Holy smokes, Linda Lantieri is a ball of fire. Hearing her speak made me want to back my bags and move to New York to support her work.
Among her many riveting tales, an anecdote about 1992 stood out for me. 1992 was the year of the first U.S. school shooting - the first time a student shot and killed another kid.
It happened in New York, Linda’s hometown, and she immediately received a call asking for her help on-site to support the kids and teachers. When that call arrived, she was shocked not only to learn about the shooting, but also to discover it had happened at her alma mater.
The year rings in my head: 1992.
In the grand scheme of things, 1992 was a millisecond ago. How did we go from having no school shootings to several school massacres in just over 20 years? What happened in those 20 years that changed schools so drastically?
From the perspective of mindfulness in daily life (or lack thereof) a lot changed in those 20 years. The mid-nineties marked the explosion of real-time news coverage, kick-started by CNN’s relentless coverage of Nicole Simpson’s murder and OJ Simpson’s trial.
We used to be a society that read a paper once a day and maybe caught the nightly news. Quickly we became a society where news was constant and urgent – information being hurled at us moment by moment, until we shut off the TV.
Then the Internet happened. And by happened, I mean exploded into our lives and minds like an atom bomb. The ‘immediacy’ of TV now seemed laughable. We no longer needed to rely on journalists for information – we could check Google, Facebook or Twitter. We could consult a gazillion blogs. A hungry or bored mind could spend hours and hours a day consuming content.
Add to this the full blossoming of video games as immersive and intensive experiences, stimulating young minds in a totally new way.
I’m definitely not attempting to draw a causal relationship between this media revolution and the emergence of fatal violence in schools. I’m simply saying, a lot has happened. People have busier minds, including kids. And it seems to me that busy minds create stressed people who may be less capable of dealing with some of the raw stuff life throws at us.
We’re making big strides in giving kids tools to cope with all of the new stimuli that are hitting them, but those strides haven’t kept pace with the speed of media.
Mindfulness may not be a solution to ending school violence, but it can likely help. Kids that have tools for coping with media stimuli, emotions and interpersonal conflict are more prepared to cope with life.
They’re more likely to see the humanity in others by discovering it in themselves. And at the very least, that’s a great start.