Junkfood Science: Teaching our children to be afraid, very afraid

May 14, 2007

Teaching our children to be afraid, very afraid

It is bad enough that our children are being taught in school, based on absolutely no evidence, that they are going to be the first generation to die before their parents of horrible diseases because they are eating “improperly,” not exercising enough and “too fat.”

But making them believe someone is holding a gun to their heads — claiming it is a “teaching experience” — is beyond unconscionable.

While mass shootings in schools, like child abductions by perfect strangers or dying from unsafe foods, are extremely rare (and no one dies ‘by fat’), children and adults are increasingly being convinced that dangers surrounding them are far more extreme than they are. This story from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is the latest example of the disregard of reasoned risk analysis and misguided ideas coming from educators:

Teachers stage fake gunman attack on sixth-graders

Staff members of an elementary school staged a fictitious gun attack on students during a class trip, telling them it was not a drill as the children cried and hid under tables. The mock attack Thursday night was intended as a learning experience and lasted five minutes.... (Watch student recount incident, mother react Video)

"The children were in that room in the dark, begging for their lives, because they thought there was someone with a gun after them," said Brandy Cole, whose son went on the trip. Some parents said they were upset by the staff's poor judgment in light of the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech that left 33 students and professors dead, including the gunman....After the lights went out, about 20 kids started to cry, 11-year-old Shay Naylor said...

Today’s fear conditioning of an entire generation of young people is not helpful, healthful or compassionate. There is absolutely no evidence that such manipulative tactics promote learning. They do teach all ages to to be afraid and live in fear. This incident comes on the heels of another recent example of young children being scared by letters they carried home from school administrators, saying they were all going to die:

Sending fear home with kids

...On April 16 and 17 students from Cole Canyon and Murrieta Elementary school brought home Parent Advisory letters. The advisory letters were in regard to threats written in graffiti on the walls at Vista Murrieta High School. The letter repeated the threat, "Everyone at VMHS will die on 4/20 and the bombs are already planted." Also in the letter were statements about arrests, investigations and a sweep of the entire campus, including roofs and air-conditioning ducts.

The letters were sent home to alert and enable parents to protect and reassure their children from possible harm and wrongdoing. However, the schools are not only alerting parents but are also alerting and alarming their students. Young students.

I pulled the papers from my own kindergartener's backpack and she told me, "We are all going to die on Friday." When my third-grader came home from school she told me she was afraid to go to school. My older children, a senior and freshman at Murrieta Valley High School came home worried and said they weren't going to school on Friday....

As a study by New York psychological researchers recently published in the journal, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, found, fear is learned not just from actual experience, but also by watching it and seeing and empathizing with the fear in others. That describes the media, which only compounds the scares children hear and see in school. Wall Street Journal columnist, Peggy Noonan, recently wrote a powerful Op-Ed about the inescapable terror engulfing our children and what’s behind the terrorization.

We’re Scaring Our Children to Death

This week saw a small and telling controversy involving a mural on the walls of Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles. The mural is big — 400 feet long, 18 feet high at its peak — and eye-catching, as would be anything that "presents a colorful depiction of the rape, slaughter and enslavement of North America's indigenous people by genocidal Europeans....churning stream of skulls”....

We are scaring our children to death. Have you noticed this? And we're doing it more and more.

Last week of course it was Cho Seung-hui, the mass murderer of Virginia Tech. The dead-faced man with the famous dead-shark eyes pointed his pistols and wielded his hammer on front pages and TV screens all over America. What does it do to children to see that?... there is no other channel to change to, no safe place to click to. Our culture is national. The terrorizing of children is all over....

It's not only roughness and frightening things in our mass media, it's politics too. Daily alarms on global warming ... And international terrorism.... I would hate to be a child now. Very few people in America don't remember being scared by history at least to some degree when they were kids. After Pearl Harbor, they thought the Japanese were about to invade California. If you are a boomer, you remember duck-and-cover drills. The Soviets had the bomb, and might have used it. I remember a little girl bursting into tears during the Cuban Missile Crisis when I was in grade school. But apart from that, apart from that one huge thing, life didn't seem menacing and full of dread...

But now it's a million duck-and-cover drills, a thousand alarms, a steady drumbeat of things to fear....We are not giving the children of our country a stable platform. We are instead giving them a soul-shaking sense that life is unsafe, incoherent, full of random dread. And we are doing this, I think, for three reasons....

The rest of her editorial here.

On a somewhat unrelated school news story today from Gannett News Service:

BMI must be included on school health forms

...Legislation passed with the [New York] state budget in April will require all health forms submitted to schools for kindergarten, second, fourth, seventh and 10th grades to include the body mass index, a measurement of how underweight or overweight a child is....In most cases, a child's doctor will record the number on the forms. For those children who get physicals at school, however, the school will have to do it. The requirement will start with the 2008-09 school year.

The state Health Department will then analyze the data from select school districts and use it to target resources to the communities at greatest risk for childhood obesity. Gov. Eliot Spitzer's executive budget includes $2 million per year for the effort....

As if parents need any more incentives to home school.

Bookmark and Share