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« A Lifesaver | Main | Wishful Thinking? »

What Comes Naturally

Instapundit has a roundup of links about a story that students are actually being taught to defend themselves.

All of them seem to miss a critical point.

There are few instincts to any life form, let alone humans, more fundamental than those designed for survival. If we have to tell people (yes, even children) to defend themselves, we ought to be asking why such advice is necessary.

If children have to be told to not hide under desks, to throw things, to not be passive sheep, why is that? Why is it that, in contravention of their genetic heritage, they would be expected to act as a herd, and not a pack? Why is it that, in opposition to their fundamental nature, they would have to be instructed in basic survival techniques?

One can only conclude that, because one of one of the more modern traits inherent in humans, it is because we have trained them to be passive, to submit, to go along with whatever program whatever terrorist has planned for them, because after all, The Man will come and save them, if they can only survive long enough for the actual negotiators to come along and offer whatever submissive supplications that the terrorists will demand to spare the lives of the tots.

After all, we all know that the way to peace is submission. Appeasement. Surely their demands must be reasonable--else they wouldn't make them. Wouldn't they?

So, every day, we inculcate our young'uns in the culture of appeasement, to protect them. If they'll be nice to their captors, their captors will surely be nice to them.

Well, actually, we learned a different lesson on September 11th. More specifically, the passengers on UL Flight 93 learned that perhaps going along with the program wasn't the ideal course of action. But they'd have never known it from their pre-flight instructions, or the constant barrage of propaganda from the peacemakers in the media and their supposed protectors in government agencies. No, they had to learn it from forbidden cell phones, from which they learned, illegally, that other planes, just like theirs, had been hijacked, and flown into skyscrapers.

They were headed for Washington, where there were no skyscrapers. There were only national monuments. And a White House. And a Capitol Building, with many representatives of the people inside. And a Pentagon...

They had been told not to resist, but they did. They were adults, with the faculty of reason, and the ability to change their programming as events, and information about them, required.

But the thought that we have to teach children to defend themselves should give us pause. How did they know to defend themselves when we were living in caves? How did they know when under seige? How did they know when on the frontier, against the wolves, and the cougers, and the bears?

They knew because they were bred to know. It is only today that we have to reteach them things they already know, because we've previously taught them nonsense. Let us hope that the unteaching of nonsense is easier than the teaching of it, and more enduring.

Posted by Rand Simberg at October 13, 2006 03:46 PM
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Excerpt: MORE THOUGHTS ON SCHOOL SHOOTINGS and defenses against them, from Rand Simberg, who looks at a larger cultural context....
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Excerpt: MORE THOUGHTS ON SCHOOL SHOOTINGS and defenses against them, from Rand Simberg, who looks at a larger cultural context. Meanwhile, here's a positive example of student response....
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Tracked: October 14, 2006 12:38 PM
Comments

One can only assume that the first kid to take down someone with a gun in a classroom will, along with his parents, have the crap sued out of him.

The rest of the class will be subjected to increased sensitivity training.

Posted by Michael at October 13, 2006 09:55 PM

E.G.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_James_Northfield_Raid

Posted by K at October 14, 2006 12:50 AM

Rand,

[[ If children have to be told to not hide under desks, to not throw things, to not be passive sheep, why is that? Why is it that, in contravention of their genetic heritage, they would be expected to act as a herd, and not a pack? Why is it that, in opposition to their fundamental nature, they would have to be instructed in basic survival techniques? ]]

Perhaps because it's not "in contravention of their genetic heritage." For most of our evolutionary history our ancestors were prey. We weren't really fast enough to get away, or strong or quick enough to successfully fight back. When a predator attacked it usually took only one from the group, meaning that if you weren't the first one it found, you were safe. Under those conditions hiding is a pretty effective defense. So in the face of unexpected direct danger our first instinct is to hide -- up a tree, down a hole, in a cave. Fighting back, without warning or preparation, really is an unnatural act, one that we have to be taught and trained to do.

Posted by wolfwalker at October 14, 2006 03:18 AM

Afterthought: it's also true that in many group-living species, juvenile or subordinate individuals faced with an attacker of their own species rely on a display of passive submission to defuse the situation. This also is an effective defense, because adults are generally hardwired to protect juveniles of their species. Only when faced with the insane actions of a human mass murderer -- something which is so rare that evolution has never dealt with it -- does this display become a death sentence.

