(Photograph) - We read about violence in American schools and are thankful that it rarely happens here; but are we complacent, and what is the desirable balance between openness and security in a modern society?
What do you think about violence? Can you think of other countries that seem to have more, or less, violence than Britain, and why do you believe this is? Who are most likely to be the victims of violent crime (contrary to expectation it is younger, rather than elderly, citizens, especially teenagers and young adults being violent to each other)?Why do you think children may have turned to mass violence (loners, pupils with a grudge, children who have been bullied, ridiculed or victimised - but millions of others outside the United States are in this situation, yet they do not kill their schoolmates)? When and where are common trouble spots (late at night, weekends, in or near places where alcohol has been consumed)? If people guilty of violence have been drinking alcohol, should they be banned from places that sell it? Should hospitals, doctors, nurses refuse to treat patients if they are drunk and violent?
In the US, far more weapons are owned by individuals than in Britain. Should you be allowed to possess a gun purely for self-protection? Do you think that some films and television programmes make people more likely to be violent, or are they harmless? Should children be allowed to use guns (some of the pupils who carried out a mass shooting in the US had access to guns in their home)? Why do you think small children like to play at shooting each other (imitating older people they have seen on film; they are afrad, so they act out fantasy; boys engaging in adventure role play)? Should parents ban toy guns?
Since the Dunblane tragedy in 1996, when 16 pupils and their teacher were shot dead by an intruder in a Scottish primary, UK schools have increased their security. Schools should belong to the community and welcome visitors, but are obliged to protect children and staff: what do you think is the balance between openness and accessibility (parents and bona fide members of the public) and safety? Are we too near one end of this spectrum? How do you feel about openness and security in your school, or in discos or football matches?
Violence and aggression are common in the natural world. Think of a situation there (for example, predator and prey, would-be leaders fighting for food, superiority or territory) and compare it with human society.
In many countries police officers are armed, so should ours carry guns?
If criminals carry guns police should be able to protect themselves and the public. Officers are helpless against violent thugs. They would be trained to use guns, so members of the public won't feel afraid. In countries where police are armed, there are no signs of wanting to change.
If police are armed, criminals will be more likely to carry guns. US police have weapons, but this has not diminished violent crime. Specially trained police can use guns in Britain, so there is no need for all officers to have them. Innocent passers-by may be injured in gun battles.
Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University