Education

David Hogg: Oracle, or Useful Idiot?

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg gives a speech at the “March for Our Lives” event in Washington, D.C. on March 24, 2018. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Though a senior, he brings to life the roots of the word ‘sophomore.’

Like “philosophy,” “sophomore” is one of those richly nuanced Greek words that should be handled with care. Of course, it is the name given to second-year students in a four-year program.

It is a humorous and not entirely flattering term. It is a compound word, combining “Sophos,” meaning wise, and “Moros,” meaning stupid, because second-year students know just enough to make themselves think they know it all, thereby making themselves dumb. It is amazing how predictable and consistent this phenomenon is. And it’s a very good reason why we should gently but firmly tell David Hogg and his friends marching on Washington to sit down, stop speaking, and listen.

Unlike the Kardashians, social media, gender studies, or anything sold by Starbucks, the Second Amendment is not some fraudulent circus scam designed to deceive, corrupt, and impoverish. Peace, order, and good government have had an amazingly long run in America, but they are fragile things, and the United States Constitution did not secure them by chance. As student activists will quickly note as they begin to observe their rising student leaders, power corrupts. It is a rare government that is not trying to expand its scope at the expense of the freedoms of the governed. The Second Amendment is unique in its clear recognition of the need for forceful vigilance in the face of this fundamental truth. But this is a truth revealed by light, not heat; that is, this is a truth seen through clear thinking rather than high emotion, and so it is all but invisible to the students and celebrities who marched on Washington in the wake of another tragic school shooting.

David Hogg is a 17-year-old student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, the scene of the most recent tragic school shooting. Hogg is basking in his 15 minutes of fame at an embarrassingly early age, and so we might avert our eyes from his much-viewed display of ingratitude, sanctimony, and profanity, except that we can’t, because manipulative adults in the media are deploying him as a useful idiot. Older useful idiots are also in attendance: George Clooney, Dennis Rodman, and of course Kim Kardashian. But people who cherry-pick the tragic, the emotional, and the strange to form a national narrative have cast their klieg light on David Hogg, and so in predictably sophomoric fashion he believes himself to be an oracle.

To witness or experience tragedy is a terrible thing, and it is no easy thing for anyone to make sense of, and so from Job on through the stoics to the victims and heroes of the day before yesterday, the mystery of ineffable tragedy has been most often met by solemn silence. PTSD does not instill wisdom. But that doesn’t really matter to the cynical media, who cut back and forth between Stormy Daniels and the earnest pontifications of adolescents.

A little perspective is in order. Time reports that since 2013, six adults and 35 children have been killed in school shootings in the U.S. While this is a tragedy, there are an average of 51 deaths by lightning strikes each year in the U.S. The likelihood that you will be killed by a lightning strike is six times greater than the likelihood that you will be killed in a school shooting. The shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida was a tragedy, but it is not part of an epidemic, and it is mendacious to present it as such. There are, however, a number of reasons why it is being given this spin: 1) Any attack on children is particularly horrific, and if it bleeds it leads; 2) any grave crime committed by a minor is deeply disturbing; 3) any story involving guns makes blue-state America see red; 4) the mainstream media is so desperate for under-30 viewers that they will give triple coverage to any story from them and for them; and 5) everybody knows that schools are sociopathic, outdated, Industrial Revolution–era warehouses, but the media Left hasn’t figured out how to say this out of fear of the powerful teachers’ unions, so this provides a back door into a great untold story. This last point is worth a moment’s attention.

The shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida was a tragedy, but it is not part of an epidemic, and it is mendacious to present it as such.

A psych study a few years ago had a large random sample describe a facial expression in a picture. The vast majority of children and adults identified the facial expression as neutral or positive, while more that 70 percent of teens identified the facial expression as negative, hostile, and judgmental. Teenagers are constitutionally insecure. We all know that. Now everyone intuitively knows the danger of cascading negative social reinforcement; that is, when you put together a bunch of people with the same phobia, the likelihood of the phobia emerging and eclipsing everything else is very high. And unless you are in complete denial, you probably remember that this was a huge part of the high-school experience. Most of high school is terrible. Teens feel insecure, and their feelings of insecurity are further heightened by the insecurity they detect in each other and on it goes. Teens probably did much better before the Industrial Revolution, working alongside their elders and mentoring their younger siblings. For a long time, schools had some justification in laying a unifying foundation and a standard base of skills, even if it did hold back the development of most students most of the time. But now, online learning can be as varied and individualized as the millions of students who might use it, with goals achieved years earlier at a fraction of the cost.

A strong subtext of the recurrent school-shooting story is the obsolescence of schools and our unwillingness to address it. Sophomores, your righteous indignation is a false consciousness created by a cynical media who have cast you in a role for their own purposes. The anti–Second Amendment hysteria of the Left is portraying an exceptional tragedy as an epidemic. But there is something within your purview which deserves your scrutiny. Take a critical look at those mind-numbing factories you’re forced to attend.

Editor’s note: Because of an editing error, the subtitle of this article originally mis-identified David Hogg as a junior. He is a senior.

Joe Bissonnette — Joe Bissonnette teaches at Assumption College School in Brantford, Ontario, and is a frequent contributor to Crisis Magazine.

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