School Violence ... Revisited

Editor's Note: This blog was originally posted on our website on February 15, 2018 -- one day after the massacre at a Parkland, Florida high school. We are reposting it one day after the massacre at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas. And we are saddened by need to offer these thoughts yet again ...

by Bob Knotts, Founder & President

Yesterday one of the worst mass school shootings in U.S. history happened in the school district where the Humanity Project works, day in and day out. Here in Broward County, Florida, at least 17 people were killed by a disturbed young man. I know this school -- only two years ago, I was there as part of a panel for parents about teen suicide. So today, as we look for answers to school violence, I must offer these personal thoughts.

Look around carefully and reflect on what is in front of our eyes. School shootings can’t be stopped with any quick fix. Liberals want strict gun control. Yes, it’s needed. Yes, it will prevent some deaths by guns. Conservatives call for mental health measures – and yes, better treatments are much needed. But for me, the real problems are embedded in a culture that has long celebrated anti-intellectualism and violence as a solution. Consider the recipe:

We begin with a broth of ignorance as virtue. Our culture, unlike most other modern societies, has long celebrated the John Wayne attitude toward problems: “Hit first, shoot first … ask questions later. But not very deep questions. Afterall, he had it coming.” Many Americans regard intelligent thought suspiciously, nuance as confusing, facts as fluid. Don’t muddy the waters with information that withstands critical thinking. Just do it. Punch the bully back in the face. Shoot the home intruder dead. Elect an unqualified person because he acts tough; he’ll fix things. This is America – and ignorance is our birthright. Step one in the recipe to cultural violence. 

Stir in an oversized portion of isolation. Social media doesn’t bring us together. It isolates us. We live with the illusion that Facebook brings connection and Twitter transmits knowledge. They do the opposite. So people resort to treating their dogs like children and their cats like spouses. We are alone and lonely. For the youthful screen-obsessed generations, this has greatly diluted their ability to communicate with people intelligently, if at all. Their noses are buried in trivia backlit by an Apple cellphone. This isolation has changed the culture, much for the worse. For too many reasons to offer here. But for troubled minds, the isolation from humanity and the access to warped points of view and anonymous self-expressions of hate can push some toward violence. 

Season with celebrations of ultra-violence. America always has celebrated violence. But not in the way we do today. Kids spend hours daily glued to video games that show shockingly real depictions of explosions, gun deaths and worse. These are portrayed to young minds as cool. Just as bad, so many of our major stars portray action heroes who live and die by the John Wayne mentality: “Shoot first. Don’t think. Violence always is the solution.” How can we convince children that bullying isn’t cool and that respect is cool … when all they admire shows the opposite? Being big and bad and tough, that’s cool according to Hollywood. Every time any one of us buys a ticket to see the latest shoot-em-up by The Rock or Tom Cruise or Charlize Theron we contribute to the problem. Action films make big bucks: therefore action films get made and promoted. To a troubled kid, real violence looks like glory. 

Sprinkle with sloppiness, laziness and ineptitude. American society encourages parenting that is about shallow achievements rather than healthy growth. Parents take their kids to every known form of lesson, training and camp – and spend time working on a child’s soccer technique instead of helping them understand what it is to be a human being. Kids need time, space. They need to play and pretend. What child do you know who gets these things in proper proportion? Parents in this country are horrendous at parenting. Schools aren’t much better, though many try. They’re driven by pointless testing rather than real knowledge, by rote learning rather than deep curiosity. No time for anti-bullying programs, no support for training in meditation or projects that teach respect for all people. Because, hey, our school needs to earn a better grade during state testing. Adult attitudes and adult behavior toward kids contribute to violence by those kids who suffer deeper problems. 

Finally, mix vigorously with lack of compassion. This is related to our ignorance as virtue, but actually cuts even deeper. Americans are not taught compassion or empathy. We’re taught to be wary of these virtues, replacing them with the judgmental and hard-hearted. As a result, we can’t understand why a kid would take a rifle and kill 17 innocent people. The answer is because that kid isn’t you. Or me. He grew up with very different parents and siblings and experiences. He learned very different values and beliefs. Even his genes are different. Yes, of course you can watch The Rock for 2 hours at the multiplex without being inspired to violence. Because you’re you, with all your relatively stable life experiences. To the troubled kid, the movie means something different. Americans, many people in general, suffer from the delusion that the way a fairly normal person feels about something is the way everyone feels. It isn’t. And for some, the movie and the video game and the culture of violence, the isolation and shallowness slice to their core – and then one day it all explodes suddenly to everyone’s great surprise. 

