The Hidden Lesson of Newtown

The one-year anniversary of the Newtown tragedy has passed, and there is still no redemption or relief for our American conscience. School shootings are now coming at the rate of one almost every two weeks. Knowing we cannot protect our children from such heinous acts seriously damages our American spirit.

The Newtown violence was the ultimate example of behavior that is beyond our understanding. I think we all know that even reasonable control of guns and professional help for unbalanced individuals won't solve the deeper problem.

Freud said our most important decisions are made from our unconscious, and neuroscience experiments have consistently supported his theory. The motivation of the shooters comes from their unconscious; a solution must come from our unconscious as well.

Consider this: Stop what is breeding negativity and even hate in our schools, where youngsters spend so much time and where the influence on them is almost as strong as that of their parents.

Students know their school's primary interest is not in them, but in how they can achieve and can generate brain power to help America compete internationally. Since innate ability and home background are generally the two biggest factors in academic success, some students are insecure in this competitive environment and resentful of the inequalities it creates.

The top students mostly handle the pressure with ease; but those at the bottom struggle and as many as 21 percent of students drop out. The ones in the middle simply set themselves on neutral. This creates constant divisiveness evidenced by cliques and "ability groups." It also breeds hostility that fuels the national problem of bullying. Resentment against schools themselves might be noted in the seven percent of American teachers who reported they were either threatened or actually injured by students last year.

How do we change this?

Greenhouses are designed to help plants and flowers grow. Similarly, schools should be designed to help students grow. They should be sanctuaries that children can trust to be fully committed to helping them and to focus on assisting them to find themselves and their unique potentials in preparation for life.

For a nation to try to form its children to fulfill its capitalistic vision is a sacrilege -- like a father who grooms his son to replace himself. A nation needs to endorse education that fully develops each child's capabilities so each child can best fulfill his or her own vision.

Helping children fully develop their capabilities is a real challenge. But it can be done.

We recently lost our most demanding teacher in a tragic accident. He was absolutely committed to helping each student realize his/her best, so much so, students often went in the opposite direction when they saw him coming. But hundreds returned for his memorial service, from all parts of the country and as far away as Australia, to honor his legacy. I have never before experienced that depth of love and respect at Hyde.

We must change the purpose of education to helping students realize their true best, not just in academics, but in everything they do. This will make them feel they belong in school and lead them to care for other students as well.

Thus, instead of using an unnatural business model of competition for growing children, we return them to the natural family model where the focus is on their growth and where they support each other. Certainly this will produce students with strong character. (It should also produce better academic students: collectively on competitive tests, home-schooled students outscore both public and private school students by a wide margin.)

This school transformation might seem difficult, but our unconscious -- and our conscience -- know it's the right thing to do.