“Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” –Martin Luther King Jr.
There have been three major violent attacks in the United States in the past six weeks. A shooter in Las Vegas killed 58 people and injured 546 others attending a music festival. In another attack, in New York City, a man murdered eight people and injured 12 using a rented truck from Home Depot to plow into them. Last Sunday, a man killed 26 and injured 20 people attending Sunday services at a church in a small town in Texas. As humans sharing the world, it is hard to believe how commonplace violence is, whether in the form of a “lone shooter” or as an “act of terrorism.” Instead of feeling the shock and horror we should, we have almost become numb in reaction to these outrageous and revolting events.
As a 17-year-old, I have never known a time in America where there wasn’t violence. I was just 1 year old when the 9/11 attacks happened. I have lived through many acts of violence, such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012. That same year, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African- American from Florida, was fatally shot, ironically, by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Whether it’s a mass attack, mass shooting or the killing of one person, the action is violence and the result is the same—death. And we are left asking ourselves, “Why?” What can we do about it?
As teens, we don’t have to feel powerless. There are things we can do. One thing we can do is to raise awareness about religion and racism. Interfaith programs at our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples can help promote goodwill and understanding through diversity. By seeing that we share faith in a higher power and working together for the greater good, we promote understanding. Programs like Harvard University’s The Pluralism Project runs the Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition in the St. Paul, Minn., area, where “teens work together to nurture interfaith understanding, reduce prejudice and misunderstanding, and act together on common values through service and justice to transform their worlds. In the process, these young people are empowered to be capable interfaith leaders, both within their own communities and beyond.” This program includes many community-based events like a gardening service as well as leadership workshops for the teens. Having more programs like this one, throughout the United States and the world, will help cultivate more understanding leadership and promote greater understanding among different religions.
Teens can also raise awareness of gun violence. Events such as Seattle, Washington’s “Teens Against Guns Youth Summit,” hosted by the Atlantic Street Center, are a way to bring teens together to actively support the anti-gun movement at a grassroots level. Programs like these can help empower teens to help them realize they can be proactive in ending the cycle of violence.
Another way teens can use their voice to denounce violence and terror is through social media. When she was challenged by another student to prove there were Muslims who condemned violence in the name of Islam, Heraa Hashmi, a 19-year-old college student at the University of Colorado Boulder, decided to make a list of all the Muslim groups that did. According to a November 2016 Teen Vogue article, “ The result was Worldwide Muslims Condemn List — a spreadsheet with 5,720 instances of Muslim groups and leaders denouncing various acts of terrorism.” Her Twitter account generated 12,000 re-tweets and the list has been made into an interactive website called www.muslimscondemn.com. Her idea led to a resource for anyone to access the information.
Whether coming together in an interfaith group, rallying at an anti-gun youth summit or using social media to create awareness against violence, teens have a voice. Gun violence and terror attacks need to end in my generation. Maybe Mr. Rogers (Fred Rogers), said it best: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ” We, as teens, need to be those helpers.
Punishments in schools today need some change, some form of improvement. Punishments are supposed to be feared and effective. They must be sufficiently painful to keep kids from repeating what they did. The forms being practiced in schools today are too lenient and should be replaced with corporal punishment. (A form of punishment where the child can be spanked and whipped.)
The systems used today are too gentle, and too moderate. An hour or more of detention is not a punishment. Neither is in-school and out-of-school suspension. To most, these so-called punishments are no more than long-awaited vacations. The child is being rewarded instead of being punished. Punishments are not meant to be enjoyed.
Corporal punishment is the right form of discipline for these students. It brings back allegiance to teachers, order in the classrooms, and a safer environment in schools. Corporal punishment is a form of discipline used only for students who hard to control. It takes many forms, including choking, shaking, disrobement, excessive exercise, and confinement in an uncomfortable space. To some parents these punishments seem excessive, and so the right to choose which punishment is suitable for their children would be given.
Teachers today are losing the ability to control their classrooms. Students are more disruptive, more barbarous, and ill-mannered. It is rare to find students who appreciate their teachers. Rules and discipline which were enforced during the sixties and seventies are not efficient enough for today's rebellious teens.
Gislene Borno, a resident of Norwalk, grew up in Haiti where corporal punishment was mandatory in every school, said "You were forced to do your school work, come to school, and be at every class on time. If these rules were not followed, you'd be whipped, and spanked by your teachers and, on top of that, your parents. "
Another form of punishment would be to have the student stand on one foot holding two heavy rocks or books on each hand for as much as two hours," she explained. This sort of punishment forced kids to learn whether they liked it or not. There is no doubt that these students respected and obeyed their teachers' rules.
Those who believe corporate punishment is an abusive behavior must realize that, if these kids were raised in a correct manner by their parents in the first place, the schools would not have to discipline them. Their parents should have instilled the difference between right and wrong. The teachers should not have to put up with disruption, nor should the students, who come to school to learn.
Many southern schools are realizing how helpful paddling or corporal punishment may be. Paddling has been making a comeback in recent years. Alabama Governor Fab James, Jr., signed a law last August promising teachers that if they decide to spank a student, their school boards would be obliged to back them if they are taken to court. The North Fork School District in Utica, Ohio, approved a paddle last year that is four inches wide and eighteen inches long.
Only twenty-one states have bans on corporal punishmen. These states feel the continued use of corporal punishment appears to reflect inappropriate views of children's rights.
The rights of children should not be an issue in this matter. If kids behaved the way they should, then corporal punishment would not be an issue. With a parent's permission, a student facing detention or suspension can choose paddling instead.
The punishments used now will never work for students today or in the future. What is a phone call to a parent? If that does not bring fear at an elementary level, it definitely will not have an effect on middle school students or high school adolescents. Schools need punishment that is terrifying - a punishment that is sure to bring discomfort and not
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.