Friday, December 14, 2012

Another Day of Mourning

I don't often remark upon the day's tragedies. I avoid doing so for a couple of reasons: I have little wisdom to offer that hasn't already been said elsewhere, and there's so much sadness in the world that if I remarked upon each instance there would be nothing else to talk about.

My original plan for today was to blog about having just wrapped up the popular culture course I was tutoring online for MacEwan University. It wasn't until after sending a thank you note to Leslie for providing my first teaching opportunity that I turned my attention to the news and learned about the violence against children and teachers in China and the United States. It's hard to write something upbeat after reading those stories.

My recent work for MacEwan and the Alberta Teachers' Association has done a lot to put me back in touch with the educational experience. Over the last few weeks I've renewed and deepened my respect for teachers and my long-held belief that students deserve the best possible public education our society can provide. It goes without saying that schools and universities should be safe places for learning and freedom of expression.

Statistically, of course, the odds of being assaulted or murdered at school remain low. Any public policy should be guided by research, not emotion. But statistics are cold comfort to the victims and their families.

2012 was a violent year, all across the world.Surely the human family can do better.

We should start by paying closer attention to mental health. For years, Alberta's Auditor General harshly criticized our provincial government for not properly funding mental health care. Even here, in arguably the richest province in the richest country in the world, we are failing a significant percentage of our citizens because so many of us share the attitude that mental illness can somehow be overcome with will power, or the problem isn't real, or it's less significant than cancer or heart disease or other ailments. Early detection and treatment of mental illness would prevent a whole host of debilitating social problems. Ignoring mental illness causes the kinds of awful tragedy we see today, along with everyday misery with incalculable cumulative impact.

We cannot call ourselves truly civilized in a world where children are assaulted and the mentally ill go untreated. May time and the love of friends and family comfort those around the world who lost someone today. 

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