How School Shootings Shape Classroom Curriculum

Just the other day I stumbled across a powerful piece on school shootings and how they’ve shaped (American) society emotionally, politically, spiritually, and in terms of our literature. The article, “When Change Doesn’t Happen: School Shootings and the Piles of Novels That Follow” by Maria Eliades brought forth some striking information and perspectives that I thought were necessary to discuss.

Is the prevalence of literature surrounding violence and school shootings positive or negative?

This is the question I’m faced with upon reading Eliades’ article. She writes about how so many books are being written on the topic as a means of processing.

Processing these painful events is important, necessary even. Yet, how does this translate to our classrooms? To what we’re teaching our students?

The section of the essay that stuck out the most to me was this:

“With the frequency of shootings (299 and counting, since 2013), it’s amazing that they register as events at all to Americans. There’s the sense that we’ve become so anesthetized to this level of violence, that we accept it as normal. As such, mass shootings have become a part of our writing consciousness, too.

Mostly in the sphere of mass market fiction, genre fiction, and young adult fiction, mass shootings are frequently occurring in the books we read. Since the year after the Columbine tragedy, 2000, a total of 113 novels have been published in English about school shootings. The number of novels published on school shootings before Columbine? One.”

It’s fascinating to see how prevalent this topic has become in our literature – in both good and bad ways. However, what does this mean for our classrooms? Should these texts be introduced into the curriculum? Should young children be exposed to this material?

Eliades says this:

“There is value in reading books that are outside of our normal reading purview to tap into what our fellow citizens are clearly responding to.

The trauma from these shootings is a shared experience. That these novels have been produced shows that we readers have a need to digest what is happening through books because we’re not seeing progress anywhere else, and because novels are where fiction writers can process the world around them-–a simultaneous act of individual and group therapy.”

I think, to an extent, she brings a valid point. We aren’t really given exposure to these events in the sense of openly discussing the topic, especially when most of the attention and focus is on the change for the future as opposed to the cause/the why.

Is there value in exposing children to this literature? In the name of preparedness, safety, education? Or can this be damaging to young minds, and more desensitization to violence?

I don’t know if there’s a set answer. To talk about these topics is infinitely more valuable than brushing them off; yet we must draw the line somewhere. Kids are kids. As teachers we do have the responsibility of protecting them, too.

What are your thoughts?
Feel free to comment below.

Featured Image Credit: Ploughshares

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