In the end, we need to learn to be human. Humanity is a species of soaring qualities, mostly untapped. Until we accept this idea and work toward the fulfillment of our humanity, the past is mere prologue … and the next shooting is only just around the block.

Safeguarding Our Good Name

The Humanity Project has taken an important legal step to more formally protect our name. And to safeguard the reputation we have worked so hard for nearly 13 years now to build among the community as well as the larger online world. As you see from the document shown here, we have won official U.S. government approval of "The Humanity Project" as a registered trademark. From now on, you often will see our name with a new symbol that claims this protection: The Humanity Project®. (You can see a larger image of the document below.)

In the past, we relied on the standard TM symbol for "trademark." This offers very real legal protections. But the ® symbol and designation strengthen our protection greatly. They allow us to more easily pursue legal action against those who infringe on the use of our name without express permission -- and to seek damages, court costs and legal fees. We've found this new level of legal protection necessary because ... well, because our name is such a good one, quite frankly. Several organizations have tried unsuccessfully over the years to borrow "the Humanity Project" without our permission. 

We make diligent efforts at the Humanity Project to deliver free programs for kids (and parents) that create meaningful changes in society. Every day, we promote our stated core values of respect, diversity and self-worth. To continue doing this, we must keep our brand safe in this complex Internet-driven world. That small symbol, ®, is a big help in accomplishing this goal. 

Artistry Of The Mind

We will keep this blog post brief. Mostly because we'd prefer that you devote your time on our website today to listening rather than reading. You'll find our latest podcast well worth hearing. 

Our guest is Bethany Auriel-Hagan, a gifted Guided Visualization Artist from California -- and she has much to say that many people should hear. We're honored that Bethany is a new friend of the Humanity Project. And everyone here warmly welcomes her to our community! Bethany's podcast with Humanity Project Founder, Bob Knotts, covers a wide variety of fascinating topics, including self-acceptance, self-worth ... and how we as individuals can find those qualities within us. 

To hear the podcast, just click on this link: Listen to the podcast with Bethany Auriel-Hagan. You'll be glad to make the acquaintance of this remarkable woman. 

Keeping Your Child Safe Online

Something different for our blog this time ... An information graphic by the folks at KidGuard, a company that provides help for parents to keep their kids safe online. 

Look over that image below carefully if you're a parent (or grandparent). It offers useful information in today's Internet-driven world. To read the full KidGuard article: Click here. 

Sometimes the old adage is true: You can't be too careful ... especially when it comes to protecting your children against the many dangers online. 

Good Neighbors, Great Friends

You've heard the catch phrase a thousand times: "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there." At the Humanity Project, we know the advertising slogan is true. State Farm really is there.

State Farm is there to help us help kids. State Farm is there to help us teach teens about safe driving -- and instruct parents how to make sure their children drive with respect for their own lives and the lives of others. State Farm is there to spread our positive message and free materials to the public through their dedicated agents. State Farm is there. 

This public-spirited company is among our oldest and most loyal sponsors ... and our most generous. And now for the 11th consecutive year, State Farm has funded our programs. We can't thank them enough, with special appreciation to the wonderful Jose Soto. Jose is State Farm's public affairs specialist for Florida, a man widely respected for his genuine commitment to improving the community. This latest State Farm grant will allow the Humanity Project to create a new Internet presence specifically to show parents ways to teach their teens about good driving habits. It will draw on our I Care Live program, which for the past year has met with many dozens of parents in live events and workshops around South Florida to offer safe driving guidance. This program has been very well received. Now we'll make that information available to anyone any time through a new clever online program. Stay tuned for details. 

In the meantime, we want to let you know about our gratitude for State Farm ... and to tell you that sometimes a slogan is more than a slogan. It's an expression of real corporate values. Through their sustained involvement in the community, including their consistent sponsorship of the Humanity Project, State Farm proves they are as good as their word: "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there." Good neighbors, and great friends, indeed. 

Experts Support More Antibullying Programs

The Humanity Project's Antibullying Through The Arts program

We've always known the Humanity Project approach to bullying works. A decade's worth of empirical testing shows us this. We hear positive reports from teachers, counselors and students at the schools we visit as well. From other data, we also know that our Humanity Club helps build a more respectful environment within schools. In today's parlance, the Humanity Project offers "emotional learning" to kids. These are the skills children need to become healthier, better adjusted human beings -- and also better students in the process. 

So we were especially gratified to read about a new action plan created after the horrible shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which is located in Parkland, Florida not many miles from the Humanity Project. This plan was created by leading national experts on school violence. And it's now been endorsed by more than 200 universities, school districts, national mental health and education groups along with more than 2,300 individual experts in the field.

