Wednesday, April 18, 2007

On kicking students out of class

As someone who spends a portion of each weekday on a university or college campus, I've been thinking quite a bit this week about the coverage and about the incident itself: the emphasis on the shooter's ethnicity, the way, as David Brooks discussed in yesterday's New York Times, that we don't look at these sorts of incidents as moral failings, but as psychological or moral ones, the danger I am in when I teach a class, etc.
But another thing that has struck me is the rush to blame someone in the University administration for not having done something about Seung-Hui Cho's--I'm putting the family name last here since I'm not going to be considering primarily as a South Korean, but as a product of the country he grew up in--behavior earlier.
As I said, I am on college campuses most days. And, I see students, and have had students, who are of questionable mental health. I know of students of mine who have spent time during their college careers being institutionalized. I have read student papers that are dark, frightening and demonstrate an imagination, at least, that is somewhere I wouldn't want to be. But, as much as we wish that Virginia Tech would have stood in loco parentis in this case, we don't feel the same way in every case. I'm pretty sure that the same people who are now asking why Cho wasn't kicked out would be upset if their own child was kicked out because he creeped out other students and faculty--but never enough that anyone pressed charges. I'm not saying, because I don't know all the details, whether Cho really crossed a threshold so that it was already clear that he might go on a rampage. I am saying that were we to get rid of every creepy and troubled student, there wouldn't be that many left.
Whichever way the ultimate judgment comes down on Virginia Tech authorities--how well their police handled the interim period between the shootings is a different question--we should remember that hindsight is ever so much clearer than foresight.

7 comments:

RottweilerTOM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RottweilerTOM said...

I can only surmise that some of your imaginative students' writing style is for your benefit, and your benefit only! XO
Welcome to April 20, 2007.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately mental illness is pervasive in society with few places for people to turn for help, although it sounds like Cho had several contacts with the mental health establishment and was on anti-depressants. Its a sad commentary though that someone with his history was able to purchase not just one gun, but 2. Had he not been able to purchase 2 guns, he would today still be considered just the odd kid in class.

Tyler said...

I agree, but it's odd that what is being talked about more is what the school could have done to stop it. They didn't supply him with the weapons.

John said...

I would kick anyone who threatened, questioned, or disagreed with me out of class. And then I would kick one or two out just because. I rule by fear.

Tyler said...

I rule by the power of my amazing biceps. Ain't nobody gonna question me.

RottweilerTOM said...

ok if brother talaga can update YOU can too