School Shooting Follow-Up
Following up on last week's post about what libraries & librarians can do in response to school violence, yesterday's edition of Radio Times featured an interview with Katherine Newman, a Harvard sociologist and author of Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings. You can listen to archived shows by scrolling to the middle of the page to browse archives by date -- in this case, March 29, 2005.
The entire hour of interview & discussion with listeners was fascinating and well worth firing up the old Real Audio to listen to, but the bit of it that really hit home for me was what Newman said about the one thing all school shooters seem to have in common. I'm paraphrasing here, but the gist of it was that these are boys who come from small towns where there's one dominant mode of accepted masculinity: athletic excellence. The pressure that young men feel to meet quarterback standards, even if they're more the chess club type, is tremendous, and can be crippling when they're in the very vulnerable 11-14 year-old age range.
So, what can libraries & librarians do? First of all, we can keep our eyes & ears open. We can be role models for a wide variety of gender roles. We can booktalk the hell out of & coordinate programming around great books for boys that showcase protagonists exploring life off the playing field. We can publicize the library as a safe haven for all kinds of kids, from those who bask in the glory of pep rallies to those who polish their Lincoln-Douglas debate strategies.