November 1, 2003
It happened again on September 24 in Cold Spring, Minnesota. A student shot and killed two other students. This sort of thing has been going on since the early 1970s. The example that first caught my attention occurred on December 30, 1974. Anthony Barbaro, a 17-year-old honor student and school rifle team member from Olean, New York, went on a shooting rampage. I believed I understood his motive, and I wrote about it in my "Truth In Education" column:
Now it begins!
Why do I say, "Now it begins?" Because in all likelihood there will be many more unhappy youngsters like Tony. There will be more good kids whose minds give way under the terrible artificial and contrived burdens they are forced to bear and the terrible strain they are under.
According to THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE of January 5, 1975 Anthony Barbaro left his house on December 30, 1974 telling his 10-year-old brother Chris that he was going target shooting. Tony carried his 30-06 rifle with a new telescopic sight, but instead of going target shooting he drove to Olean High School, arriving at 2:50PM.
Paul Pancio and his young friend threw snowballs at the car, but Tony ignored them. When he got out of the car he left the motor running. The school was closed for the holidays, but he entered through a side door. Two girls saw him and followed him up to the third floor student council room, noticing that he carried two guns. They left as Tony was trying to open the locked door. Not succeeding, he shot out the lock, set off a smoke bomb in the hall, entered and shut the door. The school custodian approached and Tony, seeing him through the glass, shot him in the heart. A fire alarm went off. Whether Tony or the custodian had set it off no one knew for sure.
Tony then stationed himself at the window and began firing. He shot a 25-year-old divorced mother of four driving by in her car. He killed a 58-year-old gas meter reader. Then, as the firemen approached, Tony began to mow them down. Twelve others were wounded by gunshot or broken glass.
It wasn't until more than 100 state and local police arrived and a police bullhorn bellowed repeatedly, "Man in the school--surrender." that Tony dropped his shotgun and rifle to the ground. It was 4:30 P.M. The police approached the upstairs room cautiously and threw a tear gas grenade through the window. They found Tony on the floor coughing from the fumes despite the fact that he was wearing a mail order gas mask.
When a school guard, Michael Barbaro, saw Tony's face he cried out, "Oh, my God, that's my nephew."
It was unbelievable. Tony was an honor student, a scholarship winner, a member of the National Honor Society, a lover of reading, a big brother of a close-knit family of six. He helped his younger sisters and brothers and had never caused any trouble. He worked 20 hours a week as a bus boy in the same restaurant where his mother was a chashier, and where he was always prompt and ready to help. Tony had hoped to be a scientist or engineer.
According to his English teacher Tony was brilliant and considerate. Neither guidance counselors nor teachers indicated any problem. He taught other students about gun safety. Tony's uncle said, "To me, he was a perfect kid. All I can say is, something snapped."
I believed at the time, and I still believe, that an explanation can be found for Tony's actions. Many educators claim that what children read doesn't matter as long as they learn to read. That is a dangerous assumption. A book of fiction, a movie, a TV drama or video can affect our emotions in the same way they would be affected by an actual event. Our emotions are not intelligent. Even when our minds tell us we are watching fiction we can sometimes react emotionally as if we were experiencing reality.
As a child I would become physically ill when watching movies such as WEREWOLF OF LONDON, FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA'S DAUGHTER and others. My mother told me not to go and told me over and over again that the movies were just stories. I still threw up from fright. Grown men are no different. They can faint at the mere thought of receiving an inoculation. Teen-aged girls can imagine themselves in love with rock stars and movie stars. Although they never have met the young man of their dreams, the girls still experience real emotion.
Anthony Barbaro, during his shooting rampage, was reacting to fiction as if it were fact. His English teacher made the first suggestion that this might be possible. She told of a paper Tony wrote about the film, FAHRENHEIT 451. It contained the following passage: "The society of book burners depicted in the film isn't the landscape of a thousand years from now. The director shapes it frightenly close to our own time. It could be in a few short years."
Joseph Engelhof, the reporter who wrote the article for the TRIBUNE asked, "Is that a subtle clue to Tony's behavior?"
