Thursday, June 02, 2016

Kids Today...

In the wake of the horrific news from UCLA, one of my facebook folks started a thread about how everyone on campus should have had guns, which several other folks replied to commenting on how much safer it would be if everyone had guns, and so on.  And then my friend started a sub-thread about how kids today are spoiled, whiny, etc etc. 

So, I responded not once, but twice.  First, to the guns on campus thread, where I said that I dreaded the idea of returning exams (or any assignment) where some students hadn't done well to a group of 30+ students, all armed.

I well remember having fantasies, running around the local schoolyard with friends and cousins, waving finger guns, playing I, Spy, and Man from UNCLE, that one or two of us with a gun could easily take out bad guys, keep the good guys alive, and be heroes.  At some point, certainly by the time I was in high school, I'd outgrown that fantasy.  Most adults do.  But the ones who haven't, seriously, need to go play laser tag or something (where I lost totally, and where even our winner was hit more than a few times).  Imagine a campus full of armed people, all hearing a gun shot, drawing, looking around, and seeing everyone armed, ready to shoot.  It's not like the old WWII movies where you knew who was on your side by the uniforms (though friendly fire accidents probably happened), and where everyone manages to shoot accurately in the heat of the moment (which, I've read, doesn't actually usually happen in combat).

But the kids today thing really pissed me off.  So I posted about my students, mostly good folks, mostly hard working, mostly dealing with a lot more responsibility and work than I had in college. This is a generation that's spent their coming of age years, since 2008, rocked by a crappy economy.  Remember reading about all those people who lost jobs, homes, livelihoods?  Those adults, some of them had kids, and those kids are college-aged now.  Sure, some haven't been hit at all by the recession and grew up pretty privileged.  And some of those are brats, no doubt.  The same way some of the previous generations were spoiled brats.

We (my generation, the folks in our 40s and 50s now) haven't done well by the next generation.  And the Baby Boomers, because they have more political clout, have perhaps done worse.  We thought college was expensive then, but now, it's way, way more expensive for a public education.  And our schools aren't getting the funding they did when the government was all worried about Sputnik.

So, kids today.... are pretty much like kids in any day.  Some have it easy, but most don't.  Some are wonderful, a few aren't.  Some work really hard, and some are still growing up.

After I responded with my defense on my facebook friend's post, he responded that he didn't actually know or work with any young adults, but had just gone on what the media says.  WTF?  It's like deciding you hate Blacks because the media report on Black men in prison, isn't it?

Let's recognize that the news out of UCLA has told us about the victim, but (from what I've seen so far) nothing about the murderer/suicide victim.  For all I know, that person might be a non-traditional student in his 50s (I think I read male pronouns being used, but I'm not sure even of that).  The student might have had mental health issues.  (I think you'd pretty much have to have something very bad going on to plan and commit murder, no?)  Ages 18-25 are tough in a lot of ways, not least in that if someone's going to have mental health issues, they often surface then, when a lot of people have (or feel they have) little access to support systems.


  1. Those sound like really depressing social media conversations to have after such a tragedy. And the idea that we would all be better off if everyone had more guns on campus! I can't imagine being armed and at the ready whenever one of my students came to see me -- how would education happen in such a circumstance?

  2. I've seen the same "more guns!" posts popping up on my media feeds, along with the "ha ha ha, another gun-free zone FAIL," which is just hilarious. (That's bitter sarcasm, in case anyone needs to be told that.)

    This shooting hits home to me especially because of how similar it is to the school shooting that killed John Locke, at the University of Arkansas, in August 2000.

    Dr. Locke was my mentor -- without him, I would not have thought to enter the PhD program at UA, and certainly would not have succeeded. He was shot by a graduate student who he'd done everything he could to help, but who (in the end) was not able to succeed in the program. The student then shot himself. This was two doors down from the office that had been mine all through graduate school. (I had graduated and taken a job in Idaho by then.)

    Sixteen years, and what's changed? This sort of thing has become commonplace. It was a shock and an outrage then. Now it's just another item on the news.

  3. There are great stats available about how accurate (or inaccurate, as the case may be) police officers are when shooting in an active situation. Their accuracy is quite low (maybe 30%? I can't remember the numbers). And, as you say, it would be very difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys. In fact, I read that in the UCLA incident, at least one student fled from a SWAT guy whom he thought was a shooter (Jon Stewart has a great piece on that good guy / bad problem). Thank goodness the SWAT guy probably expects that kind of thing--scared people who run--and so doesn't shoot the scared ones. Amateurs on the other hand . . . .

    It's not like in the movies.

  4. In the Oregon shooting last year, there was a guy nearby who had a concealed carry permit, and who had trained as a sniper in the military -- he wrote a great column about why he DID NOT pull out his gun -- he realized that any law enforcement officer who arrived would assume he was the dangerous guy.

    And now, of course, it turns out that the shooter had his Ph.D. from UCLA, had killed his (ex?) wife first, then went back to UCLA and planned to kill another faculty member.