Teenage Males and School Shootings: Some Perspectives

by Tom Erney

Tom is a retired family therapist who spent his 45+ years sitting with teenage males as they shared with me their personal worldviews/ their unique “instruction books on life”. He said “Perhaps my vision of what fuels the desire of school shooters may shed some light on such a horrific, tragic topic. I’ll also mention some concrete steps our community could take to decrease the probability of school shootings.”

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The inner conflict and confusion that most adolescent males experience is unsettling, and can prove to be profoundly toxic. Along with the fundamental human wonderings related to personal identity…”who am I , and what is worth my time and energy?”…is added the immediacy of figuring out how to become a man. Hence, the ultimate validation among the guys is: ” You are the MAN!!!” So, boys wishing to become men look to three primary socializing institutions for guidance: their family, their peers, and society in general.
Breakdowns and contradictions in any of these three influencing forces complicate, and can even derail, the teens’ personal-social development.

Our most basic calling as humans is to find some pathway(s) to become heroic…to feel secure in the knowledge that we are both visible and valued. We long to see ourselves as participating in something of lasting worth. Oscar Wilde said it in this manner: ” To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist…that is all”. Yet, our consciousness as humans will not allow us to settle- to not matter. To not be visible and valued! We must sort out some pathway(s) to seeing ourselves as heroic( “the Man”).

This search for a personal identity that allows us to perceive ourselves as visible and valued is difficult and painful under the best of circumstances. When any/ all of the three socializing institutions in males’ lives break down( family/ peers/ society in general) around a teen male, he aches for some solid ground midst all the conflict and confusion. Many teen males learn to channel almost all of their unpleasant emotions into anger…for anger is not seen as weak in male culture. Anxiety and depression often accompany the outward expressions of anger. The inner dialogue seeking to convince you that you are helpless, hopeless, and powerless must be altered…by any means necessary: sports, drugs and alcohol, sex, comedy, music, attempting to be perfect, computer games, driving fast, etc. All these attempts are hollow, for they rarely ever provide a pathway to being truly heroic( ” I truly matter.”)

Given an American culture that has been in a stunning transformation over the past 50-60 years, there exists no clear pathway to seeing yourself as important…that your existence matters. Where is there anything that is stable, consistent, predictable? I experienced firsthand in my office the loss of almost any certainty in the lives of the teens I counseled. The impact: young men no longer need to be mentally ill to commit horrific acts. Since Columbine, shooting up your school has become a pathway to becoming visible and valued…for the demonic rage that is being expressed is a rage against their impotence and unworthiness. ” NOW you will have to pay attention to me. I will not be ignored! My existence matters!”

Their actions reflect back to us as adults that we have failed to support them in their search for personal meaning. They are the symptom…we are the problem.

Steps To Take: 1) Double the number of school counselors. Offer them on-going training and supervision as they provide a sanctuary for today’s youth. don’t burden them with responsibilities for testing, etc. Presently, most school counselors are not allowed to truly work with students and their families. 2) Personalize, not mechanize, the educational process. Presently, students feel like objects that are expected to produce desired outcomes for their parents and teachers/ the school system. 3) Establish peer programs at every school. train and supervise these youth throughout the school year. NO SCHOOL SHOOTING TAKES PLACE WITHOUT OTHER TEENS KNOWING THAT THEIR SCHOOL BEING ATTACKED IS A REAL POSSIBILITY. TEEN BOYS TALK TO OTHER TEENS. There will never be enough adults to prevent this from happening. Only the kids can do this. They have access to the social media, etc. They know the rumors.

As I have written before, we do know what to do! We choose not to do what we know. Until adults and adult social institutions begin being responsible and consistent, young people will continue to cry out for help…by any means necessary. This is on us…not on them. They will struggle mightily, and more will die needlessly, until we grow up.

Sales Taxes for Private Schools Proposed

Another $154 million, funded by sales taxes, would go to private school with this bill. The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program already sends $873 million in corporate tax credits to schools that simply churn students in and out of public schools.

A few facts to memorize:

  1. 37% of FTC students are gone in one year and 61% in two years.
  2. Students who leave FTC schools are those who struggle the most.
  3. FTC schools are becoming more racially and economically segregated.

The House representative sponsoring the bill is Paul Renner from Palm Coast.

