Don Shomette

People are the Prize

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What Do You See Wednesday? (12 November 2014)

Check out the comments to read what others have seen!

Being able to spot what is safe and unsafe takes practice. And experience is invaluable. We’re going to post a new picture each Wednesday and after everyone has had a chance to comment, we’ll review and discuss the findings.

Today’s picture has several crime prevention techniques (which is really influencing behaviors) as well as something larger that I want to discuss.  Take a look and what do you see?



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Disney’s Maleficent and the School Attacker


This weekend I watched the movie Maleficent. I have to say that while my kids liked it, I thought it was okay at best. For me, it was just kind of ordinary and the characters were a little flat.

I wouldn’t even be talking about the movie if not for the similarities I saw between the main character, Maleficent, and school attackers.

Or more precisely, how their society and ours view the justification to do evil.

I’ll try not to give away too much for those who haven’t seen the movie, but Maleficent places a curse on the king’s baby girl which can only be broken by true love’s kiss. This element is faithful to the original tale, Sleeping Beauty. What happens before and after the curse is completely new or at least a different take on the classic story. In the beginning of this new story, Maleficent was a sweet, innocent fairy who loved all and was loved by all. She is the most kind and caring fairy you could ever meet until she is treated horribly and then she has no choice but to turn into something that she didn’t want to be.


And this is where the similarities between our two societies (one magical and one real) collide.

In the movie, it’s crystal clear that Maleficent didn’t want to be a meanie. They drove her to do it and the story line is crafted to make you feel sorry for the bad guy (girl). Clearly, she’s the victim and therefore her evil behavior is in some way justified because of what ‘they’ did to her. If they just would have treated her better she wouldn’t have had to do it.

The same kind of thing is happening with school attackers.

“He was bullied…”

“He snapped, but what do you expect after they…”

“Nobody cared about him and that’s why…”

“It’s because of the gun lobby and easy access to guns…”

“It’s violent video games…”

Like in Maleficent, it’s dangerous to blame some external cause, even if it is terribly unfair, as a plausible explanation for one person to hurt another. There can never be a plausible explanation to attack a school just as there was no plausible explanation why Maleficent would curse an innocent baby to death for something her father did, even though she suffered terribly.

Yes, outside influences and events may contribute to doing violence but deciding to do violence is an individual choice. Maleficent was not ‘made’ evil because of what they had done to her, but by her desire and action to hurt others.

And the same goes for school attackers.

In 1927, Andrew Kehoe murdered his wife, blew up the school, turned his vehicle into a suicide bomb, and murdered 44 teachers and students and injured 58. He left a note on his fence which read, “Criminals are not born, we are made.”

No one is made to do evil.


Learning From Our Veterans

vet day


Few organizations in the world rely so heavily on their members being able to apply the virtue of resiliency more than our Armed Forces. On this day, Veteran’s Day, it’s the perfect time to discuss a topic that is gaining (and rightly so) attention in the public schools.

It’s a great word and a quality that students need to embody. Kids break down too quickly, give up too quickly, and follow bad fads too quickly. And it’s not that they have too much free time or too much access to toxic information. That certainly plays a part, but that’s not all of it. It’s really because too many kids have too few guiding principles and not enough absolutes.

What do I mean?

Members of the military have to remember and live by the Armed Forces Code of Conduct. There are six articles and its primary purpose is to help its members to be resilient. And resiliency doesn’t mean that you can’t lose, just that you won’t give up while you still can or should keep going.

Here’s article 1:

I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

The next time you see a veteran or an active service member, remember that for them this is their guiding principle—their absolute—their power to be resilient, if you will. Without this high standard, it would be very difficult for men and women in the military to be resilient. And there is no shortage of remarkable examples of service members being resilient in horrific conditions while fighting against terrible odds. If there are experts in resiliency, it’s the brave men and women of our Armed Forces.

1.  Right and Wrong:
You can’t teach a person how to be resilient without defining what is right and what is wrong. The more solid the person’s guiding principles and absolutes, the stronger their resiliency. And yes, there are absolutes such as it is absolutely always wrong to murder an innocent person. A person’s ability to summon resiliency in the time of hardships and to be successful is really a question of the depth of their morality or beliefs.

Like in the military, if you want to strengthen a person’s ability to be resilient then you have to strengthen their depth of character. The military focuses on training their people to know what is right and wrong and we should do the same for our kids.

If we do, we will not only make them better people but by default more resilient.

2.  Killing Resiliency:
You can’t teach resiliency while pointing the finger at someone else and claiming that they have some unfair advantage. Being a victim means you’ve lost control. Being resilient means regaining or taking back control, in spite of the hardships facing you. You can’t live in both worlds. They’re incompatible.

Resiliency is directly related to the interior strength of the person. If you want to kill the resiliency of a student, tell them that they are a victim.

3. Find Purpose:
The most resilient people are those who know who they are and have found their purpose in life. You can’t teach a kid to be resilient while framing them to be something they are not. Or worse, trying to make them into something they do not want to be. If a person doesn’t believe in what they’re doing, it’s really tough to be resilient.

Everybody has a purpose in life. Help your students to find their purpose in life—not your purpose or what you think it should be—but their purpose. As long as it is lawful and directed towards some worthy good, let them be who they want to be.

Service members are incredibly resilient because they know exactly who they are and their mission in uniform which therefore defines their purpose in life.

Last thing about resiliency.

This character trait is critical and needs to be developed and encouraged in our kids. Like most virtues, the good it produces is not limited to just one aspect of a person’s life. Improving a student’s resiliency will not only better their own life, but it will also help them to be better people as well as better family members, friends, and students.

Proven best practices and research based data is always preferred when searching for answers. In the world, there is no organization that exemplifies true resiliency like our Armed Forces and they have plenty of best practices with endless data to prove it. If you’re looking for solutions and ideas, you’ll find no shortage of examples in our Armed Forces.

Today we thank all past veterans and current military service members for their sacrifices and devotion to duty. Thank you!