Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Is Virginia Tech Education's "9/11"?

Adults of a certain age will remember what we were told for 25 years about how to behave in the event of an airline hijacking. The training was similar for the aircrews:

  • Don't draw attention to yourself.
  • Don't look the bad guys in the eye.
  • Cooperate.
  • Don't resist.
That approach to airline passenger safety, passive non-resistance, died along with the passengers on United 93, who sacrificed themselves so that thousands of others might live. Those passengers, armed with the information that they were most likely not to be hostages but were destined for sacrifice on the altar of Evil, rebelled against both the hijackers and their government's instructions. They chose not be be passive, not to cooperate. They grabbed the fighting tools they could from a weapons-free cabin and fought. Their goal was not sacrifice but victory. Even fighting an enemy who by then held all the advantages, their victory changed history. It also changed the way we look at forceful takeovers in the air. There has no been a hijacking since. As long as passengers are vigilant there will not be another.

The first indisputable lesson from VT is similar: Too often we saw that of the students and faculty in the line of fire yesterday, those who didn't actively resist faced an executor at close range. Those who fought back, even marginally, or who were beneficiaries of others who fought back on their behalf, lived.

Whether Evil stalks an airplane aisle or an university hallway, the lesson remains the same: Help will never arrive in time, your life is yours to protect or to lose.

One of the victims of yesterday's two murders and the following massacre at Virginia Polytechnic Institute remembered how he had been taught from kindergarten to 12th grade,
"Don't think about resisting. Don't fight. Wait for help.

I felt like a sitting duck. I was a sitting duck. Helpless."
Mass murderers are different from "ordinary" killers, in that mass murderers are easier to dissuade and redirect than those whose focus is on a particular victim. It is a key distinction. They are indifferent as to the exact identity of their victims. Door stuck? Guy with a baseball bat or knife in the way? Oh well, the next doorway down the hall will do just as well.

One of the true heroes of the day, a child of the Holocaust, had learned his lesson then. Professor Liviu Librescu offered all the resistance his 76-year old body could muster when he threw himself against the classroom door, shutting it against the killer. That effort, as limited by his age and slight stature as it might have been, was enough to save Professor Librescu's entire class. Professor Librescu, who survived the Holocaust and lived to fight another day, finally gave his life so that others may live.

Another class was saved in a similar manner by a single student who pushed a classroom table against the door, blocking it. Evil walked by. Because the mass murderer really doesn't care who his next victim is, even minimal resistance will very often cause him to redirect his rampage, until he finally turns it against himself.

We will never be able to sufficiently harden all the vulnerable targets in our neighborhoods. It is an impossible task. By making it our first priority we too often send a counterproductive message, as we have with our schools. Better to harden our people, completely changing the geometry of the mass murderers' risk/reward equation.

Our schools do our students a disservice by teaching them how to be good victims. Elementary, middle and high schools would do better by their students, teachers and our society by instructing young people to resist, to defend themselves within their abilities. More of our students and teachers would fight back and make the killers' tasks more difficult if we were to teach them that sometimes violence is the better choice.

We'll lose fewer students, we'll have fewer mass killings when we teach ourselves and our children to start acting more and cowering less.

UPDATE: Moe Lane at Red State posted a noble sentiment about Professor Liviu Librescu, which I'd like to quote in its entirety:
Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the gate:
'To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods…'

PS: As for his murderer… I know his name, but will not write it. -- Moe Lane
I will follow Lane's examply as I continue to write on the lessons of Virginia Tech.

UPDATE: James Bowman sees it the same way in a forcefully written piece on the i-Pod generation in We Need More Heroes in National Review Online.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin jumps on board with Wanted: A Culture of Self-Defense.

UPDATE: Now, this is more like it! This saved lives. H/T Rich Lowry at NRO.

UPDATE: Marc Danziger at Examiner.com is asking the central question: Whether we should be Teaching a New Doctrine in Light of the Virginia Tech Massacre?

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