The third in a series . . .
As a high school classroom teacher for 7 years, administrator for 7 years, and head varsity football coach for 7 of those 14 years in education... I have seen a steep decline in students who truly care about anything and the COVID pause only fast tracked the nihilism and "give a shit" of these kids. I believe the moral relativism combined with a complete lack of control (brought on by COVID lockdowns) of any parts of their lives is going to birth a dark adult culture. In conjunction with Dr. Thompson's essay's, I have also seen our natural leaders neutered at the elementary age. For hundreds of thousands of years those leaders would utilize peer pressure to tamp down anti-social behavior, but in our infinite wisdom, we have decided to tell anyone calling out poor behavior as a bully effectively teaching any natural leader to shut their mouths and then teaching these kids doing anti-social behavior, that their negative behaviors are OKAY. Then they get to middle or high school and can't find a group because nobody wants to be around them, meanwhile there are no true leaders on the other end because we have conditioned them to shut their mouths. Great work here and will be passed to many other administrators.
Though I agree with many of the observations, one glaring issue, bigger than nihilism is not being discussed. Anywhere.
Why aren't girls shooting up schools?
The LA community of Compton and near neighborhoods, heavy latino and black. Heavy gang presence. And probably enough real automatic weapons; probably enough to outfit at least one infantry battalion. Why aren't their kids shooting up schools?
For years, decades invariably. school administrators, mental health professionals (an oxy moron), parents, M.D.'s and big pharma have put middle class boys on psychotropic drugs because the boys are too difficult to deal with.
Over 95% of all school shooters were on Adderall, Ritalin, etc... for years in some cases. Before puberty, during puberty, after puberty. Many of them were "off" their meds when the shootings started. Why can't you join the military if you took these drugs? It requires a waiver, a not to easily waiver to get.
This odd fact started to be discussed in the 80's when the shootings started, but big phama bought enough ad time to shut down the discussion. We did this to these boys.
Did and do these boys have underlying issues needing help, very probably. But putting meds, with possible long term effects in boys, with no long term studies (that I can find) just sets up the some of these boys for failure. Does this happen to all middle class boys on the meds. Obviously not. But it would seem enough of these shootings have a time line which can be traced. Then pair the shooting timeline , next to the introduction of the med's timeline. Just an idea
Other issues to be considered:
Absence of strong male role models in their lives?
No more gym class?
No more shop class?
How much screen time on a daily basis?
No more personnel responsibility being taught?
An education system more interested if the kids want to transition, with or without parental approval. Don't tell your parents about our conversation.........
Just some thoughts.
Lastly, an issue not being discussed if also very glaring. "He was a good kid" is frequently said after the shooting. Then all manner of incidents and behaviors (abusing animals) start being documented. People saw something and didn't say something. The community failed the boys and the victims as well.
The boys are not absolved of any actions they took and take.
Before meds, middle class boys behaviors? After meds. . .?
Why are so many young men attracted and impacted by people like Jordan Peterson? I have some disagreements with some of his observations, but his "12 Rules" is pretty common sense. He recalls the stories of people, men (mainly in their 20's to 30's) and women who come to him on the street and at his talks, and relay his POSITIVE impact on their lives.
The 12 Rules
"Stand up straight with your shoulders back."
"Treat yourself like you are someone you are responsible for helping."
"Make friends with people who want the best for you."
"Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today."
"Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them."
"Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world."
"Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)."
"Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie."
"Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t."
"Be precise in your speech."
"Do not bother children when they are skateboarding."
"Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street."
I'd like to push you a little Professor.
It's encouraging to see how many readers are raising, very ironically, the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy: that the commonality in the terrible, disproportionate frequency of young white American men who commit mass school shootings is not necessarily progressive education because many, many other people are the products of the same progressive education—girls, minorities, youth in other countries, youth in the past—and they don't shoot up their schools. You clearly want to inveigh against the modern American public educational milieu (qua The Redneck Intellectual), or perhaps the modern American cultural milieu more broadly, which I think is legitimate, and I would personally argue is important. This essay, however, is trying to make a causal argument which doesn't stand up as constructed. Are you willing to concede that the argument doesn't follow, or at least address the critique explicitly? You clearly have the chops to hold your own in the arena of morality and culture, but are you willing to engage substantively instead of rhetorically? You are also clearly capable of understanding the distinction.
Also ironically, the falsity of rhetoric over substance ("reason over emotions") is part of the very critique you make, again very legitimately, against modern progressivism in the essay itself!
This is terrific analysis. Please write an op-ed somewhere to get this out there!
This is fascinating. Thank you, Dr. Thompson.
Since progressive education is the norm throughout most American schools, both public and private, I'd expect to see a lot of shootings in private schools as well. Is that the case? If not, why not?
