As I start to write this, a few days have passed since one of the worst school massacres in the United States happened in Newtown, Connecticut. I won’t go into the details, only because it’s really all over the news here, so I’m sure that one could find out more very easily. But rather, I want to reflect a few thoughts on my mind about the situation, and what we as technical communicators and e-learning specialists can do.
The first thing to remember is that no matter what, teachers will never be replaced by e-learning and m-learning. That day, it was teachers who protected children and some lost their lives in trying to protect them. All these small children depended on these teachers to not only keep them safe, but to help the children through the scariest thing ever happening in their lives, and assuring them that they were loved, no matter what. There are instructors, and then there are teachers. The difference is that teachers will always go the extra length to ensure the success of their students, even to the point of ensuring their survival and mental well-being. If we can remember that e-learning and m-learning are tools of instruction, not taking the full place of teachers, that will ensure that learning technology understands its rightful place in education.
The second is that we need to educate the world on special needs people, and do more to help those with mental health issues. There are reports about how the gunman had Asperger’s and that allegedly Asperger’s patients are prone to violence. Let me dismiss that right away. First of all, that allegation is untrue. All Asperger’s people are not prone to violence. Something else had to be going on with this kid to go on a rampage like this, and from what little I do know, as best as his family tried to get him help, they couldn’t find the appropriate help. So, something else was going on beyond Asperger’s.
How would I know this? I have Asperger’s. If you’ve ever met me, I generally don’t have a mean bone in my body, and abhor violence with a passion. Violence is just so foreign to me, that I truly can’t understand how people can actually inflict pain like that on another person or being. My son is also Asperger’s/high-functioning autistic. He has a bit more of a temper than me, and when he was very small he lashed out, but it was out of frustration because he had difficulty speaking, and didn’t know how to control himself. He learned. He’s not like that at all now. The last thing he’d ever do is hurt another person, especially a small child. If anything, he’s actually very protective of smaller children. I have also met many families of children who are autistic or Asperger’s. They are not violent either.
The news media is trying to perpetuate that it’s the Asperger’s that caused it, and that Asperger’s people are prone to violence, as I said. I need people to help me stomp that myth out, because I have a son who already has high anxiety and self-esteem issues because he’s different, and that last thing my child needs is more stigma put around him that isn’t fair. The gunman had some other mental health issue going on, and as much as his family tried to help, they weren’t getting the full help he needed. Please help push mental health awareness…please be more sensitive to it.
I’m sure many of you work on policy and procedures in your jobs, or deal with topics relating to human resources and human relations. Please just remember your audiences, and remember to be mindful of all those who work hard every day to educate us and our children, and also for the families of those who struggle harder every day to help those who have depression and other severe mental health issues survive and thrive in our society. Perhaps this change that we expect in a few days is not the apocalypse, but rather it’s an enlightenment about mankind, that we need to protect ourselves in a way that doesn’t lock our children in schools like prisons, and help those who need the extra help get more help–that the mental health and special needs fields will have a revolution that will help make our global society function in a more successfully integrated way. Teachers will need to be at the forefront of this revolution.
I could continue to talk about this, but I think you get the point. Don’t get caught up in silly topics that don’t matter in the greater scheme of things. Use your position as a technical communicator or e-learning/m-learning specialist to make the world a better place. If we all pitch in together, we can make a real difference. If you don’t do it in honor of those little angels and their protectors who died in Newtown, CT, do it on behalf of me and my son.