April 2, 2008

What the Kids Are Learning

Justin Katz

One hesitates to make too much of isolated incidents, but then again, this isn't but so unusual a story these days, except for the decreasing age and increasing numbers:

A group of third-graders plotted to attack their teacher, bringing a broken steak knife, handcuffs, duct tape and other items for the job and assigning children tasks including covering the windows and cleaning up afterward, police said Tuesday.

The plot involving as many as nine boys and girls at Center Elementary School in south Georgia was a serious threat, Waycross Police Chief Tony Tanner said.

Where do eight/nine/ten year olds even get such ideas? I'll tell ya: we're all culpable, and unless we change our cultural ways, we're building ourselves a nightmare.

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I'm not culpable. I'm responsible for my own house. "It takes a village" is a load of crap.

Posted by: Greg at April 2, 2008 3:16 PM

Thug parents. Thug kids.
Let's start a pool: which TV show will get (unjustifiably) blamed on the talk shows for this?

Posted by: rhody at April 2, 2008 3:24 PM

Family Guy

South Park

The Misadventures of Lil Chuckie Manson

Knifebob Gunpants

The View (God knows watching it makes ME want to kill somebody)

Keeping up with the Kardashians

Posted by: Greg at April 2, 2008 3:36 PM

"I'm not culpable. I'm responsible for my own house. "It takes a village" is a load of crap." Greg

What he said.

Posted by: michael at April 2, 2008 3:38 PM

At least they were learning how to work collaboratively!

I can't wait to see this one spread all the way to Keith Olberman so he can blame ..... ???

Posted by: John at April 2, 2008 3:45 PM

It's all Rockstar Games' fault. With their damned "Grand Theft Auto" games that parents should be smart enough to keep their kids away from.

Sometimes I want to beat hookers and cops with a bat and drive really fast into other cars and steal stuff and blow things up. I can either do it on my computer or go out into the streets.

I choose the computer.

Posted by: Greg at April 2, 2008 3:49 PM

It's just another way for the unions to up the salary of teachers because they don't feel safe at work anymore!

Posted by: Ken at April 2, 2008 5:33 PM

It doesn't take a village to raise a child, but it does take a culture to make the path to his perdition ever wider and more precipitous.

If you derive enjoyment from the concept of killing hookers so you can take your money back (Grand Theft Auto), then you've got very serious personal problems. If you've helped to make murder movies into megahits, then — deny it all you want — you bear some small fraction of the responsibility for the culture that guides the kids in this direction.

You can argue that your individual enjoyment outweighs some small damage that amounts to a calamity in the aggregate of time and population, but I'd contend that you should at least make that judgment in full awareness that it is indeed the calculation that you are making.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 2, 2008 6:12 PM

Again, I buy and enjoy what is fine for me as decided by me. It is the responsibility of the parents to monitor and control their children's access to potentially violent and objectionable content. Making me part of a societal failing because if it is a cheap way out, dad.

I certainly won't accept righteous indignation from the party of Larry The Foot Tapper and John "Dump my wife to marry this teen thing" McCain. We all have our vices and those things we don't talk about in polite company.

The Europeans seem to understand this, live in the same world as us, and yet seem to survive quite well with children learning responsible drinking with their multiplication tables and seeing full-frontal nudity in soap commercials.

I've said it a thousand times before but I don't know if I've ever said it here. ..

America was founded by the Puritans and it hasn't gotten over that yet.

Posted by: Greg at April 2, 2008 6:47 PM

Sorry, Greg, but it doesn't work that way. What you do has an effect on others. Even if all you ever did was order violent movies from Amazon, delivered to some cave dwelling in the mountains, that purchase contributes to the producers of violent content and ultimately expands the market and pushes the ethos into other markets (e.g., children's cartoons).

I most definitely am not advocating government action, but we've only sunk this far, I believe, because we've convinced ourselves, in our selfishness and lack of self-control, that our actions have no effect. Just acknowledging that would improve things.

Two responses to your marginally relevant points:

1) It's curious that you appear to believe I'll somehow be cowed by your reference to a party that I support only out of an absence of options. I suppose it's easier to argue against the moral purity of a political party than against specific points.

