Getting to the Heart of Safety

Unfortunately, the spotlight all too quickly moves on to the next headline. Our adolescent boys and girls go back to schools where respect and human dignity are hollow words. It is this landscape of downright mean-spiritedness that encourages violence to take root. It's no coincidence that the violent scenario today is not teenagers shooting authority figures, but students aiming weapons at one another.

When did life get meaner and so dangerous for our children? It's hardly accidental that movies like Cruel Intentions top the box office. How did bullies like Eddie Haskell from Leave It to Beaver morph into armed commandos? Why is being a real bitch now part and parcel of being a popular prom queen as depicted in She's All That? When our world lionizes talk show ringleader Jerry Springer, when sitcom dialogue is little more than a string of sarcastic put-downs, when parents are overworked and out of touch, the ethic of caring and kindness disappears. Civility is getting drummed out by a much louder chorus of foul-mouthed belittling. Worse, when our teenagers do muster up the courage to confess their humiliations or fears to us, all too often adults, including teachers, administrators and parents, dismiss it as part of growing up. In Charol Shakeshaft's study, students expected adults to rescue them from devastating remarks and frightening episodes. Instead adults told them, "Ignore it and it will go away." Young people expressed feeling betrayed because they knew this advice was just plain wrong.

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