FAHRENHEIT 451 was a film based on a science fiction novel by Ray Bradberry. It told of a future society in which firemen who, instead of putting fires out would start them whenever a book was found. The name was chosen from the fact that Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which books will burn. It was a depressing, frightening story, but just a story.
Not to Tony Barbaro! His emotions told him the frightening scenario was about to come true. His intellect did not correct this impression. Fiction affected his emotions as if it were reality. Was Tony trying to prevent the book burning his mind had accepted as reality? Did he feel he had to do something to prevent its happening? He made his plan. He carried it out.
When Tony got inside the school he put on his gas mask and set off the smoke bomb. More than likely he also set off the fire alarm. Why? Could it be because he wanted to summon and then kill firemen to prevent them from becoming book burners?
The killing frenzy was premeditated. Was Tony's mind dominated, yes hypnotized, by the idea that he had to do something to prevent firemen from becoming book burners and destroyers? Tony was in such a state of concentration on his goal that he never noticed the boys throwing snowballs. He did not even think to turn off the ignition in the car. He went straight to work carrying out the plan his confused and troubled mind had conceived.
It may seem strange that I predicted the Olean incident would not be the last, but rather one of the earliest of many future murders and suicides by children. This depressing prediction of tragedy was first made May 2, 1974,--before Tony's shooting frenzy, but it was after I had attended the Midwest Regional Conference of the National Council for the Social Studies which was held at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee April 25-27, 1974.
Never have I been more fearful for students or for the future of our country than I was after attending that conference and learning what was being planned for our schools. Very few parents knew the conference was being held. In "Truth In Education" I wrote:
Approximately 1000 social studies teachers from all over the Midwest attended the Midwest Regional Conference of the National Council for the Social Studies held at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee April 25-27. Although the proceedings of the conference were of vital importance to every person in the state and throughout the country, not a line appeared in the local papers. Drastic and all-encompassing changes in social studies and in the entire school curriculum were discussed, planned, and evaluated. Teachers were informed of the new techniques and new direction of education. Nationally known speakers addressed the conference which was attended by top administrators and curriculum planners from the State Department of Public Instruction. Milwaukee schools, Wauwatosa schools, Racine schools, and the schools of most of the cities and towns in Wisconsin were represented. Major government projects in education were revealed. Teachers were excused from their classrooms, and many were sent on government grants because of the importance of the occasion. Education students were invited to come and learn the new techniques, but there was no newspaper coverage.
My state of alarm was obvious because after attending the conference I wrote:
Unless drastic and immediate measures are taken, the complete takeover of education by those who want to use children to accomplish international political purposes rather than teach will be virtually accomplished. Children will be intellectually castrated, emotionally depleted, and morally neutralized. This is an emergency situation of utmost urgency. It demands your immediate attention. Inform everyone you know-- your relatives, your neighbors, your friends both in state and out, your doctor, your grocer, your barber, your hairdresser, your parents, your children. Ask merchants to buy copies of this paper for sale in their stores. Talk to your town boards, school boards, and city councils. Contact your legislators. All federal and state funding in education may have to be cut off or turned down. Everyone should know why this may be necessary.
I wrote about courses in futurism coming into the schools:
I think most about the fifty students from the schools in Richfield and Burnsville, Minnesota who have nearly completed the first year of a two-year FUTURISTICS pilot course financed by ESEA TITLE III funds. Two pretty young students came with the instructors to explain their work to the conference participants. One of the girls was asked whether all of the students were converted to the concepts of the course. She replied, "No, not all. One girl who was very comfortable with her home life would not accept the idea of dividing the wealth and alternative family systems."
The instructor then explained, "One boy was very argumentative and independent. He had his future determined and had no doubts. He wanted to be a pilot, and that was that. He would always argue, but one day they got together and asked him what he would do if they outlawed airplanes because of gasoline consumption and pollution."
This was the last straw. they broke him. They were proud of their accomplishment. Will your children be broken too?
What is so alarming to me about the fact that futurism courses were being put into the schools everywhere through federal education and foundation grants? What was so alarming about other government-sponsored changes in social studies curricula? The changes were intended to use students, affect their emotions, and change or destroy their moral principles--not to teach them.
