I, like many conservative Americans, have been following the aftermath of the Newton massacre with great interest. I believe I have a few worthy observations to share, as I have a very peculiar job. I am a Bible teacher and chaplain in a “Christian” reform school. (I place the scare quotes around “Christian” because while the staff are devout Christians, the students are a rather godless lot).
I have been teaching Bible and theology at our school for nearly ten years. When I am not teaching Bible classes I am, as chaplain, doing pastoral counseling with our students (all boys). My policy as a counselor is to interview all our students privately, and try to see if there are any familial or personal pathologies that can help us to better understand the student. I operate under the basic assumption that nobody spends $27,000 per annum on educating a high school student unless that kid has some serious issues and Mom and/or Dad just need(s) him out of the house.
Well, here is my un-official but guaranteed-to-be-accurate list of the top ways for parents to screw up their sons.
The number one predictor of a troubled teenage boy: bastardy.
In second place: divorce (and it doesn’t matter if the boy even remembers the divorce). The reason it doesn’t matter if the boy remembers the divorce is that divorce almost always leads to de facto bastardy; no matter how well intentioned the biological father is, once the breakup becomes final he simply cannot be the steadying influence that he once was.
The third most important predictor of teen pathology (this one will surprise you): adoption. In fact, I can say with certainty that if you adopt a boy, and raise him with great diligence and Christian love, you will still have your hands full with the problems he gives you during adolescence (age eleven seems to be the magic number for when the problems come to a head). If you think about it, the problems with adopted children are just a corollary to the general rule on bastardy; your adopted boy is somebody else’s illegitimate son. And he will always know that at some level his birth father rejected him. He’ll never forget.
(By the way; if you make any sort of adoption through an eastern European country (e.g. Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia), know in advance that your little boy is going to struggle mightily in learning how to love anybody. In fact, he is highly likely to tell you he hates you, and that he always will. In addition, all of you Christian moms out there need to remember this: think twice, or thrice, or even 57 times before you adopt a black boy from any country. You’ve been warned!)
The number four predictor of a failing teenage boy is drug abuse. However, I am convinced that we have to re-think the causal relationship that drugs have on teen pathology. Here’s a computer analogy that may be helpful. Illegitimacy, divorce, and adoption are all on the hardware side of the equation. Drug abuse, at least 80 percent of the time, corresponds to software. In other words, if any of the first three factors are present (i.e. illegitimacy, divorce, or adoption), then the “computer” is already hardwired for failure. This being the case, the kid tries to fix the bad hardware with some aftermarket software (drugs) which will take the edge off of the fundamental flaws. Hence there is no substantial difference between the kid who self-medicates with weed and the kid who is passively medicated with prescription drugs. I would contend that by the time 80 percent of these boys have been prescribed the anti-depressants and ADHD drugs, they will have already been wrecked by the other factors. The First Three factors caused the fundamental damage, and the drugs/medicine can only tweak things a bit.
However, that being said, I will admit that at least 20 percent of the time a drug-abusing boy will be on drugs simply because he likes them. Without torturing the computer analogy too much, I would say that for 20 percent of the bad boys their drug abuse is a hardware issue because it preceded their other problems. Sometimes it is simply the case that good parents have kids who really suck.
Adam Lanza was the ignored son of a hard-working, successful, but distant father. It sounds like the process of separation between father and son began years before Mom and Dad’s divorce. Did I read somewhere that Mr. Lanza hadn’t even seen Adam during the past two years? And clearly, Adam was at some significant place on the autism spectrum. In my experience as a counselor and teacher, I have found that there is no such thing as cute or harmless autism. Even the high functioning Asperger’s syndrome boys are terribly difficult to deal with (they simply cannot see themselves from another person’s point of view, and they are comforted by their obsessions with very odd things).
In the end, I think that you have correctly diagnosed the problems with the Lanza family; Adam was crazier than a fruit bat, and was that way because of a fatal interaction between bad hardware and some crazy-quilt software. He should have been in a State hospital.
But hey, isn’t it easier simply to blame the guns? If we do, perhaps the left will finally like us!