Posted by wolfwalker at October 14, 2006 03:23 AM

One can only assume that the first kid to take down someone with a gun in a classroom will, along with his parents, have the crap sued out of him.

You got it backwards. The kid taking down someone with a gun will almost certainly get wounded in the process. And then he and his parents will sue the school.

That's exactly what happened at State University of New York in, IIRC, 1993. A nut with a rifle walked into a history class, ordered everyone to the wall, then gave one student his "list of demands" and sent him to pass the list to the authorities. The list included immediate and personal appearance, for negotiation purposes, of NY Governor Mario Cuomo, President Clinton, and the entire US Congress. You get the idea.

While waiting for his highly esteemed negotiation team, the nut, for some unknown reasons, order the students to move, one at a time, to the opposite wall. As one of them was herded along, he suddenly leapt and grabbed the rifle. The nut let a round out, wounding the student, but five or six others immediately piled on him, ending the standoff.

The heroic student then sued the University for $2 million.

Posted by Ilya at October 14, 2006 07:18 AM

I think Rand hit this one on the head with this statement,

"One can only conclude that, because one of one of the more modern traits inherent in humans, it is because we have trained them to be passive, to submit..."

I would contend that had it's beginnings in the late 40's and early 50's, with the post Depression, post WWII, tired of fighting, tired of scrambling parents of baby boomers. They wanted a better easier life for themselves and for their kids.

My father, a child of the Depression, told my 2 brothers and me that there was NEVER a reason to fight. Walk away, turn your back, all you'll wind up with is skinned knuckles from fighting. I took several @sswhoppin's in school because I followed what he said. I was an easy target for bigger or meaner kids. Not until I was 14 did I fight back. (the poor s.o.b. I fought back against got the brunt of ALL my prior defeats) After I defended myself once I had the self confidence to do so. That simple difference in me kept me out of fights.

I taught my sons not to be bullies, but I never told them defending themselves was wrong. That's a stupid message to teach anyone. My younger son was actually suspended from the 8th grade for defending himself. The idiotarian school staff even used the term "retaliatory", the liberal morons.

The thing that has amazed me the most is that inspite of all this pacifist rhetoric, how many of these kids, my sons friends and school mates, are in the military, and 3 are in law enforcement.

Posted by Steve at October 14, 2006 11:27 AM

One can only assume that the first kid to take down someone with a gun in a classroom will, along with his parents, have the crap sued out of him.
The rest of the class will be subjected to increased sensitivity training.

Like Jake Riker?

Bowden said there were between 300 and 400 students in the cafeteria for a senior Men's Excellence Breakfast when the shots rang out. He said one of the his best wrestlers, Jake Riker, despite being shot himself, tackled the shooter, got the gun away from the suspect and held him down.
Posted by Robert R. at October 14, 2006 12:47 PM

On September 11 I assured my wife that the only way an airliner with us aboard would ever be flown into a building is with my dead body lying on its deck.

Five years later I see no reason to back off that guarantee.

I predict that no American airliner will ever be hijacked again. People are not stupid. They know that there is nothing to gain and everything to lose by going along with hijacker demands.

As for school shooters, I think the Burleson people have the right idea. If a gunman invades the school, the students and administrators should be taught to attack immediately and with explosive violence. The possibility of getting killed in the process is a real one but it's a better risk than surrendering would be. First, the odds are that a gunman under attack is probably not going to have time to fire his weapon at all. Surpise is an advantage for the defenders. Second, if he does fire, odds are that he will miss. It's hard enough to hit a target with a handgun even if one has time to aim; in the heat of battle, aim deteriorates rapidly. Third, if he does hit somebody, odds are that the shot will not be aimed properly and will miss vital areas such as the head or heart. It's amazing how much trauma the human body can survive so long as the heart, lungs, and brain are intact. Fourth, if a child or administrator is seriouly wounded by enemy gunfire, medical personnel will be close at hand, further upping their chances of survival.

And finally, there is the matter of spirit. The psychic and emotional damage of allowing an enemy to dominate, brutalize, and otherwise place one at his mercy is devastating. Teaching our children to cower in the face of evil is itself an evil. If I were to die fighting a terrorist or gunman, I would die happy; and my familiy, while saddened, would at least have the satisfacton of knowing I died as a free man, not a helpless victim.

Posted by bchan at October 14, 2006 01:55 PM

Lawsuits are a separate problem. If the threat of lawsuits is preventing us from doing what we know is right, we don't stop doing the right thing; we change the rules about lawsuits.