One of the experts on futurism courses who spoke at the conference was Bernard Hollister, co-author of a teachers' manual called GROKKING THE FUTURE IN SOCIAL STUDIES. The book advised:
". . . if the teacher really wants to change student behavior through an ecology unit, something new and fresh will have to be offered. Students need to be shocked and shaken repeatedly: their feet must be held to the fire until they cry out in protest. We use a number of SF stories to revitalize tired ecology units, and many of them hit students hard."
What could be so terrible about science fiction? What could shock students so profoundly that they cry out in protest? How were the teachers told to hold the children's feet to the fire? Books and materials suggested in GROKKING THE FUTURE for inclusion in futurism courses were violent, frightening, and nauseating. One was a story about organlegging in which people are waylaid on the street and carved up for spare parts, and where capital punishment is meted out for running red lights and speeding so additional organs might be available for transplants.
There was a story about war between pedestrians and motorists wherein motorists run down pedestrians and pedestrians gun down motorists; also a story about war between generations, and one in which cannibalism was practiced and it was a great honor to eat one's friend when he died. Teachers were told: "Needless to say some students find this custom repulsive; so have students analyze their own taboos, which all cultures certainly have. Although students may gasp at the idea of eating dog meat, they have no compunction about eating lamb, cattle, or pig flesh. What is the most sacrilegious thing your students can think of?"
There was a story about the generation gap. A boy genius was more advanced intellectually than his father was at the same age. The boy and his friend perform a kind of lobotomy on the father to prevent him from holding back his son. Then the father exists only to enjoy his son's glory. Another story has the secret world leaders con the intellectually deficient masses into a one-way trip into space. Other stories suggest the world is running out of space and generations of the future will hardly have room to move. The authors ask: "How difficult would it be for space-conscious Americans to adjust to a civilization like the one described in BILLENIUM? A word of caution: be sure you know what space-use experiments, if any, your students plan to conduct and how they are going to conduct them--before you turn them loose on an unsuspecting school! It is amazing how diabolical teenage minds can be!"
Teachers were told to have students write stories based on the idea that no family may have a baby until someone else in the family dies. The students are told to decide what kinds of pressure might be exerted on the elderly to convince them to end their lives. Then there is a story about senior citizens being gassed when they are no longer deemed to be socially useful.
Another novel envisions a world which encourages homosexuality as the preferred form of sexual contact, and the woman who bears a child without state permission is a criminal. In another crowded world of the future citizens are never allowed to show that they are unhappy. Those who show unhappiness are sent to moral engineers to have their minds adjusted. If their deviance is serious enough they are classified as flippos and tossed down a chute to provide combustion material for power generators. No citizen is allowed to keep any other person out of his room, and the society is as sexually free as it is possible to be. The authors of GROKKING THE FUTURE admit "Sexual descriptions in this book are explicit. Some students may react adversely," Then they ask, "just how liberated are modern teens?"
About THE LAST MAN ON EARTH teachers are told, "This is a profound pessimistic story, useful for sheer shock value, for Efflinger is merciless and refuses to let the reader off the hook. How would you like to see your wife die from asphyxiation on the subway? Your newborn son die in an hour because there are no more oxygen masks."
The problem of overpopulation is then turned over to students. They are asked, "If no way can be found to accommodate the teeming billions, and we cannot live with misery which those masses will cause, only one alternative remains, the existing population will have to be reduced. If, someday, this reduction must be made, what would be the best way to go about it?"
Three days of this social studies conference were almost more than I could bear. What, then, must be the effect on high school students studying a year, a semester, or even a few weeks of this grim futurism? The goal was to change students to prepare them for life in the global village in which they were told that they would be living, and to prepare them for the world order to which they and their country would have to submit.
But futurism was not the only curriculum change to be announced and promoted at the Midwest Conference of the National Council for the Social Studies. St. Louis Park, Minnesota had received a grant of $70,000 under Title III ESEA for an experimental course on World Religion. Teachers who had used the course were at the conference to explain and promote the use of their techniques.
