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#12: A Review of Recent Cases of Philippine School Violence

Have you just intuited that our schools are becoming the breeding grounds of strife nowadays?

First, we review the case of the Colegio de San Agustin student Jaime Garcia. His name became famous because some CSA students bullied him, then he retaliated by stabbing one of the bullies with a ballpoint pen. Then the father of the stabbed bully, Allan Bantiles, allegedly slapped Jaime and even allegedly pointed a gun at him:

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/43937/csa-teen-on-bullys-gun-toting-dad-i-really-thought-hed-shoot-my-brains-out

We remember the Math teacher who forced her students to eat paper and also threw a chair toward someone who had the sense to defy her order:

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=851790&publicationSubCategoryId=49

There are even instances of students getting the upper hand against teachers. Here is one such case of students robbing their teacher:

http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/provincial/38136-guro-ninakawan-tinangkang-patayin-ng-3-estudyante

We also recall the alleged child molestation by a PE teacher:

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/video/136696/24oras/pe-teacher-inireklamo-ng-pangmomolestya-ng-16-na-estudyante-sa-elementarya

Even a school paper of a renowned university has suddenly grown fangs on this attack against other two prestigious universities:

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/277346/news/nation/ust-student-paper-attacks-ateneo-la-salle-on-rh-stands

There are also two school bomb scares just this last week:

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/video/nation/metro-manila/10/10/12/lyceum-suspends-classes-after-bomb-scare

http://www.philstar.com/nation/article.aspx?publicationsubcategoryid=63&articleid=858735

And just hours ago, a stabbing took place at Adamson University.

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/metro-manila/10/13/12/adamson-university-student-stabbed-inside-campus

Men, women, children, elderly, rich, poor, even school buildings – no one is safe.

At least credit me for having a curious memory for oddities. George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I know you may have heard this for a hundred times already in your lifetime. (But you don’t remember hearing it, so you’ll just repeat hearing it, thus proving the truth of Santayana’s proposition. A more orderly world would have no need for a quote like this.)

Let me emphasize, however, that I am in no way generalizing about the rampant violence that has happened in our school campuses nowadays. After all, there are tens of thousands of schools all over the country. There is no way we can cover all the violence that’s happening in the schools. The increased coverage of violent acts taking place inside campus can be attributed to just that – increased coverage. But it’s tempting to wonder: Couldn’t it be that it has always been this way inside the majority of educational institutions in the Philippines, and we’re starting to get vigilant only recently, when deaths and bizarre activities began emerging in rapid-fire pace?

However, I am quite generous in examining the succession of violent in-campus activities. Perhaps they just clustered together by chance, or as I mentioned, perhaps it’s just increased media coverage of the usual stuff.

Copycats Galore

Or perhaps this explanation can also apply. Robert Cialdini, a psychology professor from the Arizona State University, describes a probable explanation for the one-after-another occurrence of detestable acts inside our schools. In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he explains the occurrence of copycat events, or events that follow the publicizing of a similar event. He cites David Phillips’ research on copycat suicides:

(1) Copycat events take place only on places where the events are publicized: “He found that within two months after every front-page suicide story, an average of fifty-eight more people than usual killed themselves. In a sense, each suicide story killed fifty-eight people who otherwise would have gone on living.”

(2) Copycat events are done in a similar manner as the publicized events: “Thus when the newspaper detailed the suicide of a young person, it was young drivers who then piled their cars into trees, poles, and embankments with fatal results; but when the news story concerned an older person’s suicide, older drivers died in such crashes”

According to Cialdini, these two insights add up: “Upon learning of another’s suicide, an uncomfortably large number of people decide that suicide is an appropriate action for themselves as well.”

That insight may apply to acts of school violence. Although we can’t ascertain how many such acts took place during the whole of September and the first two weeks of October, imitation of prior publicized acts of school violence can be a trigger, if we are to follow Cialdini’s logic.

It’s like this: more trouble begets more coverage, and more coverage may beget more trouble. It’s a vicious circle that may engulf the educational establishment if left unchecked. At least the increased exposure should make us aware of what’s really happening in our schools, given that inside schools, pupils are away from their families and are practically left to fend off for themselves.

A Note to Teachers

Teachers, meanwhile should ask themselves these questions:

Isn’t it violence – to the mind, if not to the body – if they let their students out to the world without sufficient life skills? Have our schools taught us literacy, numeracy, critical thinking,and rapid adaptation to speedily changing circumstances? Have our schools strengthened our willpower to stand alone in the midst of tempting opportunities to follow the crowd’s blatant wrongs and innocent imbecilities, a steel heart that never worships power for its own sake, and a zest for lifelong learning and not learning that ends when school ends?

Isn’t it violence to make schools function like businesses while posing perils to their educational functions?

Isn’t it violence to scream at students when reasoned discussion is a better tack? Isn’t it violence to force-feed students with facts that they’re likely to forget after a long time, and to stress students over them?

Isn’t it violence to judge students, with no regard to the future, when their potentials haven’t fully blossomed yet? This year’s Nobel laureate for Medicine and Physiology, Sir John Gurdon (who shared the prize with Shinya Yamanaka for seminal work on stem cells) recalled what his Biology teacher told him before: “I believe Gurdon has ideas about becoming a scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous; if he can’t learn simple biological facts he would have no chance of doing the work of a specialist, and it would be a sheer waste of time, both on his part and of those who would have to teach him.”

And I’d consider it violence too when students have to say “Good morning” every day, like busted records, when the mornings out there are mostly no good.

Shakespeare once said, “‘Tis the mind that makes the body rich”. It’s just reasonable to assume that turbulence in mind and viciousness of the body go hand-in-hand. If you corrupt the mind, you corrupt the body, and pandemonium’s going to result if you do that to participants in a crowded classroom.