I second the prior comments about why not girls, why mostly white middle class boys, etc. So I will touch on another issue I have been mulling over: emotional literacy, sensu lato, but mostly as directed at the self, not others. And I say this as a scientist by background who teaches science in the highest reaches of higher ed (who hasn't taken a single class from an Education department or college), and one who is broadly like-minded as far as philosophy goes.
Incredibly, other teachers I work with are still harping on about developing students' Critical Thinking Skills, just like they did when I was in elementary school more than 30 years ago. Clearly, whatever critical thinking curricula have been put in place have not worked. Moreover, when you back-calculate from the struggles faced by the professionals these high-achieving students become, and what skills or perspectives should they be developing now in order to stave off quitting the profession, burning out, and/or suicide (a big problem), it's not critical thinking that's deficient. It's resiliency, a healthy sustainable sense of self-worth, self-care, and a willingness to get professional psychological help when you need it. It's dealing with unpleasant feelings in general, when they stack up over years and decades and start undermining one's ability to function. (Yes, altruism is to blame for much of this, but making that identification doesn't give you the knowledge and skills that you need to deal with hard emotions in life.) But, every functioning adult needs these skills, not just highly trained professionals in exceedingly demanding technical fields.
What these students largely lack when they get here is knowledge and skills around their own emotions - what am I feeling, why am I feeling this way, will it ever end, what *can* I do about it, what *should* I do about it, how much do other people's opinions matter? Am I a good person if I feel so bad? Can I achieve anything, really? Am I worthy of achievement? My feelings say no. So what do I do? Repressing emotion and embracing reason/logic instead (instead of learning to regulate emotion *and* use reason fully, not just like a calculator) is an unhealthy recipe that is widely supported by high achievers, their parents, their teachers and coaches, etc. And since a healthy, fully use of reason is also not defined or taught, most people equate reason with calculator-like logic and emotional repression, which is also not healthy. So it's no shocker people struggle to healthfully cope with life in general, and stress in particular. I don't know if this is some other dimension of Progressivism, or an instinctive backlash to it, but emotional repression combined with robotic reasoning is extremely common in my field. Do my students explicitly embrace key elements of subjectivism and altruism? Absolutely. But insofar as they are committed to a demanding profession with a pretty strict code of ethics, they are fully on board with the importance of logic, reason, work ethic, a moral code, moral principles, etc. This does not well fit the picture you have painted of the product of progressive education. So I am sympathetic, but not fully persuaded.
By the time these students get to me, it's extraordinarily unlikely any of them will ever become mass shooters. But they grew up in that same milieu of the educational establishment as school shooters. Their struggles should be informative about the damage that progressive education inflicts in general. Instead of becoming mass shooters, they became the prized show ponies who expertly jump through every hoop put in front of them. We applaud their command in STEM fields. We celebrate the music majors and Shakespeare aficionados not because of what those fields have to impart to students, but because they jumped through extra hoops - English major and then switch fields into a technical profession? Well done indeed! It's just another signifier of achievement.
Solution? A deep, meaningful, non-hoop-jumping embrace of emotions as a valid thing to learn about and gain skills around from a very early age, primarily for one's own healthy development, with side benefits of being a more decent human being to other people, more benevolent, better adjusted, etc. I mean from elementary school onwards.
If I had to pick one thing to fill this hole, it might be learning real (age-appropriate) literature, from the youngest kids onwards through life. Great stories where you learn about people and feelings and discuss them and learn about yourself, discover more of yourself along the way. Literature is such a great way to learn about these things without wallowing in the directionless subjective activities that modern educators might dream up. Literature lets you get inside other people's heads, try on different personalities and values and world views, and see the consequences of values, choices, world views. It's extremely powerful, yet safe too.
And whether it's biological, social, cultural, or some combination, I think that this lack of emotional literacy is worse in boys and/or its consequences end up being more lethal in boys. I lean towards the latter. For the same reason that more girls attempt suicide, but more boys achieve it, so it goes with acting out their frustration, desperation, and despair. Boys choose more lethal means for acting on their uncontrollable feelings, and so those in the worst kind of crisis seek to tear people down with bullets (including themselves) rather than with less lethal means. Girls and women tend to be much more vicious with words, which can do a lot of psychological damage, but not with the indiscrimination and not at the scale of bullets from high-capacity, high-powered guns.
Is this the fault of Progressive Education? I don't know, but it's probably culpable at one level or another. But I think the parents and psycho-philosophical environment at home has a big role as well. If we believe that schools are not supposed to be stand-ins for parents in every dimension of living, then we have to consider parents and home environments as potentially potent influences as well. I lived in the Bay Area for a while, and took the local commuter train a lot. Especially in the evenings it was prone to massive delay because of people - often teenagers - jumping in front of the train. This was in some of the most affluent and high-achieving areas of the region. Kids' minds and spirits are breaking. The unrelenting pressure from parents, and competition from peers egged on by their own parents, for ever-greater success and achievement is also an important dimension to the inhumanity of how young people are raised these days.
