Thursday, December 20, 2012

Function of education

A school massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, Newtown, CT occurred last week.  We are sad.  We are grieving.  We are scared.  We are angry.  We are seeking for answers...

And the answers are starting to unfold: Adam Lanza was eccentric and an extreme introvert; he did not like any other human beings; his mother, Nancy Lanza, was out of her mind to keep guns at the places where her mentally ill son could access; she was wrong for taking her son with her to fire guns; for shielding him from the public, for trying too hard to make him "fit in" the mainstream, for not trying hard enough to get him helped by professionals...

However, we must remind ourselves this soulless killer once was a loving child.  We must understand that any children, regardless what type of the genetic makeups they are bearing, they should have been raised and influenced by a village of people.  Adam Lanza was like everyone else with a unique genetic program, which told him to act differently from the majority of us.  Just imagine if the majority of us had sufficient knowledge to recognize and accept the way he was, would he still have been eccentric to that extreme level?  Imagine his parents, school teachers, and whoever else that were mattered to him, had been equipped with some knowledge of mental illness so that they would have sent him to special schools to satisfy the special needs of his growth and development, would he have acted differently?  Imagine he, like most of us at that age, had been kept busy by his friends, would we have had a different outcome?

We have failed spectacularly at many levels as a human race.  We have paid, with a price we cannot afford!

Yes, I am talking about that we have all contributed to the massacre, one way or the other.  We have failed Adam and Adam-like people, time and time again.  We, the society as a whole, failed him.

It's us.  We are all responsible for what the tragedy, whether you admit it or not.  If we continue to pretend that the mass killing had nothing to do with us, we will continue to fail.  If we live in a fantasy wishing mass killers would not show up in front of us, the frequency of such tragedy won't go down.  We have already experienced too many of this mass killing, we truly don't need any more to learn our lessons.  We cannot afford to wait for another 50 years for the society to change itself.  We need to act now.

What can we do to minimize this type of tragedy?

First, don't freak out when you meet people who act differently from the mainstream.  Showing them your willingness to connect with them.  Making eye contact with them, smile to them, make them feel welcomed.  Come on people, have you learnt already that we are all unique?  

Second, try to get close to whoever you meet in your life.  Believe me, making friends with "normal" people is fun and interesting, but making friends with "abnormal" people is extraordinary and exceedingly exciting!  As a middle school teacher, I had first hand experience to be friends with the most difficult students.  What I had done was very simple, I do NOT try to normalize/neutralize them.  I did not impose my own standards upon them.  I was genuinely curious to try to understand why they did not live in the same moral standards as the majority of the others and what they felt and saw in others?  With repeated efforts, I did succeed to make friends with bunch of kids who were labeled as hopeless students.  But I must admit that I had never met anyone with similar level of eccentricity to Adam Lanza.  But this is not the point here.  My point is to get close to mentally ill people BEFORE they become ill!  Yes, I do believe making friends with everyone you meet is one of the effective way to eliminate hatred towards others.  

Those two steps are easy to follow.  The bottom line is not to alienate young kids who are different from the mainstream.  This world needs more Alan Diaz to hang out with Adam-like kids.  I know it would be so much easier to turn our heads another way, to get far away from them, especially it was Adam who alienated himself from the rest of us.  But we can do better as a whole.  We could have reached out to him through the mother, for example.  It's not nosy, it's our responsibility to make the the world a warm, loving, and caring place.

However, sometimes making friends with people like Adam when they are already 16 or older, it could be too late.  In this case, we still can do something about it, such as, 

Third, follow up to with your gut feelings.  If you feel someone with dangerous thoughts towards others and themselves, don't let your busy schedule to delay to act accordingly.  If you think that's not your business, you are irresponsible.  You need to take proper procedures to have them watched.  

Sure, we must limit the general population to access machine guns to eradicate mass killing.  However, in my opinion, that was only the surface of the problem.  The ultimate and effective solution is to improve general educational and emotional quotient (EQ) of each and every one of us by education.

It's time to remind ourselves that the primary function of education is to gain knowledge to understand our surroundings and ourselves.  Education opens our minds to understand and embrace people with different and non mainstream characters.  With this knowledge, we are able to love, support, and care for others in need effectively.

Remember, education does not start at the day a kid goes to school, nor does it stop at the time a person is out of school.  It starts at the moment a child is born and continues for life. 

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