ChildCare Action Project:
Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP)


First Installment
Setting the Foundation

Thomas A. Carder

I have been working for quite some time on honoring a promise -- a promise to offer a cause for the observation of a long-on-love school teacher of 34 years which Donna Garner shared with us:

"When I first started teaching, the students had the attitude, "Here I am. Teach me." Then the attitude changed to, "Here I am. Make me learn it." Now the attitude is "Here I am. You [emphasis on 'you'] can't make me learn." Donna's closing comment was "Sad but true -"

In honor of the matronly wisdom of Donna's closing comment I have titled this work SAD BUT TRUE. This work will also serve to answer several requests for input into the cause(s) of school violence -- arrogance and violence can be closely related.

While the CAP owns copyright to this work, you are welcome to share it with anyone you wish. But please show the respect due copyright ownership and give proper notice.

SAD BUT TRUE addresses a complex issue. There is not enough practical space in one letter to provide all I have learned in nearly three years of research. Thus, SAD BUT TRUE will be provided in several installments. This first installment is equivalent to three or four pages of typed text so you may want to print it before you read it. This first installment is in Socratic style to hopefully set foundational thought patterns for the more nuts-n-bolts information to come.

I hope to offer enough in this first installment to touch the heart of the responsible professional -- enough for you to start considering my claim: a claim to which few want to give credence; a claim that attacks every fiber of social life in the developed world.

As I do in the CAP ministry I do in SAD BUT TRUE -- I slaughter a sacred cow of the secular world. So, you must be willing to give up that cow for the sake of the truth. And, no, it is not MY truth. I am bold and severe in my convictions and will not soften my presentation for the sake of political correctness. It is time to stop being pabulum fed. If you are not willing to hear me slaughter the sacred cow, just move on to your next email message.

First Installment
Setting the Foundation
Thomas A. Carder
   President, ChildCare Action Project
May 15, 1998

I have an extremely difficult job! I must convince you to accept that a large part of our daily lives is a large part of the problem. I must convince you that something we have grown accustomed to, that something has conditioned us, that something we have indeed learned to embrace is the very basic root of attitude and behavior problems in schools. I will try to help you see the root cause for not only violence in schools but for all forms of undesirable behavior; behavior borne of poor integrity, self respect, and coping skills. These are character traits which cannot be left elsewhere as a child enters the school building. Acceptance of the premise that these traits are brought with the child into the school is paramount to understanding the claim soon to be made herein. If you cannot accept that premise, continuing to read this letter would be pointless.

It seems many want to blame the schools as the source of in-school violence: to blame the impact of experimental programs, of the invasions of privacy, of the values modification schemes, of the forced acceptance of alternate lifestyles, etc. Caustic school programs and curricula may indeed be contributors to in-school violence and other unacceptable behavior, but there is a more basic root cause. And many seem to be looking to the schools as the source for fixing the problem. To implement in-school programs which, on the surface, seem to correct undesirable behavior in schools would be at best a band-aid fix -- the root of the problem would still be there. Please read on.

That schools are the source *or* the cure of in-school violence could not be further from the truth. Violence in schools is not endemic to schools. Violence in schools, for the lack of a better expression but maybe an appropriate expression, "bleeds" from a source outside the school.

From a three-year research project, I firmly believe the entertainment industry (not just movies) has the single strongest exofamilial influence on the integrity, self respect, and coping skills of youth: that a propensity for ANY undesirable behavior including violence is, if not caused by, fueled by and perpetuated by, indeed, ENCOURAGED BY the entertainment industry.

Case and point: Early Monday, December 1, 1997. Paducah, KY. Heath High School. Michael Carneal shot and killed three high school students, injuring four others, and paralyzing another likely for the rest of her life. Michael had seen a movie titled *The Basketball Diaries* about a year earlier. In that 1995 movie, Leonardo DiCaprio, an adolescent idol, portrayed a high school boy who used a shotgun to kill without mercy six of his fellow students and to intimidate a sadistic Catholic school teacher. While the weapon Michael used was a .22 caliber handgun, he *also * had * two * shotguns * with him at school that day. As the county attorney for the Paducah, KY incident stated and as I have stated for nearly three years, "...these movies are a factor on these kids..." -- "They have to learn it from somewhere, and they learn it by watching these movies." And one extremely influential property of acting in *The Basketball Diaries* (and many, many other movies) not widely revealed in commentaries, reviews, and analyses is the exceedingly efficient portrayal of righteous justification by the wrong-doer -- the attitude of icy impunity and great satisfaction with no foreseeable consequence. And note that the year from the time Michael had seen the movie was ample time to rehearse and rehearse to build personal freedom from accountability.

Further, entertainment media such as *Titanic* (1997) are incredibly efficient at stealing childhood from children. Almost every child in America from kindergarten up has seen *Titanic.* And every one of them who has seen the movie has watched Kate Winslet strip to the skin and has watched her and DiCaprio engage in sexual intercourse in the back seat of her fiance's car. There has not been a more subliminal, far-reaching theft of innocence of such scale and dimension in the history of film-making than Titanic! And by personally researching all the written accountings of the survivors (the passengers, officers and crew), it wasn't even accurate! It was guesswork with a few points of accuracy to give it an air of credibility! Now the Romeo and Juliet of 1997 are emblazoned with anatomical accuracy into the brains of almost every child who can hold his/her own popcorn box. And most of this with mom/dad's blessing. I'll talk about that in another installment -- the millstone installment.

