A Compulsion to Repeat Failure.

Author:Shackford, Shane

In response to the general media's lurid depiction of recent school shootings, the public has come to perceive school violence as endemic. The implication that school violence has increased significantly is conspicuously similar to the 1980s movement that declared a war on drugs. Perhaps this incessant quest for drama and pathology is a natural consequence of human behavior. Regardless, the search for answers according to simplistic, cause-and-effect, linear relationships is likely to fail.

Historically, the need to assign culpability to atypicality has been the accepted standard of practice, particularly within the public school system. Individuals who choose not to conform to the nebulous "social norm" are routinely compared to an arbitrary linear model of normality (for example, A causes B). Simplistic cause-and-effect thinking, or dichotomous thinking, has traditionally been implicated in various forms of psychopathology, such as depression. Such linear thinking appears to be the likely result of reductionism.

For example, the 1980s were consumed with the war-on-drugs movement, which promulgated the perception that illicit drug use had reached epidemic proportions. Despite inherent reporting and data collection inaccuracies, those responsible for the anti-drug movement carelessly chose the path of least resistance. That is, they relied on reductionistic techniques like punishment as a result of simplistic application.

Similarly, special interest groups along with the media have today successfully promulgated the perception that schools are milieus to be feared. Whereas schools were once seen as institutions engendering intellectual and emotional growth, today these pedagogical institutions are often portrayed as killing fields. As Jose Ortega y Gasset has expressed, "Today violence is the rhetoric of the period."

While the empirical data has failed to corroborate the supposition that schools are dangerous, boards of education with the financial assistance of special interest groups have injudiciously endorsed tertiary, reactionary, punitive, consensus, and ideologically based interventions. The most recent social control policy promulgated by the House of Representatives and adopted by local school boards is Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). By authorizing programs like COPS, school boards have, perhaps unconsciously, increased the probability for school violence.

Empirically sound paradigm shifts among bureaucracies are...

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