Three Approaches to Coping with School Violence

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We humans have always sought to increaseour personal energy in the only manner wehave known: by seeking to psychologically steal it from others—an unconscious competition that underlies all human conflict in the world. (James Redfield, 1993, The Celestine Prophecy, New York: Warner Books,65–66) Some school critics and statisticians have observed that drug-dealing, vandalism, robbery, and murder have replaced gum-chewing, “talking out of turn,” tardiness, and rudeness as the most chronic problems afflicting today’s schools. If the intent of this observation is to shock and rattle the public’s sensibilities, it’s working. Of course, some of us may interpret such suggestions as merely dark, stoic, and cynical—“scare” tactics quite in keeping with the current national mood about many social issues these days. Yet, as a profession (and a society) maybe a little shock treatment now and then is good for us, especially if we ourselves work in relatively “safe” schools and communities. Maybe it’s time to remind ourselves that one school’s problem can become every school’s problem if the profession at large is not watchful and careful. No school is immune to the potential of extreme violence, as many of us, without meaning to, have learned. If you’re a long-time, veteran English teacher, you may never have thought you’d see the day when an issue of English Journal would be devoted to school violence. The idea never occurred to me, either. But here we are, and here that issue is. And, what’s more, it’s high time. While none of us needs convincing that the violence problem is serious in a great many places, some of the statistics are sobering. The National Education Association (March 1994) reports that the number of children... ... middle of paper ... ... suffice. Works Cited Anderson, Elijah. 1994. “The Code of the Streets.” TheAtlantic Monthly (May): 81–94. Elam, Stanley M. 1993. “The 25th Annual Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup Poll.” Phi Delta Kappan (Oct.): 137–152. “Guns Among Young People in the U.S.” 1993. Youth Record. Washington, D.C.: Youth Policy Institute. (Aug. 3): 10. Jones, Clarisse. 1994. “Report Shows Violence Rising in Schools.” The New York Times (Aug. 13): 27. Merina, Anita. 1994. “Fighting School Violence Means Taking on Guns.” NEA Today (Mar. 12): 4. Survey of the American Teacher 1993: Violence in America’s Public Schools. New York: MetLife. Zimmer, Judith. 1993. We Can Work It Out. Culver City, CA: Social Studies School Service. Denny Wolfe is professor of English Education andDirector of the Tidewater Virginia Writing Project atOld Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

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