Posted by: L | April 24, 2007

Tragedy and Irony After V-Tech – Steger versus Winsett

“You are hereby directed not to enter the College campus or any College owned property at any time for any reason”

reads a one- page letter sent through courier by administrators no more than a day after an upsetting classroom incident had come to their attention.

If you thought that was V-Tech officials getting the perp of reportedly the biggest campus massacres in the US out of the classroom, you thought wrong.

Probably nothing says more about the priorities of the political culture nowadays than the reported firing last week of Nicholas Winsett, a teacher at Boston’s Emmanuel College.

On Wednesday, two days after the Virginia massacre, Winsett enacted a little skit in his classroom to illustrate his argument that the massacre could have been prevented had the university policy allowed guns on campus

During the skit, Winsett used a marker to pretend to shoot at a student who had previously been prepped to simulate firing back. He was illustrating his point that had there been guns on campus, the V-Tech shooting might have been averted. That, of course, is debatable.

But, of course, debating things is precisely what professors do.

He seems to have made some thoughtful points:

He asked students what the impact of this tragedy on the stock market was (nil) to show that a sensational tragedy does not equate to something that has a deep social impact.

He also argued that the incidence of such killings is miniscule. You are more likely to be shot in a convenience store or struck by lightning than killed in a mass shooting.

His interpretation is open to question, of course. For one thing, I think he overlooks the importance of the twin issues of psychiatric drug use and the increase in police-state laws. But I doubt he is much off the mark on the statistics.

Here is a video he made for YouTube.

Emmanuel College claims he was making light of the tragedy at Virginia Tech. He is said to have made derogatory references to “rich, white kids.” The college is within its rights to maintain its standards – which may well have been violated by what he said. I don’t claim to know. But notice that they were quick to act without too much investigation.

Meanwhile, the President of V-Tech has yet to step down for the university’s role in witlessly enabling school shooter, Cho Seung Hui. Indeed, if we are to believe Steger, officials did all that could humanly have been done.

But this Time Magazine article calls him on that. V-Tech’s own guidelines contradict him (see my prior posts on this blog on the police response and the legal and psychiatric issues).

A glance at Dr. Steger’s professional record shows it to be an impressive one, which makes this turn in his career all the more tragic.

But this paragraph in his CV struck me as not tragic but ironic:

“Most recently, he has been asked by the Swiss Ambassador to the United States and The World Bank to serve on a committee to establish a foundation in the United States to conduct research on mitigating global natural disasters.”


Still, even if he resigned from V-Tech, Steger’s path is unlikely to be downward.

Right now, that’s not the case with Nicholas Winsett.


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