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#7: Views On a Campus Gun-Poking at CSA – Alleged Threatening of a Student Who Was Bullied

Shouldn’t “Under the Gun” Be Left as a Poker Term?

All of the school shootings that I knew from the news when I was growing up were all perpetrated by students, such as the Columbine school shooting and the Virginia Tech shooting. But it is the first time that I’ve heard of a near-shooting experience taking place inside a school – with the gun being held by an adult and the target being a high school student. You can read an account of the events from this link:CSA teen on bully’s gun-toting Dad: ‘I really thought he’d shoot my brains out

Let us now ask the questions that demand asking. How come that this school is terribly ineffective in sorting out bullying in that case? How come the school isn’t imposing zero-tolerance against bullies? There are creative ways to resolve bullying, such as giving the bullies something to be responsible about, involving them in situations that allow them to accentuate their positive attributes instead of negative ones, and so on.

In threatening or stressful situations, anyone should be encouraged to step in. Are the teachers even looking at their classrooms carefully to find out what’s going on with their students? Are the classmates observant enough; do they even have consciences? Any perceptive teacher would have approached Jaime and told him to bare it all; there should also have been some students who are strong enough to stand up and alert others of what’s happening.

If the school can’t even quell bullying, then we can’t really expect it to quell oppression in the parts of grown-ups, who have more physical strength – and worse, more ammunition. Because the school personnel saw crimes taking place, child abuse and a murder threat, they should have restrained the bully’s father and pinned him to the ground and then the police called. At least this is what should happen in a parallel universe where educators are more rational and more decisive in their dealings. The “banning from the premises” is not enough; the father and the bullied can still lock sights outside of school. It was inadequate, according to many news sources (such as the original article).

Parallel Universes

But let’s continue. In a parallel universe, Jaime (David) would have given Allan Bantiles (Goliath) what he deserved. He would have fought Allan; he would have given him the ballpen jujitsu that overturned his bullies and made the school safer for students. He would have punched Allan in the face with the force of a sledgehammer blasting a hollow block and bystanders would have followed suit in their defense of the little guy.

In an instant a revolution would have sparked; everyone would be tossing and turning the Bantiles’ car and declaring that the parents of bullies should better be forewarned – or else. The bullies, meanwhile, would cower in fear and get themselves out of the school with all the desperate speed of their hooves carrying them to the closest exit.

In fact, the revolution’s in place now. According to the report: “Ironically, the Facebook page has become an avenue for users to vent out their anger at Bantiles (even post his home address online) and in a way, cyberbully the father accused of gun-toting.” Here is the Facebook page: Allan Canete Bantiles: The Gun-Toting Man at Colegio San Agustin

In another parallel universe, however, the gun would have been fired – the worst that could happen.

Now what alternate universe would you want to emerge?

We’re always wishing that we’re in parallel universes which show the scenarios we want, right? But that’s not always possible. There will always be bullies and bullied – such is the truth as it stands right now in any school, unless this incident can change the whole landscape of students’ relations with each other and make all bullies hide in caves unless they reform.

The picture isn’t complete yet, though. We still have to hear from the bullies. As of now, we know that Bantiles’s son said that Jaime and him are actually best friends, but I suspect it is all PR to ensure that the masses wouldn’t think so badly of him as they are right now.

Jaime thought that Allan Bantiles was a “reasonable guy”. Perhaps he also thought the same of the bullies; that they will change their ways in due time. Perhaps that’s why he hung on for so long; after all, some bullied people even make friends with their bullies. It’s just human nature to retaliate when hurt so much every day.

Read what Jaime told News 5: “Kids everyday get terrorized, they get bullied. But there are adults who know better, who should tell kids that bullying is wrong.” Such a mature response. He believes that there is redemption for him as well as for the bullies.

This gives hope to many students, bullies and bullied altogether. The bullies will be given room to improve and become reasonable; the bullied will then be safer. I’m honestly troubled by the popular view that children fight naturally, along with the conclusion that there’s nothing we can really do to stop bullying. Children do fight, but only because they don’t know that better ways exist for them to get what they want (such as negotiating or deciding based on principles) or they don’t know yet the consequences that can detract from all the pleasure they may get from fighting.

Bullying “just being plain fun” is sheer nonsense. It isn’t no big deal as the bully claims. It’s absolutely no fun to be bullied (unless you stand up for yourself and become a hero, or unless, like the Columbine shooters, you end the no-fun situation by imploding and showering the campus with cold vengeance), or to be a bully (because you run the risk of vengeance, or it’s a sign that you have some family members whom a hardcore psychoanalyst can blame for your misfortune).

Power Structures

Here is another explanation why Allan Bantiles was so hot in pulling out a gun. Read on this link.

If we take everything mentioned here to be true, we have an additional dimension to the puzzle. A kaya pala, mayaman at may koneksyon. Ergo, he can do anything he wants with impunity. Is this the lesson we want our students to learn inside the schools?

We now know that in the Philippines, (1) anyone can beat up an MMDA enforcer with relative ease and MMDA enforcers can ask for bribes which are really “socially tolerated”, (2) schoolteachers can force students to eat paper, (3) protesters from a well-known religion can demand that anything that runs counter to their beliefs be forcibly censored by law, even if a simple injunction of not watching the movie is enough for them to soothe their egos and even if freedom of expression plus religious tolerance are in paper, and (4) undeserving clauses of well-meaning laws can sneak in and get unnoticed by government personnel whom I suspect of being non-readers.

Do we want our students to bear the costs of a society with all these in the foreground, among many other oddities and foibles?

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