research demonstrates that we have more young children who grow up not understanding body language or people’s emotions and lack empathy and sympathy.
We need to be more aware of and take a stance against global events in which millions of children are killed, abused or left without shelter, family or health due to war, trauma, famine and such. A child is the most precious gift to the humankind, and they are equally precious, no matter where they live and who they are. We need to stand for protecting children all over the world.
Finally, while this event was most traumatic for all of us in the nation, it might help us be bound by the newfound sense of caring and closeness to one another, and even though we do not know one another, this tragedy might tie us together. This sense of sharing is not even bound by national borders, as evidenced in my relatives in Turkey who cried for those children and teachers. As we all wept for those innocent lives lost, can we also weep for our children falling into cracks each day in our communities, even next door, losing their health, education, happiness and families?