2) Yes, even a continent of drunken European pervs wouldn't produce the same children that American sex-and-gore-ism produces. On the other hand, in a few generations, Europe may be producing predominantly radical Muslim children. Not really the place to turn for an example against arguments concerning the importance of culture.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 2, 2008 8:03 PM

I grew up watching The Three Stooges and I've never once intentionally poked someone in the eyes or grabbed them by the nose with a pair of pliers. I laughed my heart out when I saw the stooges do it, but the thought of doing it to someone else never even occured to me.

I'll credit my parents for steady devotion and setting a good example for that.

Posted by: George at April 2, 2008 8:05 PM


By all means, credit your parents. But also credit a culture that hadn't yet degraded itself to the point of Jackass. It was:

1) Easier for parents to make the right calls.
2) More likely that their formative years would have led them to be the parents that they were.
3) Less likely that a friend's mom would have let him download a YouTube video of people actually doing a full-contact, reality-TV Stooges routine (and becoming millionaires on its basis).

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 2, 2008 8:12 PM

Justin, I came very close to the same conclusion on a walk to the variety store right after I posted my comment.

This is not our fathers' TV Land.

But I think the sick egoic human mind that watches the stuff is no different from the one that creates it.

So, I think we have equal responsibility. Perhaps by focusing our lives on positive things and setting that example for our children we can show our "creative" counterparts what we really want in the form of entertainment.

I think by fighting it we create more of it.

Posted by: George at April 2, 2008 9:13 PM

I understand Greg's sentiments, but unfortunately in today's world taking care of your own house is not enough. Because our kids will go to school and the baseball field and the playground with the kids of those who have not had proper direction. And when others' kids lash out and turn to violence, it may just be our kids who are the victims.

Turning a child around is a preventative measure that can be viewed just as much selfish as caring. We may not be culpable, but our responsibility reaches beyond our homes and into the community, for our own sakes, whether we like it or not.

Posted by: mikeinRI at April 2, 2008 11:05 PM

How about the sense of social Darwinism some parents instill in their kids that says bullying is okay? The whole might makes right thing. And teachers and school officials who won't lift a bloody finger to stop the re-enactment of "Lord of the Flies" in the school corridors.
Inevitably, it would get turned against a teacher. I'm only surprised by the youth of the thugs involved.
As for pop culture, how about the warriors who rail about how evil sex is, but have no problems with the violence in shows like "24?" Even PTC spokesman Brent Bozell admits "24" puts him in a quandry.

Posted by: rhody at April 3, 2008 12:58 AM

rhody, inevitably? There were teachers who cared not a bit when I was in school, but never would I have dreamed that violence would be directed at any teacher. The fact that today you view it as inevitable is sad. We as a society must look at the causes of such increased violence.

What should be crystal clear is the increase in violence in the lives of our children, through television, movies, and most significantly, video games. These games are WAY beyond the silly violence of the 3 Stooges.

There must be a balance. The entertainment industries must agree to a more strict rating system that does more than just alert parents. Kids should be prevented from purchasing games rated M and music with mature content. Television must return to the concept of family programming before 9:00 pm, and that includes commercials!

And then we must shame parents who don't make wise choices. Instead of staying quiet, we must speak up when parents bring their kids to rated R movies, or be critical when their kids talk about playing Grand Theft Auto. No longer can we ignore it as "not my business" because in the bigger picture, it has become our business.

Posted by: mikeinRI at April 3, 2008 7:49 AM

I'm not so sure kids picked this all up from entertainment shows.
If I had younger kids, I'd be more worried about what they see and hear on news and cable talk shows (and talk radio, if they're in the car). They'd see and hear bullying behavior aplenty from hosts, advocates, politicians, etc.
And wait until they understand negative campaign ads. For all the complaining we do about ads that insult, belittle or unfairly smear people's reputations, they work - the candidates who run them win more often than not. Kids get the message that bullying behavior works.

Posted by: rhody at April 3, 2008 11:20 AM

Yeah, definitely keep those kids away from Air America or they'll grow up hating the U.S.. Or their parents for making them listen to that crap.

Posted by: Greg at April 3, 2008 12:51 PM

You don't have to worry about Rhode Islanders being exposed to Air America.
As for me, I learned how to love America the way God intended it from that true patriot Michael Savage.

Posted by: rhody at April 4, 2008 12:18 AM

I'm not a fan of his show. I think I've listened to an hour total my entire life. One thing is clear. He's a raving racist and makes no bones about it.

I listened to Rush for about 15 years before I decided that I no longer agree with him on about 70% of what he says.

Posted by: Greg at April 4, 2008 8:44 AM
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