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Philosophy and the Community

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An individual as a member of a community faces all the problems the community has and is either passively or actively involved in the consideration of these burning issues. Present-day society is fully aware of the situation with violence at schools. This matter causes many controversies, though there are far fewer proponents of some aspects of violence at school than opponents. School violence has grown to such a scale that it cannot be neglected or taken frivolously any more.

It is a positive side of the issue that it is perceived as a real problem. Elliott, Hamburg, and Williams, for example, admit that the level of violence for the year 1998 is clearly unacceptable. If to take into account the fact that present-day level is higher, despite some reports that justify insufficient government’s attention to the problem, something needs to be done as the consequences will be extremely serious and the situation cannot be ignored anymore. The U.S. government treats school violence with the same responsibility as juvenile crime or drug dealing. The fact that the majority of political leaders strongly support the idea that violence in schools should not be tolerated is obvious. Still, other points of view on the topic are represented in today’s news reports. Strangely enough, there are people (rather respected and trustworthy at first glance) who unintentionally or with hidden intention contribute to the violence development. Overall, two different points of view on the issue are found in news reports.

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News articles, which support the idea that there must be serious measures taken to fight violence in schools, comprise the majority of all reports. For example, the articles of Hauser, Kelly, the CNN staff, and other writers report on the events related to the issue of violence in schools. Very often, they provide the opinion of the whole community or some politicians and public men or give their judgments on the problem. For instance, the question of arming the school staff after Columbine and Sandy Hook shootings is widely discussed in the press; the articles by Simpson and the US News staff can serve as an example of the reports, which provide both opinions and leave the question open for discussion, but slightly support the statement against arming. The Chicago Tribune contains a number of articles published on the negative issue of school violence. For instance, some of the articles like the one by Robert McCoppin and Susan Berger (2013) provide information about some event in the past and compare it with the present-day situation. Telling about Laurie Dann, a mentally ill murderer, the authors provide the idea that in 25 years since the attack “school shootings have become more common and deadly” and name Columbine and Sandy Hook tragedies to be the indicators of the unchangeable state of the situation.

Not only students suffer from violence in schools. Teachers are exposed to their students’ violent behavior as well. Hélène Mulholland, one of the Guardian journalists, reports about teachers’ protests to receive compensations for classroom assaults and accidents. Teachers are not paid extra bonuses for tolerating the students, which behave worse than it can be imagined. Chris Keates, the NASUWT general secretary, claimed that the compensation the teachers managed to get after they lost their job was “cold comfort” because “their mental or physical health is irreparably damaged”. Moreover, school violence does not always end up without serious consequences. Clare Kim reports that in one week two teachers were killed and three individual incidents with the gun at elementary and middle schools took place.

There are also scientists who reject the idea that violence in schools is a today’s burning issue; they claim it cannot be worse than in the 1950s, so there is nothing to be seriously concerned about. For instance, Kevin Simpson in his article in The Denver Post (2013) reported that despite the fact that Democrats vetoed the Bill number 9 about arming of school staff, which would not have brought a clear solution to the problem, there were still proponents of the arming issue.

Another resource, the debate section in the U.S. News, also discusses the idea of arming the school staff. After Sandy Hook shooting with 20 children and 6 staff members killed, the question became topical again. That put a lot of pressure on the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun rights activists (“Should be there more armed guards in schools”, n.d.). The executive vice-president of the association Wayne LaPierre objected to the idea of cancelation of the Bill 9 (mentioned above). He supposed that the only thing that could stop “a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” (“Should be there more armed guards in schools”, n.d.). In two days only, the executive vice-president of NRA appears on the NBC’s Meet the Press and says the following: “If it's crazy to call for armed officers in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy”. Then, he also adds, “I think the American people think it's crazy not to do it. It's the one thing that would keep people safe” (“Should be there more armed guards in schools”, n.d.).