This week’s news

I am trying to find a way to keep the blog current without too much eye strain. Here’s my latest idea. I will collect links and put them in categories. If you are interested, just click on the link. If you come across a story somewhere else. Please send the link.

Today the topic is school facilities funding cuts creating chaos.

Chicago’s south side schools falling apart

Massive charter closure in Ohio

What a Day!

A group of us from Alachua County went to Sarasota today to see student engaged learning in action. Picture middle schoolers in groups of four sitting around small tables. Each table had a computer. There was a quiet hum as the kids looked at the science or math concept of the day. They had a question to answer, related vocabulary to learn, an experiment or simulation to do, and a process to follow to arrive at an answer. They worked through the process together or individually depending on the task. Then they talked about how they solved the problem presented.

In one room they took their resting temperature and then did twenty jumping jacks, remeasured their temperatures and calculated changes to answer questions about heat and energy. In another room, they learned about probability by doing repeated ‘rock, paper, scissors’ in pairs and logged results to find patterns. A third room was studying physical and chemical changes in mass by shaking small containers with rocks and a chemical and observing, smelling and drawing changes. They weighed the changes in the rocks.

My favorite question of the day was when, in one group, a student said, “I got the answer, but I do not understand why.” The other group members explained their reasoning. The teacher summarized the different approaches the children had used to solve the problem and explained how she had approached the same problem.

The kids are not only solving some real world problems tied to the state standards, they are both physically and mentally engaged. They have been taught how to ask each other questions. They are totally engaged. The teacher goes around to each group to give a hint if needed. No one was wise cracking etc., they were too busy and interested.

All the worked is logged and tracked using hand held smart calculators synced with a computer, but only somethings are graded. The groups include different ability levels and are strategically formed to be sure they have compatible personalities. At the end of the class, every child and the teacher knew how well he/she had achieved the specific task of the day and where they needed help.

It made you want to go back to school. Public school.

Typo in Doomsday Post

Clearly I still have last year’s bad bill HB 7069 in my head. In the post “Doomsday or Glimmer of Hope”, the bill the Senate sent back to the House was this year’s House bill 7055 which just got yet another number HB5001. The Senate bill number is now SB2500.

This madness is making me ‘dizzy’, but at least we were correct to question the process. Now, let’s hope the individual issues will be presented one at a time as they are supposed to be. Now, I really will take my dr.’s advice.

Announcement

Hi Folks,

This past week I was told I need eye surgery. I am waiting for it to be scheduled. As a result, I have had to resign as the Florida League Education Chair. This blog will no longer represent the League. I am maintaining the blog for your convenience because of all the information in it. When I am able, I will add posts.

For now, you need to do nothing differently. I just wanted to let you know why not much will appear for awhile, especially once the surgery is performed.

Sue

Doomsday or Glimmer of Hope?

I heard some things in Tallahassee. One legislator said “If HB7055 becomes law, it is the end of public education as we know it.” Another legislator said: ” I was taken for a ride last year on HB7069; it won’t happen again.” Nevertheless, HB7065 passed in the House today by 66 yeas to 43 nays on the third reading. There is no conforming bill in the Senate; the fate of our schools now depends upon the strategy the Senate uses to consider its bill, SB2508. To become law, the two chambers have to negotiate a common bill. Last night the Senate stripped the House bill of its HB 7055 language. It offered to consider individual proposals one at a time. The League has positions on this list of individual bills.

It’s clear that the House HB 7055 policies are all about privatizing our public schools. The Senate bill SB 2508 is much more supportive of public schools and responsible management. What will happen is tied not to policy, but to the budget process.

The budgets are now renumbered. The House budget is HB5001 and the Senate is SB2500. The House tied its policies to the budget. If their bill does not pass, it can prevent passage of any budget at all. The Senate budget is complex and its impact is not obvious. What happens depends upon understanding the money.

Here’s what I think might be at stake.

  1. The Florida Retirement System. One of the biggest groups supporting the retirement system is teachers. If you are an antigovernment politician, then that big pension system is a target. The fund is self supporting in Florida, but without teachers, it likely will not be.

HB7055 has a measure to decertify unions. Without retirement and health care benefits, there will be more and cheaper charter school teachers available! Almost no charters provide benefits, and it is difficult for them to recruit and retain teachers.

