Too many priorities besides our kidsThe coverage of the...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

May 01, 1999

Too many priorities besides our kids

The coverage of the Littleton shooting could have been pasted almost verbatim from the coverage of any of the similar shootings in the past few years.

But let's get real: This sort of tragedy will happen again, and it could happen anywhere in the United States.

We, the American people, really don't care. There are many things more important than the lives of our children.

Our guns are more important. We will not agree to any significant limitation on our right to own, carry and use any weapon, any place, any time.

Our money is more important. We will not agree to pay for more school counselors to deal with children who may become violent.

Our privacy is more important. We will not allow counselors and others to pry into our personal family lives when they see our children behaving in ways that suggest they might become violent.

Our right to personal expression is more important. We will not accept restrictions on our children's choices of clothing or other forms of self-expression.

Our own pursuits of business and pleasure are more important. We will not invest the time and energy to become involved with our children's lives, to take some control over the video games they play, the movies they watch, the Web sites they visit or the friends they associate with.

Our desire for any and every form of entertainment, no matter how violent or vicious, is more important. We refuse to allow censorship of movies and programs that are readily available to our children.

So let's be honest: There are just too many things that are more important to us than our children.

All our tears and hand-wringing as the shattered bodies are hauled away is just so much hypocrisy.

Elizabeth A. Fixsen, Savage

It's 1999: Do you know what your kids are doing?

In response to the school violence in Colorado, we have heard the same old tired generalizations, blaming the death of God or our "permissive society" for such tragedies.

Those slogans were hallmarks of the Sixties, and I don't recall any similar school violence then.

I remember an admonition to parents on the TV: "It's 10 o'clock; do you know where your children are?"

How about, "Its 1999 and do you know what your children are doing?"

Annie Wagner, Lutherville

As a retired high school teacher with close to 30 years of experience in the classroom, I have two suggestions to make our high schools safer.

First, no high school should be larger than 1,000 students. Today's typical high school of 1,500 to 2,000 may be efficient, but its size makes it impossible for even the most dedicated principal or counselor to know all the students.

A smaller school would make it easier for a homeroom teacher or counselor to follow a group of students through all four grades. It would make it easier for a teacher standing in the hall to identify a bully or a loner.

Smaller schools would also make it harder for students to insulate themselves in a clique. I think if students knew each other better, they would be less likely to tease, fight or kill each other.

Second, teen-agers should know people of various ages and interests. It is too easy for them to obsess about a problem or setback when their only frame of reference is like-minded teens. Parents should make sure teen-agers baby-sit younger siblings, join a club, do volunteer work, visit grandparents or do other things to expand their horizons.

Adolescence is a time to experiment with different identities, not get bogged down in one, especially a self-destructive one.

Mary Ann Lechowicz, Parkville

In the wake of the Columbine High School tragedy, I am grateful that public figures are speaking out about the need to end the violence. For too long we have allowed children to be killed on our streets daily with little outcry.

Little attention was given, for instance, to the seven young black males shot in our own city last week. Why is it then that a middle-class suburban high school shooting is getting so much attention? Why aren't we looking at our own community and saying, "Enough."

We must value all children, regardless of their race or economic level. And we all need to contribute to positive change in our communities. As trite as it sounds, it does take an entire village to raise a child.

Public officials need to implement policies that are in the best interests of every child. Corporate leaders need to create economic opportunities for all communities. School officials need to provide the best education to every child. Nonprofit leaders need to maximize resources for the benefit of all children.

Perhaps this sounds idealistic, but just imagine living in a community where every child gets the support needed for healthy development, where every child is safe. Imagine a community where every school is a hub that provides education and opportunity even after school hours.

Just imagine living in a community where everyone looks out for the safety and well-being of the children.

Everyone has the power to make a difference.

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