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Letter to the Editor: School shootings by depressed, stressed-out students?

Staff Reports • Updated Feb 24, 2018 at 4:30 PM

To the Editor:

It is time to ask ourselves why our children keep freaking out and killing themselves and others.

Why do we have skyrocketing rates of childhood depression and anxiety in public school? We used to say children don’t get depressed or commit suicide. This is no longer true today.

Could it be that taking away recess, art, physical education, shop, home economics and everything fun in an eight-hour day of school leads to children who are so stressed out and so anxious that they just go insane? They are killing themselves in record numbers. They are killing other children and the teachers, too. How many shootings this year alone? How many shootings last year?

Who are these children who have committed these atrocities? Who were they before they became so desperate they felt they had to pick up a gun?

Yes, I think guns should be limited. But this is about the environment that leads a young person to feel so out of control of his or her own life that he or she does the unthinkable. These are not short adults – they are children. Our children. And we owe it to them to figure out why school has become so boring and so stressful that they are literally dying.

Grownups go to work, and we cope. We deal. We figure it out. What about children? They haven’t figured it out yet...that’s what childhood is. They need free time with their peers to learn how to deal with others, to find themselves. But there is no free time left in school, because if a school doesn’t do well on the state tests, the state gives the school funding to a private corporation and shuts down the community school. So all the administrators and parents are stressed out about whether the school “performs” well on these all-important tests. In fact, the worse a school does on the state tests, the less money the federal government gives to that school.

Logic would have it that if someone – or a school – needs more help, we give it to them. But No Child Left Behind says give the school less funding if they aren’t toeing the line. It is a system designed to fail, and the children feel the pressure the most.  It’s especially true in poor areas like rural counties and inner cities, where a child’s home life may be broken or stressful already. They go to school hoping it will be a break, but it isn’t. We adults think learning is fun and children should like school – because learning is fun. But let us not forget that our school system today is completely different than it was 30 years ago.

Back then, children had an hour of recess every day. Now it’s 20 minutes. Back then, kids had physical education every day. Now it’s once a week – and only 45 minutes at that. Back then, children had shop class and home economics where they used their hands to learn an actual skill for the real world. Those classes are gone. Back then, they weren’t tested every week in every subject on a computer that gives no quarter for part of a right answer, plus two additional major tests every year plus the whopper test of all, TCAPs – where the whole school shuts down for one to three weeks to make this test happen so the state doesn’t take away our community school.

Studies show that people who feel they have no control give up trying. Many students have a stressful home life. When school is a series of silent hours spent in total focus, interrupted only by periodic walks down the hall in silent straight lines, maybe it’s just too much. They are just children after all.

Duke University just completed a study that shows homework does not improve learning in elementary school, only barely helps in middle school and has limited effect in high school. Yet many children have a hard day at school and then come home to another hour or two of homework – and if they don’t do their homework they will miss out on that little 20-minute recess break tomorrow, because teachers take away their recess time if they don’t do their homework or if they miss a test because they were sick. Schools give children too much homework thinking it will improve performance, but it doesn’t.

Let’s face it. Children want to do well. Maybe we need to look at the laws that are keeping them in a cycle of failure.

Instead of taking away funding for schools that don’t perform well, let’s give that school more funding. It’s pretty basic logic.

Let’s make our schools great again – like the schools of old that led to the amazing creativity of the 20th century and brought our nation to the top of world heap. Children don’t learn creativity and critical thinking when the clock is ticking. They learn it when learning is fun and not stressful.

Let’s give our children an education that helps them figure out how to deal with life’s little frustrations instead of actually causing the stress that is leading children to kill themselves and others. We need a stress-free and fun learning environment in every public school. We need our children’s education fully funded by the government, state and federal. We need to get rid of over-testing and overstressing our children so they can have a chance to enjoy learning and find creativity and those critical thinking skills everyone talks about – things you can’t find when you are overworked, stressed out or just too tired. 

Let’s help our children by funding our schools and taking away reverse funding polices and laws. And let’s help them by providing a learning environment that doesn’t make them want to kill themselves or someone else, a fun and stress-free school for every child in America.

Gwen Blanton

Kingston Springs

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