  1. Sales Tax Revenue for Private Schools.. Using sales taxes to fund private school vouchers is unconstitutional. If the House bill becomes law, it will set precedent for giving scholarship funding from sales taxes. It gives $400 to parents to families of kids who failed the FSA English Language Skills test. It is a ploy to set up a scholarship for public school parents to buy services on the private market. It is not about the kids. Those same children would fare much better in the Senate bill which allocates $2000 per child to public schools to provide those services.

The Senate has a much better policy bill, but it has different budget implications. The Senate provides more per student funding ($7,201 vs. $7,142) and slightly more money for student growth. Additional funding comes primarily from the required local effort in local property taxes. There is no millage rate increase, but revenue can once again fluctuate. If property values go up, the revenue to schools increases (and vice versa). The House budget only allows districts to gain income from new home sales, not from increases in property values for all homes and funds fewer new students.

The House version looks like it is lower cost, but it organizes the money differently. For example,
1. Money for the Hope low achieving children and mental health, shows in the Senate budget, but the House reading scholarships based on new car sales do not show in its.
2. The Senate includes money for the Best and Brightest teacher bonuses and the House funds it separately. The Senate includes the extra hour reading requirement but the House does not.
3. The Senate includes a funding compression allocation for districts whose revenue is below the state average but the House does not.

Moreover, facilities funding from PECO dollars derived from taxes on telephone lines etc. will generate $120 million for the 652 charter schools the House favors but only $50 million for the over 4,000 public schools. The allocates $25 million to charters and $75 million to district schools.

After all is said and done, in the Senate FEFP budget, the base allocation from the State general revenue is less than last year by $45.20 per student, and new money for programs comes from local property taxes. Perhaps the Senate can find a little more money from the State so that its share of funding for schools is equal to last year.

The House state base allocation increased this year, but of course it funds its new programs separately. Smoke and mirrors hiding real consequences not only to children, but to the future of our educational system.

We all know that most policy decisions are about who gets the money. This is your money. Who gets it? If ever there is a time to let your voices be heard, this is it. Do you want to set up a system to promote private schools? If not, say so.

The BIG Questions: What Choice Really Means

The Florida House and Senate will negotiate over how school systems can be either publicly or privately run or a combination of the two. They call this ‘district flexibility’, and it raises four BIG questions.

In the House version, HB7055, public schools will be run by privately managed charter districts, if they so choose. In the Senate version, SB2508, school districts will continue to be overseen by elected school boards, but individual public schools may be converted to charters managed by district school boards.

This district flexibility is PHASE TWO of the movement to privatize public schools. The major components include changes in the quality control for buildings and staff, funding for services for struggling students, and control of curriculum. There will not be much more money for schools, but differences in how the two chambers pay for schools are important.

WILL THE LEGISLATURE CHOOSE:

  1. cheap school buildings for some? If the K12 School Code is revoked, as proposed, there will be no standard for school construction. It will be legal for all schools, not just charters or private schools, to be in strip malls, abandoned buildings or in palaces with superb labs and auditoriums for the lucky.

  2. lower qualifications for teachers and principals? In response to teacher shortages, the House revokes union contracts for salaries, benefits, or working conditions. In the Senate version, teachers are district employees, but their pay and hours are determined by principals. To fill vacancies, teacher certification allows individual schools to mentor and qualify teachers. The House bill introduced the term ‘manager’ instead of principal. Both houses allow one principal to supervise more than one school.

  3. schools that choose which students they wish to serve? Proposed House legislation gives funding for struggling students to parents, not schools, and it broadens eligibility for tax credit scholarships. All scholarship programs are consolidated under Step Up for Students, the private entity that now administers private school scholarships. The Senate proposals fund schools to support struggling children, and schools converted to charters must serve the neighborhood children.

  4. religious instruction in all schools? Current bills to allow districts to exceed curriculum standards and introduce religious beliefs and ideological economic theories into schools (SB966). Some charters already blur the distinction between secular and non secular schools. They are located in church facilities, or they advertise ‘Christian or other ethnic values’.

In November 2018, voters will vote on changes to Florida’s constitution to implement PHASE THREE. Will barriers be removed to direct funding of private schools and teaching religion in public schools? This what school choice is all about. Do companies and churches run schools and parents do the best they can to find a school that will accept their children? Do you relax standards in order to save money? The League position is clear; we support free, high quality public schools for all children, and these schools are run by locally elected school boards.