My spirited grandmother did not suffer fools well. When those around her could not see causal relationships, she would exclaim with stage character actress inflection, "Not a lick of common sense!"
I mutter my grandmother's phrase often at the nation's major newspapers. They possess the logic of a Monty Python movie. USA Today ran a front-page tear-jerker story about Ashley Shaw-Scott, a young woman who will not attend Berkley because, "I was disgusted. Why would I go somewhere that doesn't value students like me?" Shaw-Scott, a National Merit Scholar, is peeved because California state schools have merit admissions policies and minority admissions have dropped dramatically. Common sense would find you at Berkeley precisely because of merit. Interacting with minds as capable and, hopefully, more so than Shaw-Scott's, was once the point of higher education, not a cultural slumber party.The New York Times reported last week on CUNY's decision to refuse admission to students who fail basic skills tests. Sacre bleu! What is it with these demanding colleges? The article, entitled "New York City's College System Enters Unknown in Policy Shift," laments educating qualified students.
Since CUNY's open admission policy began in 1970, half of all entering students have flunked proficiency tests and require remedial courses in reading, math and writing. The Times had no praise for merit or the resulting pressure on New York public schools to actually educate. Rather, there was fretting over empty classrooms, idle faculty, and the poor chancellor and his college presidents who haven't the slightest idea how to proceed with competent students. But, the Times, long devoid of common sense, has a habit of seeing sorrow in bright spots. It whined a month ago that a decrease in the number of major trauma victims has caused emergency room teams to fall into a state of inexperience.
Uncommon sense is rampant on television. Peter Jennings regrets the homeless are now missing from the streets of New York. He wants them back to remind him of the human condition. No greater love hath any man than he remain homeless for a ninny network news anchor's viewing pleasure.
These examples pass the "not a lick of common sense" level into reverse logic spun sideways, but coverage of the shootings in Kentucky, Arkansas and Oregon offer the causation insights of a Neil Simon play. We've been scolded three times by the national news magazines, which possess the critical thinking skills of puppies in potty training: guns did this, you fools. Kip Kinkel's cafeteria encounter in his Oregon high school has the media baffled because their Southern gun culture hypothesis fails with rampages moving to the latte Northwest.
Media coverage of Kinkel has sterilized the facts about this child and his parents to preserve gun blame. Newspapers described his activity of dropping stones from a freeway bridge onto cars below a "one-time" thing. So were the shootings. A hard look at Kinkel paints a different portrait. This 15-year-old took Ritalin and Prozac. Labeled "the next Unabomber" by his classmates, he blew up hamsters. His essay in junior high (read aloud in class) described killing "a lot of people" as "funny."
Building to their corruption by guns theory, the Times' story concluded the Kinkels were wonderful parents. A lick of common sense would have kept guns, knives, ropes, or plastic picnic ware under lock and key, away from Kip's demented mind. These now deceased parents bought their son a rifle and two hand guns in between psychiatrists and prescriptions but grounded him for the summer for toilet papering a neighbor's house. Throwing rocks from a freeway bridge is a youthful prank, but TPing, well, that's environmental outrage.
Time magazine called Kip an All-American kid. And manufacturing bombs is an Eagle Scout project. Kip is so eulogized to perpetuate the media myth that guns rule humans. One school administrator wins the prize for analysis on these shootings with his death-defying root cause: Fort Worth's Keller High School's principal has banned camouflage clothing.
Guns did not cause these rampages. Gun ownership has actually decreased steadily since 1985. Common sense demands deeper, painful introspection. Kip Kinkel, born in 1983, never knew a time without MTV and the videos that leave the adult mouth agape. Kip viewed them regularly in the wee hours. He lived in a decade when abortion "rights" twice made their way to the Supreme Court and found shelter there. During the past year he witnessed Amy Grossberg giving birth in a motel and then killing her baby. He became a teenager at the time rap star Ice- T's CD, "Cop Killer," was sold in mini body bags as clever marketing. The last three years of his life have been O.J. Simpsonized and Jerry Springered.
Kip Kinkel had not a chance. Death, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. He was a troubled soul in a world with no boundaries. He was a kid with problems who idolized the amoral Marilyn Manson's music with its lyrics of assault and other lovely things of spring. Kip was indeed a victim, not of guns, but of a world without a lick of common sense.