Gun control proponents support the idea that if to put more guns in schools, the violation rate would only increase because children would feel scared, which could complicate the process of learning. Another argument that they provide is that arming is very expensive and, if to impose it, schools will have to shorten their expenses on something more necessary for studying. The strongest argument gun control proponents give is that when the Columbian shooting took place, there were armed guards present at the school, but they did not manage to defend people and save 12 students and 1 teacher from death and many people from being injured (“Should be there more armed guards in schools”, n.d.).

In general, the gun is perceived as a source or cause of violence that is always connected with any type of violence. At schools, children are prepared for real-life beyond the school environment. If they are surrounded by armed people, they learn that the world outside is cruel and violent and they will think that any way of self-protection is justified even if they do not need to defend themselves. Clearly, arming the school staff can contribute to the physical safety of children while they are at school, but it would direct their perception of the world outside the institution in the wrong way.

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Numerous scientific articles claim that the violence rate at schools is extremely high. For example, Furlong, Felix, Sharkey, and Larson admit that the situation is rather serious and the precaution measures should be taken as in the past because the authors see a considerable improvement between 1993 and 2003. There are also news reports and articles on the issue in different periodical newspapers and magazines.

The decade has passed since the Twin Towers fell and the government of the United States of America headed by President George Bush Jr. declared war against world terrorism. This time was marked by the power transition from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, the US invasion into Afghanistan, NATO’s warfare in the Middle East, etc. Combat capabilities that the USA employs far outside its borders hinder from providing stable and peaceful situation within the country, distracting authorities’ attention from urgent issues. The community of the United States was shocked by the terrible things that happened on April 20, 1999, in Columbine High School. Two more similar cases occurred at the beginning of the new century: Virginia Tech massacre (April 16, 2007) and Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (December 14, 2012). It may sound cynically, but the statistics are the following: tragedy at Columbine High School – 15 people died, 21 – injured; Virginia Tech – 33 people died, 25 – injured; 28 people died (20 of them were children) and two were injured in the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting (“Sandy Hook shooting: What happened”, n.d.). The Case of Columbine High School was the first to be out in the open. Terroristic attack on September 11, 2001, made the US people and authorities believe in external threat. The tragedies that followed in 2007 and 2012 made the community and public pay attention to urgent topical issues. Clearly, when it comes to death and violence, no argumentation is appropriate. Latest events prove that any preventive measures are effective when it comes to human cruelty.

The United States are culturally and nationally diverse. In that case, serving the interests of communities is not an easy thing. A state governed by the rule of law guarantees safety to people and that is just. In its turn, people must understand the following: weapons accumulate evil; prejudices do the same thing. Residents of the country should understand the responsibility that is upon them since the issue of violence in schools is crucial and there are many factors that escalate conflicts in the society. No violence is acceptable since the situation concerns the future. There is a general understanding of the violence issue, but the situation develops in such a way that it is often left behind because the community seems to have more important questions to discuss than the safety of its children.

Though the situation is not closely connected to religion, some religious aspects and ethical controversies can be found in it as well. From a religious point of view, violence at school cannot be tolerated as the Christianity preaches mercy and tolerance and forbids any sort of cruelty or unfair treatment. Still, from a historical perspective, the church often violates its own devotional duties and demonstrates the power and control with the help of force. For instance, there are numerous examples of violent behavior of nuns and teachers towards students in Catholic public schools. There are many incidents, which include unfair treatment, physical, moral, and even sexual abuse. In this very article, there is Irish Cardinal Sean Brady’s response to the situation; he says he was “sorry and deeply ashamed”. Obviously, the fact mentioned above suggests two different perspectives on the issue. Henry Chu, reflecting about that very accident, says, “Boys and girls in Ireland were beaten, sexually abused and emotionally terrorized for decades”. Children must be protected and made happy, but instead, they suffered from intolerable treatment by the school staff. It is clear that the Christianity is against violence, but some Catholic and other servants pay more attention to the strictness of upbringing and putting ideas of obedience and being adult while really being a child into children’s heads. They suppose that this method is more effective in making them good Christians rather than just telling them about real values and serving as an example of true Christian behavior. Thus, it is apparent that some representatives of the Christian community do provoke and advocate for violence in schools. Nevertheless, there is another side of this controversy as many Catholic schools adhere to mercy and love to make their student's real humans with kindness and honesty in their hearts and adhere to generally accepted moral values of philanthropy.

