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Increase in violent acts prompts normalization

Grand+Theft+Auto+V%2C+a+video+game+that+takes+players+through+a+series+of+heists%2C+is+inserted+into+an+Xbox+One+to+launch+the+game.+Experts+say+the+violence+depicted+in+these+video+games+may+lead+to+the+normalization+of+aggressive+actions+and+behaviors.+Photo+by+Richard+Chu
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Increase in violent acts prompts normalization

Grand Theft Auto V, a video game that takes players through a series of heists, is inserted into an Xbox One to launch the game. Experts say the violence depicted in these video games may lead to the normalization of aggressive actions and behaviors. Photo by Richard Chu

Grand Theft Auto V, a video game that takes players through a series of heists, is inserted into an Xbox One to launch the game. Experts say the violence depicted in these video games may lead to the normalization of aggressive actions and behaviors. Photo by Richard Chu

Grand Theft Auto V, a video game that takes players through a series of heists, is inserted into an Xbox One to launch the game. Experts say the violence depicted in these video games may lead to the normalization of aggressive actions and behaviors. Photo by Richard Chu

Grand Theft Auto V, a video game that takes players through a series of heists, is inserted into an Xbox One to launch the game. Experts say the violence depicted in these video games may lead to the normalization of aggressive actions and behaviors. Photo by Richard Chu

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Grand Theft Auto V, a video game that takes players through a series of heists, is inserted into an Xbox One to launch the game. Experts say the violence depicted in these video games may lead to the normalization of aggressive actions and behaviors. Photo by Richard Chu

Full of frustration, senior Eva Farber was astonished when her teacher would not discuss 9/11 nor the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pa. She had just read an article in class emphasizing the importance of teaching students to become more self-reflective and empathetic, and she noticed these acts of violence were not being discussed as often as they should.

“I raised my hand and I told my class that I was very frustrated by this conversation because if we’re going to talk about how to be self-reflective and better humans, then I feel like actually mentioning the problems … is a prerequisite to asking kids to be activists,” Farber said.

The phenomenon of normalizing violence happens through regular exposure to violent events, which causes complacency, according to Christopher Strain, professor of history and American studies at the Wilkes Honors College at Florida Atlantic University. Pop culture, the news media and entertainment are among the many institutions that prompt a normalization of violence in society.

“There is a danger of what some have called ‘compassion fatigue’ with regard to mass shootings,” said Strain in an email exchange. “The more these shootings occur, the less we are able to marshal sadness or even concern for those affected. The more regular they become, the more normal they become, moving from front-page news to the humdrum, background din of everyday life.”

Farber said she understands teachers may not want to bring up current events during class time, but she does not think teachers should avoid having these conversations simply because a discussion may make students feel sad or afraid.

English teacher Kerry Galson, who teaches Contemporary Social Themes, said she always tries to discuss important current events with her classes but does so less often because of how regularly these events, particularly mass shootings, are happening. Class discussions would have to happen almost daily to address every act of violence that recently occurred.

“I think, to a certain extent, [the normalization of violence] is a survival tactic,” said Galson. “If we sat and we perseverated over every single shooting in a deep and personal way, I think we would make ourselves mentally and physically sick. We just can’t bear it.”

When conversations about current events are avoided, senior Ilana Silver said she believes students’ learning experiences are negatively affected because avoiding these topics makes students feel unsafe in their learning environments.

“I think it’s awkward when you come back [to school] and this huge thing has happened and you don’t address it,” said Silver. “I think [the occurrence] does take your mind off the material, so I think it is in [the] teacher’s best interest to address anything the class might be feeling.”

Galson said she brings up significant current events in her class by beginning with independent research time on the event, reflective writing and a class discussion. She believes every teacher, regardless of the subject they teach, should converse about current events because discussions help people become more aware of what is going on, therefore combating complacency.

“Ultimately, the problem of gun violence in America is only going to come to a halt if we talk about it first and have those civil, challenging conversations about weapons in our society,” said Galson. “The other piece of that is giving students the confidence and the awareness that they have a public voice. … They are in a position of privilege and a position of power [that they can use] to engage in that public discourse.”

According to Strain, in order to reduce the normalization of violence in society, a shift in attitude is required to remember that any loss of human life should never become a common occurrence. He thinks people need to consider their different assumptions about the occurrence of violence and examine how violence manifests itself in society.

“We must never, ever become accustomed to mass shootings,” said Strain. “They are a sign of a society in grave distress. They are not normal, and there are things we can do to minimize their occurrence. We ought to do everything within our power to address this recurring social problem.”

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The official site of the Glenbrook North High School student-run newspaper.
Increase in violent acts prompts normalization