Contempt at root

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Regarding the stabbings at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, once more, agonizingly so, a shocked nation asks: How can this be happening — again — in American schools, places where every child should be safe and secure? As parents, our hearts go out to the children who were hurt, to their families and to the other students at the school who were so profoundly affected by this tragedy. We were moved, too, reading about the courageous actions of Sam King, the assistant principal and many students.

As educators, politicians and citizens all cry out for an answer to the question “When will this end?” we are impelled to say that, yes, these atrocities can end!

Eli Siegel, founder of the educational philosophy aesthetic realism, explained the cause of all human cruelties, including what impels a 16-year-old student to want to hurt so many of his classmates. It is contempt, “the addition to self through the lessening of something else.” It is in each of us — for example, in a group of children making fun of the way another child dresses. But this everyday contempt, taken far enough, is the cause of what was inflicted on 21 students in Murrysville on an early spring morning.

These school tragedies will end when contempt is studied, criticized and understood in schools and everywhere across America, and people are able to see that their true importance comes from seeing the feelings of other human beings to be as deep and real as their own.

New York, N.Y.

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