Archive for the 'News' Category

Creative Writing, Violence and Teachers

As pretty much everybody knows by now, the shooter responsible for the deaths at Virginia Tech this week was an English major, and wrote some pretty disturbing material; in fact, because of the violent content of his creative material, he was referred to counseling.

There was a discussion today, at the university where I work, about whether or not the school and instructors handled the problem of a student’s disturbing work appropriately. According to an AP article, the chairwoman of Virginia Tech’s English department said “Cho was referred to the counseling service, but she said she did not know when, or what the outcome was.”

A friend and co-worker of mine latched onto this; she said that it was certainly the chairwoman’s responsibility to know exactly what the outcome of the counseling was, whether Cho attended counseling sessions or didn’t show up, and whether the counselor believed him to be a danger to the people around him. My friend feels that this is one of many areas in which the school fell down on the job.

I have a really, really hard time with this opinion. When I was in high school, I was playing with words in a poem one day, and tried inserting lines of my own in between the lines of the child’s prayer that begins with “Now I lay me down to sleep.” It came out looking like a suicide poem, and, absentminded as I was, I left the notebook in which I’d written it in my psychology classroom. My teacher found it, sent it to the counselor, who called me into his office, called my mother at work, and made my life generally miserable for a couple of weeks. He didn’t believe that I wasn’t suicidal, that I was only playing with words and what I could make of them. I was angry then, but I understand now. He couldn’t take chances. Of course he couldn’t take chances.

But if I had been genuinely suicidal, and resisted his efforts to help, what could he have done? I was a minor, so he might have had a few options. But Cho wasn’t a minor. And with all of the disturbing violence in movies, books and music today, how is anybody supposed to know how serious somebody is? The last time I took a creative writing class, there was quite a bit of disturbing material, but mostly, the students were just blowing off steam through there words, and, in some cases, going for shock value. I don’t know if the instructor referred anybody to a counselor. Maybe she should have. How is one supposed to know?

I think that it’s easier, that it feels safer, to lay blame somewhere. If someone were to blame, then maybe, if we were super-vigilant, we could prevent violence like this from happening on our own doorsteps.

But we can’t, and laying blame is useless. Maybe we can learn from the tragedy, lessen the possibility that it might happen elsewhere, but finger-pointing gets us nowhere.

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Virginia Tech Shootings

22 people are confirmed dead as a result of a shooting rampage at Viriginia Tech today.

Students in a media writing class began a Wikipedia entry and have continued to chronicle the event, and there is more news available at Wikinews.

I’m heartsick and sad, and my thoughs and prayers are with all of those affected by this tragedy.


All in the Past: Even So Archives

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