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They Shoot Math Teachers, Don't They?

The past week has yielded two more school shootings, and both of the staff members who were killed in the attacks were teachers of mathematics. In Danvers, Massachusetts, a 14 year old boy, Philip Chism, has been arrested on a murder charge after the body of a young math teacher, Colleen Ritzer, was found in a wooded area behind the high school where she worked.

Two days earlier, math teacher Michael Landsberry was shot and killed by a student in Sparks, Nevada. Landberry was an ex-military veteran who had served two tours in Afghanistan with the Nevada National Guard - how ironic that he should survive his military service only to be 'killed in action' as an 8th grade school teacher.

Over the years, at least 8 teachers of arithmetic have been in the firing line during school-related shootings, though this figure could be higher as earlier records are lacking in detail, and other similar incidents have taken place in algebra classrooms. The first recorded attack on a math teacher happened in 1942, when Irwin Goodman, 36-year-old mathematics teacher at William J. Gaynor Junior High School, was shot and killed in the school corridor by a male student. At Stanford University in 1978, a maths professor was bludgeoned to death by a student, Theodore Streleski, and on March 6, 1986, algebra teacher Norma Cooper was shot and wounded in Dolton, Illinois by a pupil at Thornridge High School. Faye Williams, 17, was shot to death in her algebra classroom at Wingfield High School by her ex-boyfriend, James Hartzog, 18 who then killed himself, and on December 16, 1987: Katy, Texas, Mayde Creek High School student Ramesh D. Tumalad, 15, shot himself to death in his algebra class as his classmates looked on.

Two math teachers were shot by a 16 year old pupil in a South Carolina school in October 1995, leaving one teacher dead and the other injured, and an algebra teacher was gunned down in Moses Lake, Washington on February 2nd 1996, by a 14 year old pupil, Barry Loukaitis.

Being a teacher may soon qualify as one of the most dangerous professions, particularly if your chosen subject is related to mathematics. Is this just a coincidence? Certainly math is often cited as every child's least favourite subject, but surely this fact alone would not drive students to kill, would it?

Loren Coleman, who is the author of 35 books, including The Unidentified (1975), Mysterious America(1983/2007), Suicide Clusters (1987),Cryptozoology A to Z (1999), Bigfoot! (2003), and The Copycat Effect (2004), believes that he can often identify coincidences in news and history. Loren, who is a regular guest on 'Dreamland', writes the blog 'Twilight Language' and examines hidden meanings and synchromystic connections behind news stories via onomatology (study of names) and toponymy (study of place names).

Coleman believes that the majority of incidents have been inspired by one source: in his blog, he outlines how the motive for the most significant incident, in Moses Lake, was derived from the Stephen King novel, 'Rage' (1977); Loukaitis confirmed that he got the idea for the shooting from the Stephen King novel , in which the plot revolves around a troubled high school boy who attends the fictional Placerville High School. In the story, the boy shoots his algebra teacher and another staff member, then takes the class hostage.

Certainly, after Loukaitis shot the teacher in front of her stunned students, he turned to them and said "This sure beats algebra, doesn't it?", a quotation apparently inspired by a similar line in the book. After his arrest, police found a collection of Stephen King's books in Loukaitis' bedroom, including a well-worn copy of Rage.Stephen King withdrew the book from publication three years later, after the book was mentioned in connection with a further school shooting in Kentucky, and the horrific massacre at Columbine High in Colorado, and Coleman quotes him as saying "I wish I had never written it."

Coleman suggests that other shootings could definitely have been influenced by Rage: at Valley High School, Las Vegas, Nevada, on March 19, 1982, algebra teacher Clarence Piggot was shot by 17 year old Patrick Lizotte when Piggot refused to cancel a public speaking assignment. On January 18, 1993, Scott Pennington, 17, took his senior English class captive at East Carter High School, in Grayson, Kentucky, then killed his teacher and another staff member, though Pennington told investigators later that he only read Rage after the shooting. In 1997, a copy of Rage was found in the locker of Michael Carneal, a high school shooter in West Paducah, Kentucky.

