This is about a month and a half old now but I missed it completely when it came out. Jack Schneider, an education professor from Holy Cross, wrote in the Christian Science Monitor about the long history of school shootings in the United States:
The key difference, he points out, is that today’s school shooters can kill a lot more people because of semi-automatic and automatic weapons that weren’t available in the distant past. But the phenomenon of people shooting up schools is not a new idea. One of the most pervasive narratives throughout human history is the myth of paradise lost. Every generation is convinced that everything was better in the old days and that we would all be better off if we went back to the way things were when they were kids. The Greeks and Romans complained about the young people in their day, how they dressed badly and were disrespectful. Sound familiar?
Yet the truth is that children have been dying from gun violence in schools for generations.
The first school shooting, in fact, is older than America. It took place in 1764 when four Lenape warriors shot a Pennsylvania teacher in front of his students. Since then, motives have varied, but the effect has always been similarly grim. In 1853, a student in Kentucky shot and killed a teacher for punishing his brother. In 1891, a 70-year-old man fired a shotgun at students at a school playground in Newburgh, N.Y. In 1946 a 15-year-old student was shot in the basement of his Brooklyn school by “seven thugs.”
School shootings, in short, are not a new phenomenon, and have occurred with relative frequency since before the Civil War.
I have a line I’ve used for 20 years for this kind of thinking: Even the nostalgia was better in the old days. But as Doug Stanhope argues, what they are really remembering is their own youth, when they had energy and vitality and dreams of a wondrous future. And now that those dreams didn’t come true for them, they want to go back to the days when they were happier, before their hopes were crushed by reality.