Here's one important part of their message: To stop school violence, don't arm teachers, buy more metal detectors, install bulletproof glass. Instead bring in more programs that help stop bullying and create a respectful educational environment for all students. In other words, do exactly what the Humanity Project already is doing. Quoting from a recent NPR story about this new action plan: Research by experts "has consistently found key factors that can make schools safer: cultivate social and emotional health, connect to community resources and respond, particularly, to troubled students. Why does this matter? Well, for one thing, the very kids who bring weapons to school are more likely to report being bullied or threatened themselves. They may be fearful of gang violence and feel a need to protect themselves on the way back and forth to school. Or, they may be individually ostracized and aggrieved. This is true not just in the United States." NPR quotes a co-author of the action plan as saying the same is true in "Kosovo, Canada, Chile, Israel, the kids who bring weapons to school are reporting tons of victimization."

By working with students to help their peers, by creating a school climate of respect for all, an appreciation of diversity and self-worth, the Humanity Project teaches children emotional skills that can help prevent future school violence ... and help kids grow into productive, healthy adults. We hope you will support our efforts. 

A Focus On Children

They are one of the Humanity Project's oldest and most loyal partners. Children's Services Council of Broward County. Just as their logo says, their focus is children. And their work helps thousands of kids all over this part of Florida. 

So today we're here to thank CSC Broward for their efforts -- and their loyalty to the Humanity Project. We recently received funding from Children's Services Council of Broward County for a major community event to be held at a local school this year. We'll tell you more about that as the date approaches. But for now, we should mention that this is the 11th consecutive year that our organization has been given important funding by their organization. We are grateful to CSC Broward, as always. The fine folks who run Children's Services Council of Broward County include their President and CEO, Cindy Arenberg Seltzer along with key staff such as Sandra Bernard-Bastien, Chief Communications Officer, and Andrew Leone, Director of Communications and Community Engagement. And too many others to name even a meaningful fraction of them. They are our friends, our partners and our sponsors. You can find them all and learn more about CSC Broward on their website: www.cscbroward.org

Children's Services Council of Broward County assists a wide variety of South Florida agencies, large and small, established and new. With their funding and other assistance, we all work as a team to improve life for the kids of Broward County, Florida. For that we can only again offer a sincere thank you to everyone at CSC Broward. You are good friends indeed -- to the Humanity Project and, more importantly, to the children of Broward County. 

Why Does it Happen? How Can it Stop?

by Bob Knotts, Founder & President

Yesterday one of the worst mass school shootings in U.S. history happened in the school district where the Humanity Project works, day in and day out. Here in Broward County, Florida, at least 17 people were killed by a disturbed young man. I know this school -- only two years ago, I was there as part of a panel for parents about teen suicide. So today, as we look for answers to school violence, I must offer these personal thoughts.

Look around carefully and reflect on what is in front of our eyes. School shootings can’t be stopped with any quick fix. Liberals want strict gun control. Yes, it’s needed. Yes, it will prevent some deaths by guns. Conservatives call for mental health measures – and yes, better treatments are much needed. But for me, the real problems are embedded in a culture that has long celebrated anti-intellectualism and violence as a solution. Consider the recipe:

We begin with a broth of ignorance as virtue. Our culture, unlike most other modern societies, has long celebrated the John Wayne attitude toward problems: “Hit first, shoot first … ask questions later. But not very deep questions. Afterall, he had it coming.” Many Americans regard intelligent thought suspiciously, nuance as confusing, facts as fluid. Don’t muddy the waters with information that withstands critical thinking. Just do it. Punch the bully back in the face. Shoot the home intruder dead. Elect an unqualified person because he acts tough; he’ll fix things. This is America – and ignorance is our birthright. Step one in the recipe to cultural violence. 

Stir in an oversized portion of isolation. Social media doesn’t bring us together. It isolates us. We live with the illusion that Facebook brings connection and Twitter transmits knowledge. They do the opposite. So people resort to treating their dogs like children and their cats like spouses. We are alone and lonely. For the youthful screen-obsessed generations, this has greatly diluted their ability to communicate with people intelligently, if at all. Their noses are buried in trivia backlit by an Apple cellphone. This isolation has changed the culture, much for the worse. For too many reasons to offer here. But for troubled minds, the isolation from humanity and the access to warped points of view and anonymous self-expressions of hate can push some toward violence. 