And yes, we do have to teach kids *in school* to use initiative, since that's the one thing they've been consistently taught, since kindergarten, not to do.

This Texas school gives me more hope for the future than anything has for awhile.

Posted by kate q at October 14, 2006 02:55 PM

I think you're a bit off the mark here.

For one thing, there's no evolutionary analog to the firearm. If we were talking about students being cowed by a guy with a really big stick, or an angry dog, I think you'd have a good point.

Also, I would suggest that a fight response is not exactly instinctual either. I mean, isn't that sort of the point of the military--to give people the training, discipline, and support needed to quash their survival instincts, which in more cases than not would probably have them running away from the fight, rather than into it?

Posted by Matt at October 14, 2006 03:09 PM

As for law suits, I am not oposed giving millions to those that take out a threat to others at a large personal cost.

Posted by David Summers at October 14, 2006 06:27 PM

there's no evolutionary analog to the firearm

You mean something like a stone? Thrown spears, basically sharp sticks, have probably been around long enough to be evolutionarily relevant. A bow-and-arrow, probably not.

The military example is not a bad one, except that there is no evolutionary analog to an opposing military. A pack of wolves may want to eat one or two of your tribe, but there is nothing like humans for bringing utter destruction. Perhaps I'm wrong - maybe human on human violence has been around long enough that it is evolutionarily significant, which is why some people take naturally to the military.

Posted by mrsizer at October 14, 2006 06:59 PM

"The Man will come and save them, if they can only survive long enough . . ." This is demonstrated by Katrina too.

As far as why kids are taught not to attack an attacker in a school shooting or like situation, part of it is self-centeredness. The odds for everybody may be better if a group goes to take down the attacker, but while that defensive attack is going on, my kid is safer hiding under a desk letting others take the risks.

I think most people now view the welfare of their own individual children as a much higher priority than the welfare of the whole school, the whole country, . . .

(BTW, not saying I'm any more selfless than the average American)

Posted by denise at October 14, 2006 07:58 PM

I guess not enough people have read a Nation of Cowards. Pretty much sums up what we are missing with all this pacifist crap we have been fed all of our lives. Our lives are important, even sacred and to die without a fight is to dishonor the gift of your life.

Sorry but my children are learning Judo, I am a Third Degree Blackbelt and as soon as my eldest turns 10 she is going to learn how to shoot. She is too small right now to pull the slide back on my .45 but she will get stronger.

The world is getting more and more dangerous and the world my children will grow up in will be a lot more dangerous than the world I grew up in. They will not be defenseless.

Posted by Pierre Legrand at October 14, 2006 08:22 PM

I'm not sure I'd put stones and spears in the same category as, say, assault rifles. That's a valid point though.

What I was getting at with the military is that the training soldiers receive is in large part to help them overcome their fear of being killed, to put down their instinct to run, and instead press on into a fight. So it doesn't really follow that the natural human reaction to threat is to go on the offensive--if anything, the natural reaction, the evolutionary reaction, the instinctual reaction, is to run and hide. That's sort of the whole point of courage--it's celebrated because you're doing the thing you're scared to do, not because you're doing the first thing that popped into your mind.

I mean, the whole thing is just ridiculous. Humans naturally elect to fight when confronted by a superior foe? Since when? Were that the case, no people would ever have been oppressed through sheer force of arms.

