Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New assembly, same message, nice guy.......except for the video game thing


I swear to God that there must be some formula for safe schools, anti-bullying, be nice assemblies.  On my eighth year of teaching, I've seen some rather odd people come in and give messages that are supposed to get through to kids, but usually only last a few days.  MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) brought in a huge video program that was pretty to look at and trendy, but it was pretty flat with the message.  A couple of years ago the school went through Every 15 Minutes, which is the controversial program that recreates a fatal car accident, but the message was didn't seem to hit home at all.  Last year it was Rachel's Challenge and the massacre at Columbine.  Students were so depressed that they couldn't wait to get out and get a wiff of fresh air and sunshine.  Then there are the stand-up guys.  Men and women who use a comedic routine to pass along a message.  In one moment they hold the attention of students, and then pass a valuable message that kids listen to and internalize.  I've seen a couple pass through the school, and yesterday's Mike Pritchard was one of them.

I have to admit, the guy is actually pretty funny.  His sound effects and family anecdotes are a nice touch to a subject that can easily get depressing.  Mike definitely had the attention of the kids and successfully got his message across.  But the always present question is whether or not it is actually going to be effective.  And is it worth class time to listen to.

I don't like assemblies.  I find it kind of ironic that we need to cut down instruction time while under pressure from a society that seems to be screaming for better test scores to simply attend a meeting where the message is constantly, "be nice".  Fine, so the time cut is minimal in the grand scope of things.  However, we need to include the time to debrief the students (teenagers love to talk about it on the day of), or in the case of an event like Every 15 Minutes, it could take a week to get over all the emotional stirrings and class disruptions.  My question would be this; can't an atmosphere that is consistent and professional actually help solve a lot of these problems?  If every teacher brought forth an air of professionalism, explaining that the school is an institution where in everyone will be afforded respect, then the problems would be less likely to happen because the environment is less conducive for that to happen.  Of course, maybe I'm being naive.  Or maybe having a single person address 800 kids for 35 minutes and expecting results is naive.  At least he was funny.

Oh, and stop with the crap about video games creating murderers.  The students in my classes, almost unanimously, agreed that the idea that kids that play violent video games are more likely to go kill someone is starting to get tired.  I agree.  Having cut my teeth on Duck Hunt, I moved on to Wolfenstein, Doom, Duke Nuke'em, Quake, Unreal, and yes, I've played Grand Theft Auto since it first came out on PC's (I just can't pass Vice City yet on PS2).  Yes, they are all violent video games.  No, I'm not a person that thinks it's ok to go around the neighborhood car jacking people and hitting prostitutes with batons.  Are there people that might think like that?  Sure.  Is it the fault of the video game?  Are you kidding?  Here's a little statistic for you:


Yes, that is about the time video games became super popular, you know, when violent crime went down.  Still not impressed?


That would be the statistics for juvenile arrests due to homicide.  Looks a lot lower than the "pre-video game" days. 

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