While it appears implicated in some of them, King's book cannot have motivated all school shootings, however, and it is not the only teen book out there with questionable subject matter. The teenage years are notoriously volatile, and there is often a preoccupation with the darker side of life as young adults struggle to come to terms with their developing personalities and surging hormones. The fascination with their 'shadow-side' is one which is currently being exploited to the max by writers of teen fiction, where popular themes range from vampires to body-snatching and dismembered corpses. Could absorbing such disturbing ideas at impressionable ages have far-reaching effects?

In the US, journalist Meghan Cox Gurdon received widespread criticism when she wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal which suggested that we are poisoning our teenager's minds with 'ugliness', and that teen fiction is straying into totally unnecessary areas in a bid to satisfy the ever-increasing lust for horrific themes; in general, opinions seem to favour the need for teens to freely explore all aspects of life in order to find a balance, but has the balance been shifted too far?

In the UK, where mass school shootings have also occurred though not in such large numbers, Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, told the Telegraph earlier this year "I think the dark side is very important. That is part of what it is like growing up. Dealing with things you aren't comfortable with is a natural part of childhood. Literature provides a relatively safe environment for young people to explore issues as they mature."

Whatever the cause, some darker force has certainly been at work amongst our students over the past few years, and it seems to be getting stronger: in the US alone in 2010, there were 10 school shootings and in 2011, there were 7. The figures rose again in 2012 when there were another 10 school shootings leaving a total of 41 people dead and 13 wounded. Unfortunately, 2013 is a record-breaker: in its first month alone, the US had experienced an unbelievable eight school-related shootings. The figure has gradually increased over the year, and with the latest two shootings, the total figure has now risen to 16.

So what else can be causing this horrific trend? Coleman suggests that a 'copycat' mentality may account for others; he notes in his book, The Copycat Effect, that a new pattern of school shooting began in the USA on February 2, 1996 in Moses Lake, Washington, and heralded a "modern era" of school shootings where a male students, not outsiders, began killing their classmates and teachers. Factoring in the Copycat Effect, teen fiction -and Rage in particular -seems to be indirectly responsible for a large number of school shootings, particularly those involving maths teachers. The statistics are plain to see - you do the math.

Sadly, the figures for school shootings are increasing steadily, year after year, and it is hard to believe that just one book remains the inspiration for every perpetrator. Other causes are cited as violent video games but a recent study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence concluded that these had no negative effects on the average teenager. Other reasons suggested by psychologists include social rejection, access to guns - which seems to be rather obvious - a lack of emotional and coping strategies, and poor nutrition resulting in significant vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which can affect brain function, causing depression and other mental disorders.

Do you have any theories about school shootings and why they are on the increase? Your opinions and views are always welcome here at Unknown Country - Subscribers may comment on anything we broadcast or publish. Subscribe today and have your say!

´´ ironic that he should survive his military service only to be 'killed in action' as an 8th grade school teacher.´´

Please erase this. As someone who has respect for our military members, I find that statement callous, degrading and downright insulting.

I think the pressure of excelling in math is where this animosity comes from. When I was in high school, most of the students didn't even go to college. Now, not only are you expected to go to college, but you should major in one of the STEM subjects, which means you must be excellent at math. My 17 year old son tells me those students who are not good at math are told they will not amount to anything. As a society, we seriously undervalue the arts!

Shootings like this were very rare until they started prescribing SSRI drugs (Prozac, Paxil, etc) to everyone. It is a known and proven fact that for a small percentage of people, rather then calm them down these drugs turn them psychotic.
99% of the shooters in all of these murder sprees are on these drugs but the media hushes that fact up because they are in bed with Big Pharma.
In addition, psychiatric care in our country is a joke and a national disgrace. Due to abuses and to save money, all of the psychiatric hospitals were closed in the 1970s and nothing replaced them. There is nowhere for those who need long term care to go and many of them end up as the long term homeless and some become psycho shooters (usually paranoid schizophrenics). Almost every one of these shooters had been reported as dangerous and psychotic yet were on the street.
It's very sad and most people don't care until there is a shooting and then yell and holler about guns for a few days and then go back to watching tv.