Season with celebrations of ultra-violence. America always has celebrated violence. But not in the way we do today. Kids spend hours daily glued to video games that show shockingly real depictions of explosions, gun deaths and worse. These are portrayed to young minds as cool. Just as bad, so many of our major stars portray action heroes who live and die by the John Wayne mentality: “Shoot first. Don’t think. Violence always is the solution.” How can we convince children that bullying isn’t cool and that respect is cool … when all they admire shows the opposite? Being big and bad and tough, that’s cool according to Hollywood. Every time any one of us buys a ticket to see the latest shoot-em-up by The Rock or Tom Cruise or Charlize Theron we contribute to the problem. Action films make big bucks: therefore action films get made and promoted. To a troubled kid, real violence looks like glory. 

Sprinkle with sloppiness, laziness and ineptitude. American society encourages parenting that is about shallow achievements rather than healthy growth. Parents take their kids to every known form of lesson, training and camp – and spend time working on a child’s soccer technique instead of helping them understand what it is to be a human being. Kids need time, space. They need to play and pretend. What child do you know who gets these things in proper proportion? Parents in this country are horrendous at parenting. Schools aren’t much better, though many try. They’re driven by pointless testing rather than real knowledge, by rote learning rather than deep curiosity. No time for anti-bullying programs, no support for training in meditation or projects that teach respect for all people. Because, hey, our school needs to earn a better grade during state testing. Adult attitudes and adult behavior toward kids contribute to violence by those kids who suffer deeper problems. 

Finally, mix vigorously with lack of compassion. This is related to our ignorance as virtue, but actually cuts even deeper. Americans are not taught compassion or empathy. We’re taught to be wary of these virtues, replacing them with the judgmental and hard-hearted. As a result, we can’t understand why a kid would take a rifle and kill 17 innocent people. The answer is because that kid isn’t you. Or me. He grew up with very different parents and siblings and experiences. He learned very different values and beliefs. Even his genes are different. Yes, of course you can watch The Rock for 2 hours at the multiplex without being inspired to violence. Because you’re you, with all your relatively stable life experiences. To the troubled kid, the movie means something different. Americans, many people in general, suffer from the delusion that the way a fairly normal person feels about something is the way everyone feels. It isn’t. And for some, the movie and the video game and the culture of violence, the isolation and shallowness slice to their core – and then one day it all explodes suddenly to everyone’s great surprise. 

In the end, we need to learn to be human. Humanity is a species of soaring qualities, mostly untapped. Until we accept this idea and work toward the fulfillment of our humanity, the past is mere prologue … and the next shooting is only just around the block.

"Humanity Project Goes Hollywood!"

Looking For Our Closeup

The Humanity Project has gone Hollywood ... Well, let's say "Hollywood," as in kinda sorta. The truth is we created a new video that's just like a polished Hollywood-style trailer you'd see at the movies. In a clever way, it advertises the Humanity Project's work and our three core values that are part of every program we offer: respect, diversity, self-worth. Click on the linked pic just below to check it out. 

We've also posted another cool video on our YouTube channel, which you can find here: 

More and more folks are getting lots of their information and entertainment from videos. The trend seems to be accelerating. So the Humanity Project is embracing this new reality by stepping up our game. As you can see on our YouTube channel, or the Videos page here on our website, we've always gone big for videos. They can communicate with new audiences in new ways. But now -- oh definitely, you can expect to find more videos by us in the coming months, smart and engaging pieces that take our positive message to even higher heights. 

The Children's Hospital & Us

There is a very special children's hospital here in South Florida, special to the community and also special to us at the Humanity Project. It is a place where sick children go to get well. It's a place with many many dedicated physicians, nurses and healthgivers of all kinds -- and many hardworking folks behind the scenes. We are fortunate that Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital also is a good and loyal friend of the Humanity Project. In fact, JDCH just renewed their funding for our programs as they have consistently for most of our existence. Thank you, JDCH, which is part of Memorial Healthcare System!

When we think of the people who tackle the heartwrenching task of working with kids who are ill, our wonderful pal Linda Herbert comes to mind first and foremost. Oh, but she's much better known as Lotsy Dotsy the clown. 

That's her with two of us in the pic above. She is a remarkable human being who brings a deep compassion and affection for these kids to her job -- sitting on their bedside, playing, teasing, laughing, making sick boys and girls smile. Lotsy Dotsy is there for the kids and their families through their ordeals ... and manages to keep a smile on her face too. We admire her and we're proud to call Linda Herbert a colleague and a friend. But there are so many other people who work hard to make JDCH the great hospital it is, including folks like Jennifer Belyeu, Tim Curtin, Theresa Garcia, Lisa Bravo, Sharon Quinn, Milin Espino, Scott Singer ... far too many to name them all. Together they manage a heavy load of daily duties and major events too, such as the annual Tour de Broward. You can learn more about Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital at their website: www.jdch.com ... At the Humanity Project, our trademarked slogan is, "Helping kids to help kids." Children are our business. Unfortunately, sometimes children get sick. We are honored to work alongside a place such as Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, where kids in South Florida can go to get healthy again. 

