On Education and School Shootings

May God have mercy on us. Yet another school shooting yesterday, with 10 dead and as many wounded. And this time the murderer came from an Orthodox family. And even some the students who survived are not really surprised that it happened:

A video interview with one student, Paige Curry, spread across social media, an artifact of a moment when children have come to expect violence in their schools.

“Was there a part of you that was like, ‘This isn’t real, this is — this would not happen in my school?’” the reporter asked.

The young girl shook her head: “No, there wasn’t.”

“Why so?” the reporter asked.

“It’s been happening everywhere,” she said. “I felt — I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here, too.”

How did we get to this point? That is the question that everyone is again asking. Our children massacre each other so routinely that they themselves now feel it to be an inevitability. We can blame lack of gun control, but the availability of weapons to adults does not, in and of itself, instill murder into the hearts of children. We can blame mental illness, but the experts themselves deny that this is typically the case. The perpetrator of the Texas shooting on Friday did not display any of the usual red-flag warning signs of a mass murderer. He seemed to everyone like a normal kid, maybe a little quiet, but basically a normal kid.

Our normal kids now slaughter each other, in this new normal world of ours.

So how did we come to this? A few people have, finally, been wondering whether these school shootings might actually have something to do with our schools. Please read that article; the author may not be right on every point, but much of what she has to say is well worth hearing. She concludes:

The jury should have been in a long time ago. As long as we institutionalize kids into prison-like schools built on a factory model and without any other choices, we’ll get more and more psychic alienation and social dysfunction.

Plato famously defined education as “teaching our children to desire the right things.” In the ancient world, the purpose of education was not to amass information, nor even to acquire knowledge for its own sake. It was to teach virtue. It was to show our children what it meant to be human, to show them how to live a good life. The word “educate” comes from the Latin and means literally: “to lead forth.”

The question is: where exactly are our public schools leading our children? And what exactly are our public schools teaching our children to desire?

The answer: they are leading them precisely nowhere, and teaching them to desire anything at all. Our schools are simply no longer educating our children, not in any true sense of the word. They are merely pumping vast amounts of meaningless, purposeless and disconnected information into our children’s heads, while studiously ignoring their hearts and stubbornly insisting that there is no such thing as a soul, and even if there is that it is no business of a school to have anything to do with it.

It turns out that Paige Curry is, tragically, correct: when we subject our children to thirteen years of imprisonment in soulless information factories, when we “lead them forth” into a world without meaning and we give to them heads filled with trivialities and hearts filled with emptiness, it is no surprise at all that some will simply choose death.

My warning earlier this month that public schools are indoctrinating our children with the values of the Apostasy was specifically about sex education programs, but the heart of the problem is institutional. The problem is, in fact, that the institution has no heart. And as I urged in that article, it is an absolutely vital necessity to found Orthodox parish schools as an alternative to these institutions of death. This is true in a spiritual sense, and it is becoming clearer with each passing day that it is true even in a physical sense as well.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the massacre yesterday was perpetrated by a young man from an Orthodox family. His parents are active in the Church. If they had been able to give their son the gift of a true Orthodox education, how different and how much better things might have been…

Edit: I should clarify that I’m not laying any of this at the feet of teachers. Some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met in my life have taught in public schools. It’s the institution and its methodologies that I am questioning.


  1. Shortly after the Parkland shooting I came across an article which began by citing a report issued by the FBI in which they listed the two or three characteristics common to these various shooters. At the top of the list was “AGGRESSIVE SELF-CENTEREDNESS” (emphasis mine). Now how in the world would a population of people ever acquire
    a near pathological preoccupation with self-centeredness and its pernicious companion, self-pity? Where and how and from whom did folks learn the attitude that the world has done them wrong so they’re going to get a gun and punish someone else?

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