'Rage' ends with the statement, "I have to turn off the light now. Good night."

I agree with Meghan Cox Gurdon, that we have been poisoning kids' minds for decades now with toxic movies, books and tv. We are sexual prudes compared to Europe, but allow our teens to be exposed to all kinds of mindless horror and ugliness. And our whole system strongly promotes the seeking and value of fame and notoriety. Of course it affects their thinking, and leaves many young people with totally messed up values. I do not in any way approve of censorship of ideas, or even of sex, but freedom of speech never should have been taken as freedom to spew one's most anti-social, anti-life, murderous, distorted and evil imaginings into the world. And I think we need to seriously reconsider the way we do education. Learning should be an adventure, but we have turned it into what many experience as a soul-grinding mill of conformity and failure. But whatever external influences we change, we are still stuck with the reality of chemicalized young people (even without Prozac) foundering in a troubled world where the very behaviours and attitudes we publicly deplore are seen daily in the news, movies, sports events, the media, at school, and sometimes, in their own families. We are stuck with the deploring neglect of young people with mental and emotional disturbances. And then there is evil, ready to infiltrate the confused, troubled mind. How do we guide our youth through such a world? Thoughtfully, sensitively, with a real sense of responsibility to the young and their society. And pray.

I often wonder why we consider human sexuality something to be concealed as if it is dirty when actually it is beautiful and clean, but we celebrate human violence as if it was clean, when actually it is ugly and dirty. How did we ever come to this strange place, I wonder?

I have been thinking the same thoughts for awhile now Whitley. We have very mixed up moral values. I have been living in Thailand for the past year and have noticed it here as well. It is probably the same the world over. Here in Thailand they don't even show kissing on TV but they will happily show men beating women, people slapping each other, Guns, knives, rape, murder, war, explosions, gore, etc.

Blood and guts is the norm but sex is forbidden. It makes my head spin!

It's our angry god, based on the god of a certain book, but often caricatured further in the minds of would-be followers in even more distorted and ugly ways, a god that commands endless slaughter but hates human sexuality.

The violent world we live in now started on November 22, 1963. That Pandora's box opened up and has never been closed. I remember back 50 years ago because I was a 14 year old freshman in high school and people were more civil, peaceful and much less prone to violence prior to President Kennedy's assassination. You never heard of kids shooting their teachers, people hijacking cars, fathers killing the kids and mom and on and on. I think people imitate what they see. Once a line is crossed and the taboo broken it seems OK to take hostages or shoot someone who you think has wronged you in some way. People don't walk away from a argument any longer. They go get a weapon and come back and kill the person. It's crazy!!!!

I agree with jimmyPx.
The connection between the increase in these horrible incidents and speed-based and other behavior altering drugs is undeniable. The combination of bombarding our children's minds and bodies with constant infusions of high fructose corn syrup, diet sodas and other additives, and jamming drugs down their throats as soon as they start to act like normal kids is bearing bitter fruit indeed.
When even a moderately disturbed teenager's mind and body is swimming in these poisons, violent literature, video games, tv and movies are like a match in dry tinder.

Just throwing this out there: Were any of these school shootings committed by females?

Girls certainly have their own issues, and they can be snarky and even violent with one another, especially in middle school (How well I remember, as I was picked on, a lot, between 6th and 10th grades, by boys and girls. It never once occurred to me to actually kill anyone, not even myself.) I just can't recall any girls picking up the family weapons and heading to their schools to carry out massacres of their classmates and teachers. It would appear that many things are at play, but that boys in particular prefer violence and murder to act out their aggression, anger, and frustration, sexual or otherwise.

What's really going on, guys? I think Whitley is on to something regarding sexuality, but I think it is more than that. It is really nothing new if you look back on human history; it's just being expressed in a different, perhaps more personal way by mainly the male population.

