In the weeks since the massacre in Parkland, Florida, I’ve shared the heavy heart of many others, young and old, over the senseless loss of life at the hands of a troubled young man. For seventeen lives to be snuffed out because of a succession of failures on the part of many to identify this teenager as a serious risk is both infuriating and disheartening. Added to this, for gun owners comes the prospect of an eventual ban on the sale of military style assault weapons to regular citizens, which raises the inevitable questions about Second Amendment rights versus the need to protect school children. This, of course, will continue to be debated even as lawmakers wrestle with the writing and passage of legislation to restrict access to firearms as well as providing more mental health services to those deemed as high risk.
While the discussion and debate in the wake of tragedies caused by gun violence rages between advocates of firearms bans and gun enthusiasts who call for arming teachers and more mental health care, there’s another element to this whole problem I’m not hearing much about. It’s the role of how our whole educational process impacts the way our children today see themselves and each other. The teaching of evolution in our schools as an ironclad, unquestionable scientific fact has left multiple generations in our culture with a schizophrenic view of humanity. The concept of survival of the fittest creates a dilemma for our culture, and for our youth in particular, when it comes to the matter of civility. If we’re all just animals, as evolutionists assert, with no more intrinsic value than a pig or a rabbit (if we even have that much), then why should we be so concerned about bullying, or even gun violence among kids? According to natural, evolutionary processes, do not the weaker, sicklier, less intelligent members of a species need to die off and get out of the way of the stronger, more intelligent, more advanced? What does this teach our children about being human?
I raise these rhetorical questions in order to focus our attention on factors that contribute to youth violence. While much is being said about identifying the mentally disturbed and sending them into treatment (i.e. medication to control their angry impulses), we don’t seem to be so willing to take a serious look at what our children are being taught about life in school and elsewhere. Take for example, the matter of human sexuality. Our schools and media, along with the scientific community, tell our kids that because humans are animals, whenever our hormones kick in, or our prostate glands fill up, we must get sex wherever we can get it. “You cannot do without sex any more than dogs or cats can,” is the message our youth receive. So, we make 12-year-old girls get vaccinated against HPV, while we explain to our young boys how to use condoms. This is all under the belief that kids are going to do it, because after all, they’re just animals following their natural impulses. But then, we pass laws governing sex, declaring the age of consent to be 16 in most states. So the message then to the kids is: “We know you’re going to have sex, because you’re animals, so that’s why we’re teaching you how to do it safely at age 12. But because of laws governing us humans that guard against sex crimes, you’d better wait until you’re 16 or you could get arrested and charged with statutory rape.” What do we have here? A mixed message based on animal science versus human reality. This is what I call cultural schizophrenia: confusing kids with a conflicting message about what they are and should be and how they should act.
Let’s translate this now to the matter of school violence. On the one hand, we teach children that as human beings we need to learn to celebrate people’s differences, grow to appreciate diversity, and treat each other with respect and dignity, including those with various challenges, physical and mental. But then we tell them that because of the laws of natural selection with the principle of survival of the fittest governing humans as well as the rest of the natural world, people who are somehow “defective” or “undesirable” for reasons physical, mental, philosophical, or religious, will need to be done away with if the planet is ever going to realize the “utopian” state that will supposedly ensure its survival. So, once again, children are given a mixed message that says “All people should be loved and appreciated as they are, but only those people who can learn to live in perfect harmony with each other and nature will live in the new world order of a brotherhood of humanity.” Again, this is teaching that amounts to cultural schizophrenia (not to mention a subtle promotion of Marx’s doctrine of mass genocide against utopian resistors.)
What’s the connection between the mixed message of evolutionary natural selection versus human dignity, and the problem of school violence? Let’s look at the young man at the center of the Parkland, Florida tragedy. Here’s a boy whose violent, aggressive, anti-social behavior got him thrown out of 3 different high schools, we are told. In one way or another, at some time, he got the message, “You’re not right as a human being, you don’t fit in, and therefore, you’re not going to be good for anything on this earth to help the planet or anyone on it, in the future.” Imagine his internalizing this message and its impact on his overall psyche. Mix in bullying and taunting by peers with the purchase of guns put into his possession and what do we have? A troubled young man who finds himself marginalized and ostracized by the immediate culture around him that he knows, leaving him with the feeling that if his life isn’t worth anything, then maybe nobody else’s is either. That in no way justifies the horrific act of bloodshed he committed against 17 innocent persons in that high school on Valentine’s Day. But does it not, at some point, illustrate the results of teaching our youth contradictory concepts of humanity?
As for the issue of bullying, we can and should try to stop it in our schools and elsewhere to prevent such tragedies as school mass shootings from continuing. But even with bullying, is there not a certain measure of split-tongued hypocrisy in our cries against it? If we teach kids that survival of the fittest applies to all species including humans, is it not natural then for children who are strong, healthy, and who lack any physical or mental abnormalities to taunt, harass, and abuse those who do? If the laws of natural selection are at work here according to scientific evolution, is this not a logical way for humans to work with nature to progressively eliminate those from the race who would weaken the gene pool with physical or mental deformities, or religious beliefs that stand in the way of evolutionary progress leading to an idyllic, utopian existence? Dare I even suggest that those who won’t likely help the earth move into such an existence must by necessity die from illness, suicide, or genocide, to get them out of the way of such “progress”? In no way am I endorsing bullying here. But I can’t help raising questions about the logical consequences of teaching children the importance of treating all people with dignity and respect out of one corner of our collective, cultural mouths, and then teaching them out of the other that only those humans who will help move the planet into a perfect, harmonious existence deserve to be allowed to live on it.
To summarize, what I am asking here is: Are we willing to look at this problem of school violence and gun control through a lens other than just getting rid of weapons? The bombings in Austin, Texas remind us that guns aren’t the only weapons that can bring death and destruction at the hands of a young man. But perhaps if we began elevating the true value of human beings above that of dogs, cats, pigs, or cockroaches in the educating of our children, would we not find that the message they receive from us concerning what it means to be human will be singular and sane, not schizophrenic? Or is that asking too much of an elitist, sophisticated and rationalistic culture that says it cannot tolerate any obstacles to the realization of the utopian dream? Might our children learn and live better if they’re told they’re “made a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5), instead of being told they’re lower than pigs?