A most troubling trend in societal violence is that more and more young people are involved in it.
Last week, a young and personable math teacher at Danvers High in Massachusetts was killed by a 14-year-old student using a box cutter. Her body was stashed in a recycling bin, rolled outside, and then dumped in the woods skirting the school.
After committing this heinous act, the alleged killer changed clothes, ate at a fast-food restaurant, and took in a movie.
It was only a short while ago that an Australian student on a sports scholarship was gunned down and killed in Duncan, Okla. One of the teens who took part in the killing is reported to have told police that they were “bored” and decided to kill someone “for the fun of it.”
Hillary Clinton, aspiring to the presidency and wishing to position herself more to the political right, had called video games “a silent epidemic of desensitization” that is “stealing the innocence of our children.”
About the same time, Sen. Charles Shumer had taken aim at the gaming industry and said that “little Johnny should be learning how to read, not how to kill cops.”
These were powerful messages coming from powerful people, but, unfortunately, once the political season was past its prime, the attention on youth and violence became subsumed under “non-pressing matters.”
Do violent video games cause real harm? Do they desensitize youngsters, and thereby increase their proclivity to engage in violent behavior?
One may argue that an overwhelming majority of children are smart enough and have the acumen and sagacity to distinguish between fantasy and reality.
Social scientists and psychologists go even further to posit that such games may have cathartic value, and they offer children a safe way to act out their aggression.
Such an argument, however, serves no useful purpose, for it ignores children who suffer from exposure to real-life violence inflicted on them by abusive parents, bullies at school, and gang members, and are adrift in a sea without a moral compass to guide them.
The entertainment industry, on the other hand, is powered by avarice and shows no regard for the mental health of our youngsters. One does not need a college education or research data to conclude that the violence and licentiousness that commonly pass for entertainment can have only a deleterious effect on children’s psyches, even those that are well-nurtured and well-balanced.
Setting all that aside, the way we raise children should be based on moral, ethical, and religious maxims, not on psychobabble and academicians’ pronouncements.
Besides, why allow children’s minds to become sullied by ungodly things when the world is replete with delectations and splendors.
“Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are stah-ving to death,” shrieks the inimitable Rossalind Russell in the movie “Auntie Mame.”
It takes better parenting and better teaching to steer children to the banquet halls where speech and manners are measured by their style and eloquence, where wit is abundant, and nature abounds.
I encourage parents not to gift-wrap a video game for this Christmas, for the simple reason that the banquet halls of life’s true pleasures lie in a different direction.
The poet A.E. Houseman said that 50 years of living were not enough to capture the grandeur of things in bloom. The astronomer Johannes Kepler was so taken with the sexangular scintillations of snowflakes that he wrote an entire book on the subject.
Children do not always know what is best for them. It is the job of adults — especially parents and teachers — to shine the light on paths that lead to wholesome and salubrious living.
Ramnath Subramanian, a retired public-school teacher, writes for the El Paso Times on educational topics. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org