Welcoming The World

Screen capture: Humanity Project website visitors

Just take a good look at that photo above -- it's a screen capture from December 19, 2017, two days ago as we post this blog. Or glance through a similar photo below, snapped only moments ago. These are representative pics that show us something new: We now know that people from all over the world regularly and frequently visit our Humanity Project website. 

Wow, how cool is that?! India, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, China, even Syria among many other countries whose citizens visit us. 

Yes, we've long understood that our reach is broad. Of course we connect with many folks in our own area here in South Florida and all over this state as well as around the United States and Canada. We also have heard from lots of people over the years from a variety of nations around the globe. But until now, we didn't know how many other people from Asia and Europe, from South America and Oceania/Australia and Africa use this Humanity Project website. A new analytics app from our friends at Squarespace, which hosts our site, shows that humans spread throughout the planet watch our videos, read our fables and blogs and other free writings. They listen to our music and check out our podcasts. They learn from our programs. The videos and fables especially are popular. 

 

This is exciting news to us. We've always envisioned the Humanity Project as an organization that could enable a broad range of people to help themselves through helping others. Our kids do this by helping other kids. Our Board of Directors, Leadership Council, members, donors, volunteers, supporters, social media followers -- all gain in some way or other through applying the shared value philosophy created by Humanity Project Founder, Bob Knotts. It's an empirically based concept grounded in solid psychology, the main idea being that individuals feel better about themselves by treating everyone else with unconditional respect. You can read more about shared value at this link: Read the Shared Value essay. 

But until now, we didn't know for sure that so many diverse populations derive so much inspiration and information from our free website. 

This is all we can say to each of you who read this, to everyone who visits and gains anything of value from the Humanity Project. Thank you! Thank you so much ... and welcome! We're so glad you're here. 

Above & Beyond

Our Humanity Club at Westwood Heights Elementary School

We are very pleased. So are the kids, teachers and administrators at a struggling school. 

Before the Fall 2017 term began, the Humanity Project worked with Jodi Washington, the excellent principal of Westwood Heights Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale -- and together we developed an ambitious plan to curb the rampant bullying there and more. Our overall goal is to involve the entire student body in efforts to build an atmosphere of respect-for-all and to then bring the surrounding neighborhood into this campaign. Parents, neighbors, even gang leaders, all collaborating to make Westwood Heights a focal point of local pride. As the Fall semester ends, we can honestly report to you: "So far, so good."

The Humanity Club teaches their peers that Respect Rocks!

Despite the disruptions and delays caused by Hurricane Irma, we already have accomplished more than we had planned for this point in the year. In the top photo you see our Humanity Project Founder, Bob Knotts, along with the Humanity Club all-girl student leadership team and the wonderful faculty adviser from Westwood Heights, 4th grade teacher Tiffany McClary. In consultation with Mrs. Washington and her staff, Knotts and McClary worked intensively to teach our student leaders about respect -- what it means, why it's important, why everyone deserves it. Then we created a program that is appropriate for the entire school about respect. Finally we taught presentation skills to our girl leadership team so they could take the program to their peers. That happened on Tuesday, December 12, our Humanity Club girls promoting respect as well as gender equality by demonstrating their ability to lead boys and girls alike. The presentations were a big success, showing 665 pre-K through 5th grade kids that "Respect Rocks!" Each of those kids took a pledge to treat all other students with respect, in and out of school, for the rest of the school year. Everyone at the Humanity Project and at Westwood Heights Elementary School was gratified by the results. And our girls? They felt proud of their achievement. Very proud indeed.

Among the decorations we donated to the school, thanks to Dauerflora

In addition to all this, the Humanity Project collected some 400 much-needed backpacks for Westwood Heights in August, conducted our Anti-bullying Through The Arts program for the whole school, donated more than $13,000 worth of holiday decorations that came to us at no cost through Dauerflora, an international company that outfits seagoing vessels. And we also have arranged some holiday meals for a few Westwood Heights students and their families who otherwise might have had less-than-enough to eat over the school break. 

As 2018 begins we'll get back to work finding effective ways to implement the overall plan for Westwood Heights and the surrounding neighborhood. We are grateful to Mrs. Washington, her staff and kids, especially Ms. McClary and the girls of our Humanity Club, for the opportunities they have given us to help this school. We believe the best is yet to come.