If the problem you’re addressing is the product of “Progressive education,” and Progressive education has been the norm in public schools for over a century, why did the problem of teenage boys committing mass murder not manifest until the 1990s?
Why, if the cause of the problem is Progressive education, aren’t there a lot more school shootings? Why doesn’t the nihilistic nature of Progressive education effect girls as well as boys; African-American students and Latinos? Why does the nihilism provoked by Progressive education overwhelmingly only effect white, male students?
The problem of school shootings is simply not the consequence of Progressive education.
It lies more with the educational culture more prevalent among white, suburban families that if you do not go to the university and get a degree you will be a failure in life.
Those students who struggle academically and struggle to complete the courses that put them on the university-bound path realize they’re not going to make it. The pressure from parents make it clear they must go to college. Mandatory attendance laws force them to go to school; and going to school, going to classes 6 to 7 hours a day becomes a constant reminder of how inadequate they are, how much of a failure they’re going to be.
This sense of inadequacy stunts them socially as well. The idea of asking a girl on a date absolutely terrifies them because they’re convinced she’ll say “no,” and that would just be another glaring reminder of their inadequacy.
So, these students end up hating themselves, hating their parents, hating their classmates, and hating the institution that brings them all together—the public school.
This helps explain why many of them start by killing a parent/parents, the indiscriminate slaughter of their classmates, and why so many end with suicide or suicide-by-cop.
There are solutions to this problem, but the solution proposed in this series—scrapping our public educational system—is not it. Scrapping public education would simply pour fuel on the fire.
“I hate the fucking world.” As a result, Harris wanted to destroy everything—literally everything. The object of his hatred thus became the object of his death wish. His stated motto was “KILL MANKIND.” His goal, he wrote, was “to destroy as much as possible.”
I’m not trying to be facetious here, but I have thought for quite a long time that Bill Gates operates out of this same hatred.
Gates is still a pimply-faced kid inside. His weapon is just a little more sophisticated.
Fabulous. The entire series. I can't thank you enough. You tied a lot of loose ends together.
Thank you for this. I'm a great admirer of your writings.
I'd like to add in another dimension that others have mentioned: psychiatric drugs. https://amidwesterndoctor.substack.com/p/how-the-fda-buried-the-dangers-of?s=r
There's an importance to logic, too, that Professor Thompson mentioned. Consider that in the past-- say the colonial era-- people were very much confronted with hard, cold reality: there were animals to feed, horses to hitch up, firewood to gather, and (amazingly) no computers. If you wanted to research something, you had to walk to the library and talk to real people. You had to engage with the world. So, you were very familiar with ontological realities: with "real" things.
Consider today: the world is mediated to us through computers, movies, etc. You get in your car and turn on the radio. You get home from work and turn on the TV. Kids go to school where they might be using computers half the time and then they go into their rooms and get on their computers. They might be playing violent video games. They chat with people on-line, but not face-to-face where the consequences for what they say might be more direct. So, what's "real"?
Logic and reason point to, or should point to, ontological realities: our founding generation understood this very clearly. Today, we're tending toward "narratives" as "really real," as having an ontological foundation they don't deserve. We're confused about what's real. Reason and logic are being undermined by narratives, yet only logic can cut through narratives to the ontological realities behind them. There's nothing wrong with computers and movies, but we must be able to understand their place in the realm of being: their ontological reality.
OK, now add to this mix of reality-mediators psychiatric drugs given willy-nilly to kids. So what's real? How about: kids play video games and they, too, can be the shoot-'em-up commanding hero that says 'fu*k you' to everyone who gets in his way. How about a drug into that mix so that reality is just fluid, shifting, arbitrary, and whatever we decide it is? Can you be that video game real man? You bet you can be! Grab your gun.
The sleep of reason produces monsters. Logic is more needed than ever today, yet we've deliberately put it to sleep; now it's about narratives, which at best have only secondary ontological status. Our founding generation understood that, because they knew exactly what was "really real."
Logic is the sword, and as it cuts it reveals what's really real: it reveals ontological status. This is perhaps why some want to destroy logic and put "narrative" in its place. Logic, reason, and judgment belong to individuals. They don't belong to institutions or governments. Yet, look how we're being taught to rely on supposed institutional authorities-- as if their judgement trumps all. What next: authoritative algorithms to determine our fates? Because models tell us what's "really real"?
So, how does one destroy a country, so that one can "build back better"? How about: destroy reason and logic?