Great day in the morning, folks! Kids in elementary school don't think of such behavior on their own -- they learn it from somewhere. They ain't learning it from YOU, their parent, and they ain't learning it from school programs! Once the learning impression has been made it is to some degree indelible no matter what you say to the adolescent. It does not matter whether we agree with this -- disagreement does not make it go away. UNTIL EVERYONE IS WILLING TO ADMIT THE ENTERTAINMENT MEDIA IS INDEED ONE OF THE STRONGEST INFLUENCES IN THE LIVES OF ADOLESCENTS, SCHOOL VIOLENCE AND OTHER BEHAVIORAL ABERRATIONS WILL NOT LIKELY GO AWAY!

Consider the track of the entertainment industry since the 1950s -- an ever-deepening display of wanton violence, gratuitous sex, vengeful hatred, arrogance, and other influences which contaminate wholesome values and ethics. Each is an element of freedom from personal accountability and freedom from authority (especially parental). And each is a factor in corrupting wholesome integrity, self respect, and coping skills. NO ONE in the developed world is untouched by the entertainment industry -- ABSOLUTELY NO ONE -- not even those who don't go to the movies and don't own a television. NO ONE!!!

And please DO NOT believe the useless excuse that the movies portray "real life." Poppycock and pinfeathers! None of the people I know speak obscene language in every sentence, kill others, rape and beat old women, and scream obscenities at their parents? When was the last time you, or even anyone you know personally, blew the guts out of a cop. Think about it!

And then comes sympathetic behavior. When an individual commits an heinous act whether in real life or in the media, an observing individual might find the catalytic `cause' to do it also. Or maybe the observing individual will find enough cause to rehearse that which they've observed until s/he is impervious to accountability and then try it.

You can bet that when something happens such as the Paducah or Jonesboro incident, the news media (sometimes a sanitized version of the entertainment media) will ensure every school child in America knows about the incident within one or two days. Sooner or later if the incident is "sensational" enough, a docudrama will be made of it. Whether a movie of the incident is made, sitcoms will grab the dynamics of the incident and present the youthful offenders with the "It ain't good enough, no matter what `it' is" remorse-free attitude -- as heroes with a just cause. And, of course, the parents will be presented as the ones who are most at fault for the offense. After hundreds and hundreds of enticing media presentations of `heroic and justified' violence against fair authority, sympathetic behavior is inevitable. It is inevitable especially in those whose already weak coping skills are further weakened by what they feel to be unjust controls by "authority."

There are a lot of other realities which foster undesirable behaviors to be certain. For example, family dysfunction, parental inattention, drug addiction, and exaggerated self importance. But the entertainment media strategically feeds every undesirable behavior to extremes -- over and over and over. In a later installment of SAD BUT TRUE, I will share with you our finding that reveals the entertainment media indeed targets youth with promotion of impunity.

Consider [cognitive] dissonance; that emotional condition resulting from a contradiction between authorities in a child's life, a condition the victim will do almost anything to avoid. For example, a teacher tells an adolescent that s/he is mature enough to `handle' the acidic guided imagery of sterile insensitive infanticide and euthanasia in *The Giver* ( a book by Lois Lowry). Then, out of concern for their child's emotional and thinking development, mom or dad will not let the child read the book. Whom do you think the adolescent will favor when confronted with this schism in front of the class where almost all of the other kids get to read the book? The child is now forced to take sides between two opposing authorities, both of which the child would like to honor.

Now consider as one of the two opposing authorities the "authority" of the in-your-face corruptive influence of the entertainment media, which is engineered to be perceived by the adolescent as logical, proper, and indeed acceptable. Now consider mom and dad's teachings of righteousness and personal accountability as the other of the two opposing authorities. Which counsel do you think will win during the emotional fire of an adolescent in bitter pain and anger. Dissonance, even when created by the influence of the entertainment media, is quite powerful: an emotional enemy to be defeated at almost any cost.

Consider further that kids are bombarded day-in and day-out by the entertainment industry with freedom from personal accountability, especially to God's Law, freedom from authority, especially parental authority, and situational ethics. I suspect that each of you understand that the role of the teacher and school administrator is envisioned by kids as a form of `parental authority.' Every day in every form of secular entertainment media -- yes, even some Christian media -- there is some measure of promotion of, or at least presentation of, the `get off my back, up-your-nose' attitude. Every day the entertainment industry in some way encourages kids to circumvent any responsibility to their actions and speech. Such continual and incessant, sometimes invisible, and ever-bolder promotion of licentious disregard for that which is proper and righteous will take its toll!

The price of freedom from personal accountability, freedom from authority, and situational ethics is invariably paid by more than just the perpetrator ... and the price is sometimes very, very expensive! It is SAD BUT TRUE.

SAD BUT TRUE, First Installment - Setting the Foundation.
©1998 ChildCare Action Project: Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP)

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In the name of Jesus:
Lord, Master, Teacher, Savior, God.

Thomas A. Carder
ChildCare Action Project: Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP)

©1998 ChildCare Action Project (CAP)