Posted by Matt at October 14, 2006 08:47 PM

Danger triggers a response physically in the body- the response is called the fight or flight response- something some parts of society have been repressing. In the military you are trained as well to use and deal with this physical reaction. Sometimes it is good, other times it is bad. It gives you strength and agility, but can cloud your judgement as well. What is most important is your calmness and rationality in dealing with the situation and your reaction. THAT is what the military strives for- not a knee jerk reaction. However, the commentators before that imply that it is irrational to confront a "superior" foe with a handgun, or any gun for that matter in a close environment like a school are badly mistaken. Agressive close combat is required and extremely effective at removing an armed threat. Within 10 ft there have been studies that show a man with a blade is much more effective/deadly than one with a gun. If you know how to disarm someone with a gun, you will know that the first person to move ALWAYS wins. Some punk with little or no experience at CQC and minimal firearms training is a sitting duck when coming face to face with someone who has a plan and will execute it swiftly and with overwhelming force. More so when you have numbers on your side. Consider coming through a door- you have this big old muzzle sticking out in front of you just right there to grab as a big lever for whoever is there. You only minimize this risk by either moving with speed or "pie-ing" the door- something I think our school shooters probably fail to do. Furthermore, if you can suck someone in close, it gives them very little time to even pull the trigger if you move first, and even less time to put an aimed shot into a vital organ. If you give them the initiative and wait, you will always lose. The one thing that is taught in any type of combat is that you must take the initiative and shape the battle according to your actions- not his. Surrender the initiative, surrender the battle. Your opponent has taken some initiative already by bringing a weapon with him- how are you going to negate that? You have to know its limits and capabilities in order to do that, so I always find it amusing to hear people with little experience or knowledge (re: Liberals) in these matters decide "what's best." People just have to know what their up against before they can rationally decide what to do. Guns are built up by our society to be the end all be all of a fight. They aren't. You are. Your mental abilities and calmness to assess a situation and react in a decisive manner win the fight. But if you are never told that you can be that way, you have options, and that you can take initiative, you wont rationally consider those things and therefore be stuck out of ideas and let the flight response kick in and take over. You then can't think, cower under that desk and generally act like an idiot. People have to know that they have options, and that they can act and don't have to be sheeple. Thats leadership though, and we don't want people getting uppity and starting to question the orthodoxy that knows what is best for us!!! 'Cause guns are BAD! Sigh...

Posted by TZ at October 15, 2006 12:57 AM

Critics of the fight back program are worried that attacking a gunman will get some kids killed. How is this different from teaching them to hide under desks so they can be easily killed like they were at Columbine and other schools? Better to risk the possibility of death on your feet than the certainty of death cowering on your knees, IMO.

Posted by Larry J at October 15, 2006 05:09 AM

Have you lost your mind?

You're talking about children. Not adults. Children have not been trained or conditioned, they are IN THE PROCESS of being trained and conditioned.

Children have a natural instinct to expect adults to take care of them. This is their instinct, not the instinct to band together and throw pencils at some grown up with a gun.

Good lord man, first you ramble about the instincts of children, and then immediately you're off discussing the behavior of adults (ex: Flight 93).

Try putting together a coherent thought.

Posted by paul a'barge at October 15, 2006 06:06 AM

As for law suits, I am not oposed giving millions to those that take out a threat to others at a large personal cost.

Neither am I; sorry if my post implied otherwise. My point is that school administrations WILL oppose it, and will have additional reason to discourage students from protecting themselves.

I suppose in an ideal world that SUNY Albany student would not need to resort to a lawsuit to get his deserved reward.

Posted by Ilya at October 15, 2006 05:05 PM

Say your waiting in line at a bank and someone faints. Everyone gathers around to witness the spectle. You check the persons vitals and can tell their pulse doesn't seem right. You openly yell to the crowd. "Someone call an ambulance!" What normally happens in that situation is everyone will continue to stand there and stare. Everyone is thinking, "Well someone else will most certainly call or already has, me, I've got stuff to do and don't want to get wrapped up into this." It's that herd mentality that no one wants to stick out and look any different in the group in order to draw attention to themselves. Normally the best thing to do in that situation is to grab someone by the shoulder, shake them a bit to show your serious and say, "YOU, go call an ambulance, NOW!" This snaps the person out of the herd mentality of assigns the individual some ownership of the situation.

The pack mentality doesn't just apply to aggressive behavior. Everyone hiding under a desk? Well, I will too since that seems the thing to do. One person makes a difference, they can set off a chain reaction of events that can turn the pack in lock step behind them. Its interesting how group dynamics play out and how the role of "alpha" can change hands multiple times in a single scenario. I think it is usually a visual queue of various sorts, facial expressions, eye movements, and body language that serve as suttle queues for the group as a whole to interpret and react to.

Civilian populations tend to be random and thereby slow to deal with certain situations. Thats why every floor of a high rise delegates a 'fire officer'. When time is of the essence someone is prepared to take on that authoritarion role of getting everyone to move instead of just stand around looking dumbfounded at each other. It may make sense for schools to address the need of the teachers to take on the role of a violent action safety officer. They need to be instructed on how to use their class as an assest for ultimate survival. The students need to be told that if the teacher says attack then everyone needs to attack, if the teacher says hide then everyone needs to hide, and run - then RUN!

Posted by Josh Reiter at October 15, 2006 08:17 PM

Rand:

Nail on the head, and all that.