It is hard to directly connect any ethical theory to violence in schools because this issue does not have any positive features and cannot be easily justified, and all ethical theories imply that a person has at least something good and it is possible to find a justification for what he or she does. If to regard the issue from the perspective of the good for a sole individual or group, one ethical direction can be found. Duty Ethics or Ethics of Conduct is divided into deontological ethics and consequentialism. The second type is relatively connected to the issue of school violence as one of its subtypes, ethical egoism, is close enough to violent behavior or at least can provide an explanation of it. If to approach the problem from the point of view of ethical egoism, there is a need to say that a person or group of people who behave violently has some reasons for this type of conduct. It is possible to assume that this person or group wants to assert oneself, prove him or herself to be powerful, important, and all-controlling. In simple words, the ethical egoism in this situation means that the student or teacher who behaves violently towards others thinks only of the good of him or herself. Therefore, consequentialism, a kind of Ethics of Conduct, in case of ethical egoism suggests the idea that the action is right if it “produces the most intrinsic good for the agent”.

Violence in schools bears some resemblance to political theories applied to govern the country. If to imagine the school as a separate state, which follows the principle of violence, some political theories can be found in the way it is ruled. Firstly, some characteristics of dystopia are typical for violent governing. Resorting to it, leaders must exercise totalitarian control over everything that is going around. If a person or a dominating group adheres to total control when governing the country, it has some features of dystopia. Secondly, school violence slightly resembles the hobbism, which follows the principle that the mighty are right and those who are weak are victimized. The rest of the ideas of this theory have nothing in common with the issue. Thirdly, the authoritarian regime is closely connected to the violence in schools. All types of authoritarianism resort to exercising totalitarian control over everything. In this case, only one person or party can govern the country. This theory is the most relevant to violence in school.

Usually, in the situation with violent behavior, one individual or group defines what happens next. There are many examples of different cases when one person or several people bring handguns, box cutters, or knives and tell others what to do, kill them, take hostages, etc. They do it for different reasons. The above-discussed ethical and political theories provide a general understanding of the causes of violent behavior at school. Obviously, those who behave in a violent way are internally or externally provoked to do so. According to the Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict (2008), there exists an aggression theory in terms of interpersonal conflict. It is possible to explain the causes of violence in schools if to follow the principles of this theory as it provides justification for any type of violence and some of them may be applied to violence in schools. Aggression theory suggests two domains of violence: predatory and dispute related. Predatory violence involves exploitation act. One person uses another in order to demonstrate his or her power or forced compliance of the exploited person. Predatory violence is usually performed via rape, robbery, and bullying. All these embodiments of violent behavior may be found in schools. Being egoistically disposed, the one who does harm to others follows his/her predatory instincts and uses authoritarian types of conduct in order to prove his or her superiority. Dispute-related violence is a response to any type of personal provocation, such as “perceived personal attack”. If to regard violence in schools from this perspective, all acts of violent behavior are caused by the victims of the conflict. For this reason, the violator of discipline is self-centered (ethical egoism) and, because of this, he or she perceives everything personally. Feeling humiliated or abused, this person uses totalitarian ways to punish those who made him/her angry. In such a way, a victim becomes a provocateur of the conflict, though in fact, very often, he or she does not do anything that can lead to the argument, the only problem is in violator’s perception of the world.

Withal, school violence is a burning issue that any individual must deal with if he/she is a part of the community. There are many news reports on the topic and they suggest two different opinions on the situation, though it may seem that there cannot be any supporters of violent behavior in schools. If to consider the causes of violence from an ethical point of view, they stem from a person’s egoism and sensitivity. If to regard the question of school violence using political theories, it is possible to conclude that violence is an authoritarian regime. The religious aspect of this issue must be also regarded, as violence in Christian public schools exists as well as in other educational institutions.

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