Wednesday, April 18, 2007

John Grossbohlin wrote to share the following:

A number of sad things occurred at Virginia Tech. One was that, based on the press reports, the shooter was apparently known to be in emotional trouble, i.e., depressed. Two, no one in the school was able, or perhaps willing, to stop him. Lessons learned? Probably none... Those closest to him are somewhat culpable here in that the reported depression combined with weapons possession shouldn't have been condoned.

I've got some first hand experience with aberrant behavior by associates and have wondered if perhaps I didn't do enough... A college roommate of mine bombed a dormitory. He built the bomb while the other three of us were at a slide presentation. He was an odd fellow, totally lacking in self esteem, who came from an affluent family. Dad's idea of taking care of his son was giving him $100 per week spending money on top of his room, meal card, and tuition. With $100 per week 25+ years ago a kid couldn't help but get into trouble... Another of my old college roommates committed suicide. He was unable to cope when his wife took off with another guy. We collectively thought that in the few weeks prior to his final act that he was getting better, that his depression had subsided. My last phone call to his answering machine went unreturned as he was dead in his bed, but as yet undiscovered. A mutual friend and I both wonder if we could have or should have done more... at one point we even discussed holding his guns for him...

Let's face it, not everyone is college material and not everyone is a 4-letter athlete--this became abundantly clear to me while I was teaching at colleges and teaching college courses inside maximum security prisons. What is also clear is that some people learn better by putting their hands on things rather than reading about them or watching them on a video. A long time good friend of mine has led a very successful life by learning through doing--recently selling a successful business to start a new one--and he is technically a high school drop out. Reading is torture for him though he can read and comprehend things like computer programming manuals and technical manuals successfully. By no stretch of the imagination is he stupid or ignorant, he simply learns differently.

Thanks John for the thoughtful observations.

There was a Greek monster that I may have mentioned before in the blog, Procrustes. He would invite you into his home to sleep in his wonderful bed that would fit all. It was equipped to cut your legs off if you were too tall or stretch you on a rack if you were too short. We have created a one size cripples all educational system in America. The pressures for some to compete in a world in which they don't fit may have something to do with students reaching a breaking point. I think America's dark fascination with guns and video game violence may play a part as well. We know that at Virginia Tech, mental disease and our failure to address it adequately in our society plays a big part in tragedy.

The challenge here, isn't to find fault, but to find solutions, and I am convinced the solution can be found in a more thorough understanding of our own hands.

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