Whether we blame the modern comfort and security many of us believe comes naturally, or being conditioned to wait for authorities, or the dubious attempt at feminizing boys and our culture at large, we are enabling predators.

Unfortunately, our enemies, present and future, aren't buying into the same program. The vainglorious neighbor who claims to be raising their children as pacifists can't also see that she's conditioning them to submit to any thug crossing their paths.

Posted by Vinny Vidivici at October 16, 2006 07:22 AM

Paul says: Have you lost your mind?

Actually, I think this bunch of posts is better written and argued than all the others Rand has posted. Without the people calling each other names, this subject is actually being discussed. Congrats folks.

You're talking about children. Not adults. Children have not been trained or conditioned, they are IN THE PROCESS of being trained and conditioned.

Yes they are, but in that process of training, to think for a moment they're safe because they are in training is wrong.

Children have a natural instinct to expect adults to take care of them. This is their instinct, not the instinct to band together and throw pencils at some grown up with a gun.

Very true, but at they same time, if they're in training, then they can be trained in actions as well.

Good lord man, first you ramble about the instincts of children, and then immediately you're off discussing the behavior of adults (ex: Flight 93).

The actions aboard Flight 93 can be traced to there childhood reactions and the experiences they had after, up until that flight. Childhood affects your adult processes to the nth degree. If all the people on that plane had been pacifist, the White House would be gone.

Try putting together a coherent thought.

Now, we have a good discussion going, let's not start hurling insults, which never help a position, they just inflame the argument. One of the things we should be trained on as a child is to respect the opinions of others...(wink)

Posted by Mac at October 16, 2006 11:43 AM

First, some of our schools are high schools where the students are teenagers. They're not actual children, they're badly educated young adults who must pretend to be children for a few more years until their elders get around to teaching them how to operate on their own. But they can still be taught to fight when the situation calls for it.

Second, it's well known that even small children can be aggressive when they think it'll pay off.

Third, what exactly is the advantage of not teaching children or teenagers the best way to survive this situation and encouraging them to act on it? Is their so-called "innocence" worth more than their lives? Or are we supposed to pretend, against all the evidence of human history, that children are flatly incapable of executing a simple survival strategy?

Posted by Ken at October 16, 2006 12:33 PM

Ken says: ...Or are we supposed to pretend, against all the evidence of human history, that children are flatly incapable of executing a simple survival strategy?

Remember that the left holds sway through the education unions. The left's tried and true stick-your-head-in-the-sand theory will be first and foremost in all training for public schools

Posted by Mac at October 16, 2006 01:34 PM

Ken says: ...Or are we supposed to pretend, against all the evidence of human history, that children are flatly incapable of executing a simple survival strategy?

Remember that the left holds sway through the education unions. The left's tried and true stick-your-head-in-the-sand theory will be first and foremost in all training for public schools

Posted by Mac at October 16, 2006 01:35 PM

"Our nation has too many people who are not only unwilling to learn how to protect themselves, but who are also determined to prevent innocent third persons from practicing active defense. A person has the right to choose to be a pacifist, but it is wrong to force everyone else to act like a pacifist. It is the policies of the pacifist-aggressives which have turned American schools into safe zones for mass murderers."

Dave Kopel Oct 2006, National Review

Posted by RKV at October 16, 2006 03:53 PM

I don't buy the "innate" or "breeding" aspect of either pacifism or self-defense; humans were and are both hunters and gatherers.

History is full of examples of both suicidal sheepishness (Weimar) and truculent refusals to submit (Thermopylae). What this shows is that it's a matter of culture and individual choice, not breeding.

For me, the quick way to measure the health of a society on this issue is to observe how the sheep view the sheepdogs (to borrow metaphor). Contrary to Bill, I do not accept that the "sheep" are naturally suspicious of the sheepdogs; that is a function of the culture.

As to where it's coming from, well I suggest you start by determining who has a vested interest in 1) raising sheep, and 2) barring sheepdogs from polite company.

"Can't we all get along?" isn't a slogan for sheepdogs.

Posted by Seerak at October 16, 2006 06:00 PM

I've been wanting to say this all day after reading Paul A'Barge's emotings:

My GOD!!! WON'T someone think of the CHILDREN??????

;p

Posted by Andrea Harris at October 16, 2006 06:24 PM

My GOD!!! WON'T someone think of the CHILDREN??????

;p

Children? Who's talking about children? We're all adults here, right? phtphtphtpht
:)

Posted by Mac at October 17, 2006 08:08 AM


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