My approach is not to look at this type of crime atomistically, but rather to think about the general problems of imagination and action. What I suspect is that most major actions in life are precedented by acts of inner imagination, or what we call fantasy/day dreaming, visualization, and also what the philosopher John Dewey called 'Dramatic Rehearsal'. The basic problem is that human beings, at least in western culture, do not have a systematic education of their fantasy abilities, and basic arts education are no exception. (Although musical training and math training done in concert with each other may be one of the solutions.)
We are rather like feral children in our education of the imagination, and my research suggests that imagination is really the umbrella of all mind, not some lesser sub-faculty as the history of western science appears to have wanted to place it. So as feral children of fantasy, we are left to the wilds of pornography, religion, the entertainment industry, etc to guide us randomly in our development of fantasy content, process, and context of purpose.
What I'm suggesting is that really no crime, heroism, saintliness or wickedness occurs without prior acts of fantasy to have shaped its possibility. Before a pedophile abducts in the real, he has abducted in his fantasies. Before a school shooter gathers his weapons, he has fantasized about doing the act repeatedly - in the feral wilds of his unguided imagination. I call on a new genre of education regarding the education of fantasy-development. It will seem at first to be an unusual undertaking, but may re-define the human species in its abilities of mind and action, and may be the long term solution to greatly reducing most forms of crime, as well as bridging the gap between the arts and sciences.
To close, I ask two things. One, I am interested in beginning a discussion toward developing such a theory and programs, and two, I ask that those reading this experiment in their own minds regarding their fantasy lives. If you catch yourself having fantasies of rage, or sexual deviancy, pull back. Or, if your day dreams have become stale, personal cliches, mindless and subsided, without having a healthy reorganization of new visions, experiment day dreaming new solutions to new problems, or ambitions, just as a narrative of cause and effect, and see where it goes.
Use your imagination to visualize your best ambitions, and don't waste your time with overly-repetitious, violent, or misplaced carnal imaginings, and maybe even try to talk to your family about their day dreams, as well. But remember we are like feral children in our development of imagination, so it may not be easy. In fact, the deviant imagination may have more potential for revival and positive development than the repressed and withered, just because they've kept active. So this is not about a guilt trip, but a resurrection. To contact me regarding future discussion, I can be found on my art blog

"I just can't recall any girls picking up the family weapons and heading to their schools to carry out massacres of their classmates and teachers. It would appear that many things are at play, but that boys in particular prefer violence and murder to act out their aggression, anger, and frustration, sexual or otherwise." - Cosmic Librarian

This is a typical over-generalization, so I may respond in-kind.

Girls just act out their aggression in a different way, usually. (For millennia it wouldn't have been 'socially' acceptable for them to do otherwise.) Look at it this way-- Why do girls tend to gravitate towards the larger wallet? Why do they -usually- dismiss genuine advances for less-genuine? Behavior. Programmed behavior.

If the "authority" figure commanded it to be the 'norm' for them to round up people and give those people to the men with nice shiny uniforms, lack of aggression would be suicide in that particular scenario, as human history testifies to.

So why do they? What is the particular programmed behavior? In programming there is a thing called a 'loop.' Initialization: Puberty. Condition: If he treats you like sh**. (this denotes 'higher' social standing) Afterthought: Check if advances are working or if there is a 'cost' (social or otherwise) incurred.

Thus: Programmed to worship authority. 'Acceptable' authority. 'Feminism' simply changed the object of worship from the 'husband' or 'mate' to the 'State.' Physical aggression is of course, nasty and something only 'men' do.

"I often wonder why we consider human sexuality something to be concealed as if it is dirty when actually it is beautiful and clean, but we celebrate human violence as if it was clean, when actually it is ugly and dirty." - Whitley Strieber

Agree 100%.

You are right on the money with your comments. In addition to the mental health issue you mention, our schools can't get rid of problem kids. The schools are required to report attendance and suspension numbers to the state, which then grades the school on these, so schools try to minimize these numbers by offering "buy backs" for absences and ignoring bad behavior. News flash to the government: The school doesn't have any control over the behavior and attendance of the students - the students and their parents DO. I am a retired teacher, and know of what I speak. I had a serious threat on my life by a "student", which was ignored by the administration. Two days later, the "student" was arrested outside school for a felony. If a special ed. student is written up by a teacher for a misdeed, there has to be a "manifestation determination" to figure out if the behavior was a manifestation of his "disability" or not....does this sound like BS to you? It should.

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