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Adrienne Rich's The School Among the Ruins [1] confronts the intersection of school and violence, poems written in the time designated as the turn of a century:

"Rich cited another catalyst for 'The School Among the Ruins' in an e-mail interview from her Santa Cruz home -- the school, in Brooklyn, where her son teaches.

"'I knew his love for the school, for those children,' she said.

"[The volume is s]et during a nonspecific wartime in which children and their teachers are hostages to horror."

We are now faced again with the incomprehensible intersection of children, teachers, schools, and unspeakable violence. It is ours to honor those taken from us by seeking the rational among the irrational.

Seeking the Rational among the Irrational

Let us commit ourselves to a vigilance, to protecting this moment against the petty, against the call to heap irrational upon irrational, against allowing the needed confrontations and discussions to become too narrow.

We must confront our culture of violence and the fetish with guns within that culture of violence, and not just gun control.

We must confront health care access and mental health care access, and not just mental illness.

We must confront our negative national discourse about teachers and schools—that misrepresents the sacred duties of those teachers and schools that are now memorialized in the names of innocent lives lost in an elementary school.

We must admit that we have been too quick to police children, and too slow to protect, cherish, and serve those children—particularly some children, too often "other people's children."

To allow the gaze of blame to be focused too narrowly absolves the larger root causes to remain, to thrive, to perpetuate further the ruins.

Words matter, yes, but actions speak louder than words.

How children matter, whose children matter—our commitments daily send messages.

The world we have created is the world we want, or at least the world we allow; as Kingsolver notes:

"In the United States, where people like to think that anyone can grow up to be President, we parents are left very much on our own when it comes to the little Presidents-in-training. Our social programs for children are the hands-down worst in the industrialized world, but apparently that is just what we want."
In a poem of mine, I end with the following: "the world was exactly as they expected/ exactly as they knew it to be/ and mostly not as it could have been/ or should have been."

To build that world out of the ruins requires action, action built on principles, to build monuments of peace and love against violence and destruction.

"What's Going On," Marvin Gaye

"...Don't punish me with brutality
Talk to me
So you can see
What's going on..."

[1] The title of this blog is intended as an allusion to Rich's work.

Originally posted to plthomasEdD on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 09:12 AM PST.

Also republished by Education Alternatives.

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