Jamie Mayes, AOE

Archive for December, 2012|Monthly archive page

A Moment of Silence can Save a Lifetime of Pain

In Uncategorized on December 27, 2012 at 9:56 pm

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I had just finished reading the daily headlines on the Yahoo main page when a yellow and black line flashed across the top of my screen. There was a hostage situation at an elementary school, but there was no additional information. The sudden flash of vague information gave me a faulty confidence that everything was ok. I let a small prayer roll across my head, and turned on my Smart board in preparation for my third hour class. I breezed through two more class periods, and decided just before lunch to check the news again. Update: People were dead, the gunman was missing, and it was an elementary school. More details would unveil as the day moved on, and what was thought to be a small school scuffle initially, has changed the rest of the school year for students, parents, and teachers across this country.

The death of nearly thirty children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut sent school officials and law makers into a frenzy in efforts to protect staff and children of schools. The idea that incidents such as this can happen anywhere created paranoia around the country, prompting emergency meetings to develop and modify laws. Suggestions ranged from the immediate installation of metal detectors to the increase of law enforcement on campuses and even the suggestion of allowing teachers to carry guns at schools. It seemed that logical thinking was diverted for a little while and hysteria took over. While people did eventually calm down, the urgency to reform and implement protection for students and educators remains a dominant issue and media attention towards the unfortunate incident has yet to subside.

As lawmakers stand around scratching their heads, one very strong suggestion continues to sit at the frontal lobe of my brain. It is not a very conventional suggestion, as a matter of a fact; it’s rather discouraged by many. Some people consider it to be an invasion of rights, while others say its absence has stifled their rights. It will not harm anyone, but there is controversy about whether it actually helps anyone.  However, in 1962 there was a ban placed on it and the face of education changed forever- prayer.

It is not only prayer that has been removed from school, but virtually the presence of Christianity anywhere in the school system. Most schools no longer recite the Pledge of the Allegiance, which famously uses the line “one nation under God.”  A moment of silence is no longer mentioned each morning at beginning of the school day. Most recently, a high school Valedictorian from Mississippi was forced to fight for the right to use a bible verse as a part of her speech at graduation. In essence, the educational system has made efforts to remove anything that reflects Christianity, the basis of this nation’s foundation, to protect the rights of everyone else.

The irony of this situation is that the right of every non-Christian is upheld until tragic situations occur. It is then when bible verses are cited, heads are bowed, and prayers are lifted for the victims. Hymns are sung, gospel choirs are summoned, and Joel Osteen is called upon like Jesus himself.  Not a word is spoken in opposition to these religious symbols- for they represent the presence of religion more than religion itself. Yet, when the weeks of grief have subsided, people forget the devastation felt at the moment of the catastrophe and desert everything that has to do with Christianity.

On the day following the deaths in Newton I asked my students if they felt prayer would make a difference in school climates. While most of them believed that prayer could affect the environment of the school, there were a few who disagreed. The general position of those students was that they didn’t see how prayer could help anyone who wanted to harm others?  My question was: Would it hurt anyone who might consider harming someone? There is no statistical verification that prayer or Christianity is guaranteed to reduce violent school occurrences; yet, there is proof that meditation is good for all mankind and there is a supernatural power which exists beyond that which man can control.

It is rather amazing how man continues to distort the presence and necessity of God, and insist that the absence of Christianity is a right. Mankind has created books and advice columns which aim to negate or create a disillusion about the most solid fact- prayer changes situations. There was an article posted on-line a few weeks ago which gave advice on ways to reduce stress and improve one’s personal life. A few of the ideas listed were do something nice for others, read self-help books, and meditate. As I read the article, I could not help but feel that every solution offered was connected to one familiar source- Christianity. For my responsibility to do nice things for others is what Jesus’ mission was about. The best self-help book that exists is the bible.  My meditation period is always during my time of prayer.  Still, when lawmakers assembled for ideas on ways to enhance school protection, they suggested guns and metal detectors.  Yet, after guns failed on the day that 28 victims died, finally, everyone prayed.

It is indeed frustrating that this world denies and distorts the real power of prayer and Christianity in efforts to satisfy the qualms of others; yet, in times of need, we depend on God, Jesus -or however one may address Him- to hurt and heal the broken. Some doubters insist that if God were real the incident would have never happened. However, God must use eye opening experiences eliminate the haughtiness of mankind, often sacrificing the lives of those who are underserving. For mankind is unaccepting of small reminders and doubtful of real examples. It is not until lightning strikes and thunder rolls that we are moved to make a difference. God, prayer, and Christianity are always a last resort; perhaps, we should return to the day when God, prayer, and Christianity were a first consideration. 