Fliers were distributed announcing 5-1/2 day courses at Carnegie-Mellon University for those who wished to learn to teach and apply Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of cognitive moral development. The theory assumes one reaches the highest state of moral development when he chooses (supposedly) his own moral code, abandoning both church and parental teaching. This leaves children utterly defenseless when confronted with the temptation to participate in physically pleasurable, but personally, morally, or socially destructive acts.
Publishers of books, games and activities displayed their wares at the conference. I will quote to you from some of the promotional fliers and brochures.
For the game called RAID, A role-play simulation for 5-15 players. RAID uses the dynamics of the inner-city protection racket to stimulate interest in the acquisition of basic mathematical and verbal skills, as well as to explore ways in which to solve a dramatic urban problem. Students assume the roles of racketeers, innocent residents, and policemen participating in a variety of exchanges involving money, guns, people and concepts.
For the booklet, THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION: Chapter I. Is the family obsolete? Chapter II. Do women need liberating? Chapter III. Premarital sex, should you or shouldn't you? Chapter IV. Homosexuals, deviants or just different? Chapter V. Should sex be taught in public schools?
For the booklet, PROBLEMS OF DEATH DEATH DEATH DEATH DEATH DEATH. The word death was used six times in graduated size in red on a black cover. Issues to be debated included: Is the aborted fetus a human person or garbage? What is death with dignity? Should women have complete control over their bodies, including abortion? Are funerals too expensive? Is a new ethic emerging?
Before the end of 1975 death education was being taught in schools throughout the country. Especially significant was the emphasis placed on suicide. Suicide was suggested to students by involving them in discussions about it and asking them suggestive questions about the possibility that they might want to commit suicide. The following are some of the questions suggested for use in the classroom at a conference for psychology teachers that was held at Wauwatosa West High School in Wisconsin October 30, 1975:
How often do you think about your own death? For whom or what might you be willing to sacrifice your life? For whom or what might you be willing to kill another person? If it were possible would you want to know the exact date on which you were going to die? How often have you seriously contemplated committing suicide? How do you estimate your lifetime probability of committing suicide? Have you ever actually attempted suicide? Suppose you were to commit suicide, what reason would most motivate you to do it? Suppose you were to commit suicide, what methods would you be most likely to use? Suppose you were ever to commit suicide, would you leave a suicide note? What kind of a funeral would you prefer?
Since the 1970s teen suicide has increased more than 300%. Gang violence has turned children into murderers, and drugs have destroyed the lives and minds of hundreds of thousands of impressionable youngsters. Millions of children are engaged in sexual activities that are ruining their health, peace of mind, and chance to live interesting, happy, and productive lives. Still curriculum developers, psychologists and sociologists insist that children must be taught which drugs are available, how they are used, and how they make one feel. Then children are told they must decide for themselves whether they want to use drugs.
In sex education courses children are told sex is fun, sex is how we achieve feelings of self worth (Maslow), sex is a right at any age (1970 White House Conference on Children), and children should decide for themselves when and what kind of experiences they feel they should have. Teachers and children, when they discuss sex in their classrooms, are warned that they must be nonjudgmental and must not moralize.
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Instead of spending their days on reading, writing, arithmetic, history, geography, civics, etc., children are also subjected to values clarification, drug education, death education, sex education, futurism, guided imaging, moral reasoning, group grading, and nonjudgmental problem solving and decision making. The National Council for the Social Studies, is still the main source for social studies curriculum development. If your children are in public school they almost certainly are receiving this type of education. If they are in private or religious schools it is less likely, but you need to know what is being taught.
END NOTE: In December, 1975 before trial, but almost a year after the shootings in Olean, New York, Anthony Barbaro's body was found hanging in his jail cell, a bed sheet knotted tightly around his neck.
© 2003 Erica Carle - All Rights Reserved
Erica Carle is an independent researcher and writer. She has a B.S. degree from the University of Wisconsin. She has been involved in radio and television writing and production, and has also taught math and composition at the private school her children attended in Brookfield, Wisconsin. For ten years she wrote a weekly column, "Truth In Education" for WISCONSIN REPORT, and served as Education Editor for that publication.