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Trained to Kill: Are We Conditioning Our Children to Commit Murder?

By Lt. Col. Dave Grossman
Christianity Today, August 10, 1998

Are we training our children to kill? I am from Jonesboro, Arkansas. I travel the world training medical, law enforcement, and U.S. military personnel about the realities of warfare. I try to make those who carry deadly force keenly aware of the magnitude of killing. Too many law enforcement and military personnel act like "cowboys," never stopping to think about who they are and what they are called to do. I hope I am able to give them a reality check.

So here I am, a world traveler and an expert in the field of "killology," and the largest school massacre in American history happens in my hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas. That was the March 24, 1998, schoolyard shooting deaths of four girls and a teacher. Ten others were injured, and two boys, ages 11 and 13, are in jail, charged with murder.

My son goes to one of the middle schools in town, so my aunt in Florida called us that day and asked, "Was that Joe's school?" And we said, "We haven't heard about it." My aunt in Florida knew about the shootings before we did!

We turned on the television and discovered the shootings took place down the road from us but, thank goodness, not at Joe's school. I'm sure almost all parents in Jonesboro that night hugged their children and said, "Thank God it wasn't you," as they tucked them into bed. But there was also a lot of guilt because some parents in Jonesboro couldn't say that.

I spent the first three days after the tragedy at Westside Middle School, where the shootings took place, working with the counselors, teachers, students, and parents. None of us had ever done anything like this before. I train people how to react to trauma in the military, but how do you do it with kids after a massacre in their school?

I was the lead trainer for the counselors and clergy the night after the shootings, and the following day we debriefed the teachers in groups. Then the counselors and clergy, working with the teachers, debriefed the students, allowing them to work through everything that had happened. Only people who share a trauma can give each other the understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness they need, and then they can begin the long process of trying to understand why it happened.

  • Virus of Violence..........The per capita murder rate doubled in this country between 1957 --when the FBI started keeping track of the data--and 1992.
  • Killing is Unnatural..........Just as the army is conditioning people to kill, we are indiscriminately doing the same thing to our children, but without the safeguards.
  • The Methods in this Madness: Desensitization..........Brutalization is designed to break down your existing mores and norms and to implement a new set of values that embrace destruction, violence, and death as a way of life.
  • Classical Conditioning..........Classical conditioning is like the famous case of Pavlov's dogs you learned about in Psychology 101.
  • Operant Conditioning..........The military and law enforcement community have made killing a conditioned response.
  • Video Games........... No matter what someone has done, if you put his picture on TV, you have made him a celebrity, and someone, somewhere, will emulate him.
  • Unlearning Violence..........What is the road home from the dark and lonely place to which we have traveled?
  • Ten Nonviolent Video Games..........The following list of nonviolent video games has been developed by The Games Project.
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Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict, Volume 3, p.159
© 1999 by Academic Press. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.


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