My sons attended a midnight showing of the latest “Batman” movie on opening night (I know. I know. Yet another example torn from the pages of the “Bad Parenting 101 Handbook.”) So yesterday I couldn’t help but read everything I could about what happened early Friday morning in Aurora, Colorado. It was an awful echo of what took place on that God-awful April day at Columbine High School in 1999.
After Columbine became a household word, author James Garbarino, a professor who specializes in understanding violent children, spoke to the faculty and staff at UCC about what he had learned while performing a “psycholgocial autopsy” of Dylan Klebold, one of the two Columbine killers.
Dr. Garbarino offered us 10 pieces of advice:
1. recognize the power we have as adults in a school community
2. be willing to go “radical” if the situation demands it
3. embrace research
4. take an “ecological” perspective on adolescent development
5. believe in community and its influence
6. understand the accumulated risks and assets of each student
7. operate in the “zone of proximate development”
8. accept kids regardless of their temperament
9. move from sentiment to compassion
10. meet the spiritual needs of students.
Of all the pieces of wisdom Garbarino offered, perhaps the most difficult to implement is the tenth truth. How can we meet the spiritual needs of our students, especially in a secular, pluralistic environment?
Untreated mental illness is a plague of our times (Think Virginia Tech.), and America’s lax gun laws are a prescription for disaster. (Please tell me why I have a fundament right to possess an AK 47.) But if schools have always been about helping their students grow in mind, body, and soul, then we should probably spend some more time thinking about why that third goal is so incredibly perplexing.