The Broken Back Bone Dilemma

In Uncategorized on December 1, 2012 at 4:03 am

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I have already braced myself for the tons of angry messages I may receive as a result of this blog. Nonetheless, it is an enlightenment that must be considered to understand the complexities of a huge modern concern. News outlets print thousands of stories about it. Schools and workplaces have developed various teams and programs to defeat it, but still it seems to be going nowhere fast. Bullying is one of the fastest growing problems in American culture, and it has led to thousands of deaths. Videos of teens crying about being bullied can be found on several outlets and the number of notes left by people who simply “could no longer take it” continues to escalate.

Yet, as I ponder what has brought such a dramatic change in the way individuals treat each other, I could not deny a troubling factor. We, Americans- parents, teachers, government officials, and community leaders- may have largely contributed to this expanding issue. No, we probably have not ridiculed a child publicly, taken their lunch money in the hallway of a school or threatened to beat them up if they tell someone, but we have harmed society’s youth in another way. We have broken their backbone. There is no denial that some of the meanest, cruelest people exist nowadays. Each week, I find myself reprimanding students about their lack of sensitivity and respect for each other.  Many of today’s youth are crude and rude with no hesitation to speak exactly what they want, and they have no remorse when they cause offense.

However, the uncut vocal assaults blurted out by peers are not the root cause of the increase in bullying and suicide. The problem is a bit deeper. The problem surpasses the lips from which menacing comments are spit, travels past the brain where the thoughts are initially conjured, skips the hands that are used to commit violent acts and, instead, stops at the broken back bone of victims. It’s an uncomfortable conclusion, but a true one.  Lack of a back bone has changed children’s ability to handle situations that involve bullying and feelings of desperation.

I can remember the days when my mother would tell me that I had an obligation to stand up for myself when I was harassed or when another kid was rude to me for no reason. She would look me in the face, sternly shake her finger, and say, “You tell them to leave you alone. If they do it again, you tell the teacher. If they hit you, you hit them back. Stand up for yourself!”  I was only permitted to watch television for a certain amount of time, and then I had to go outside to play. I was told not to be a tattle tell when playing with friends; we had to learn to get along or stay inside the house.  At the time, it seemed to be tough love for a kid who was scared to make others mad and very sensitive about nearly everything. However, years later when I was in high school I found it much easier to stand my ground and not succumb to the pressure to drink and have sex. As with most bullies, the taunters eventually left me alone. For situations that seemed beyond my control, I could tell a teacher or my parent, and they immediately took control to protect me. I had a backbone, and used it to stand up for myself.

This is a far cry from modern reality, though. Laws have changed, parents have changed, and the surroundings affecting young people have changed. There are nearly just as many laws to protect the victimizer as there are to protect the victim. Many parents are so absorbed by work and their own lives that the issues of children are not a primary concern. Therefore, changes in children’s behavior are ignored, missed, or miscoded. An even bigger impact has been made by the media. Face to face communication, which builds character and social skills, as well as conflict resolution ability has been replaced with playing violent video games, texting, and social networking. These forms of entertainment not only deprive children of social experiences, but they also expose children to violence and negative images. Even research has shown that over exposure to the influence of the media can be damaging to teens; however, the extremity of the damage and breadth of the areas that can be affected has been vastly underestimated.  Not only does the media create falsified images of reality, it isolates teens from realistic situations and creates deep senses of self-doubt about personal images, making children subject to low self-esteem and other personal issues when they do not fit what is identified as the norm. In addition, students look to the dominant areas of influence for an escape or answer, following the dangerous habits of many images they’ve seen. Many of them develop a sense of worthlessness making them susceptible to suicidal feelings.

Rebuilding the backbone of teens is not an easy task, but it is a necessary one. If society fails to correct these issues, incalculable damage to the future is bound to occur. The presence of the media must be minimized. Physical activities that teach character, discipline, and leadership must be re-established as dominant activities in kids’ lives- not texting, video gaming, and surfing the internet. The negative role that the media plays in mental deterioration of personalities, communication skills, and problem solving abilities must be eliminated.

However, removal of the media is not the only way to heal the broken backbone of society. Parents must build strong relationships with children and become connected with them. The parental sensor must be present in order to detect irregularities in children’s behavior. Teachers must be proactive in enforcing positivity and a sense of community and support in the classroom with consistent reiteration of a bully free environment and an open door policy. Lastly, the government must employ stricter guidelines for violators and more sensitive policies for victims of bullying before it becomes deadly.

It is a safe assumption that bullying will never leave, for it has been present since the world can came into existence. However, the affects and power of bullies can be reduced by teach children to love themselves enough to defend themselves. Simply refusing to be abused and being bold enough to seek help will decrease the number of suicide due to bullying. We must teach our children to use their back bones to stand up to bullies.

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