Failure of Academia

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As most of you would have already read by now, it was a quite remorseful beginning to the week for most at Virginia Tech. An unidentified person entered the engineering department and shot 32 people in class rooms before turning the gun on himself. It looks like the same person had a fight with his girlfriend earlier that morning that lead to him murdering his girlfriend and her dorm adviser a couple of hours ago.

There is no dreath of news channels and pundits who want to blame Virginia Tech’s police and President for not acting fast enough to prevent this massacre. Oh and there are always the wingnuts who believe that more guns are the solution to gun violence. While no one can deny that the campus police and administration failed in their duty to provide a safe campus, I do not believe that the fault lies there.

There have been mass murders before, now, and will continue to exist. Fixing the security issues and tightening the laws just treat the symptoms, but do not solve the problem. Think about it. If you *really* wanted to kill people how easily you can find weapons to do it. Ban guns? use knives. Ban knives? use chemicals. Ban chemicals? use electrocution. Where do we stop? There is no realistic way by which we can prevent a killer from acquiring his/her means.

The one thing that would solve this is the only thing no one wants to talk about. Why did that person do it in the first place? No, I am not interested in the superficial reasons behind. “He was angry about his failed romance”, “He was upset about some family problems”, etc are not reasons. They are excuses. The reason is that the killer was not able to process his/her feelings and express them in an non-violent manner.

When was the last time our academic system thought you to process your feeling and handle stress? In my case, never. The current academia treats students as just a glorified machine. They are only interested in how much data can they squeeze into us and if possible get us to crunch the data into some kind of useful information. This while is a valuable service, is not what academia was meant to do.

Academia as a whole was meant to grow us from bumbling kids to productive and complete members of society. The key word being complete. We, like all life, are a combination of our intellects and our emotions. When one gets out of sync, the other can do little to save the system. We need to recognize this gap in our educational system and move fast to rectify it. Teach students to manage stress. Teach them how to communicate with each other. Teach them to understand themselves. Teach them the basics of human psychiatry. Teach them ways to expend pent up anger and frustration. And for the love of god and all that is holy, teach them to love themselves.

Until and unless we start treating students as complete human beings, tragedies like columbine, and Virginia Tech will continue to occur. Time might heal the wounded but will not stop the wounding.

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