The Secret Sauce for Not Shooting Each Other
The Washington Post goes to a Public School and, like the Students and Teachers, Learns Nothing.
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I really didn’t intend a series inspired by the Washington Post, but reading that august journal is much like watching Neil Breen films, so-bad-it’s-good entertainment, but with a bigger budget. As I had to give them an email address when looking up the original story that inspired the last two essays in my WaPo rabbit hole, I now get regular announcements for their new material, and since they’ve algorithmically deduced that I am a teacher, I get a lot of their hot takes on the world of education. Needless to say, their content is undeviatingly homogenous neoliberal boilerplate, the kind of stuff that could be (and may be) produced by an AI trained by reading NEA press releases and watching TED Talks.
Not the good ones, though
Most of you reading my essays probably don’t read the Washington Post, as I hope that my target audience and theirs do not overlap in the slightest. If you want an idea of the sort of people who enjoy their stuff, check out‘s latest(ish) piece on Cringeman and Trump Derangement Substack, or else read the comments section in the article I’m referencing here, “This School Tried to Keep Kids Safe. Then Graduation Ended in Gunfire.” More on that comment section to follow. I offer this to my readers as an edifying spectacle, as an annotated guide to understanding the worldview of our elites and how it filters down to the functionaries at the ground level of indoctrination in our public schools. This point is important. While no one with two cents to rub together sends their kids to one of these hellholes, including the people who teach there, public schools play an important role in perpetuating the system (yes I know that even rich people do send their kids to certain public schools, but as they are districted along rich people’s property lines, they are de facto private). Just as there are places that train managerial elites, there must be places where consent for their rule is similarly manufactured. This article provides a useful insight into that process, and how the audience for the Washington Post is conditioned to view the phenomenon of violence in schools.
The article begins by introducing an “instructional specialist” named Tess Short, whose only job seems to be dressing up like a fellow teen and informing the students at Huguenot High School (dissident French Calvinist population unconfirmed) about the recent deaths of their peers. In this case, a student named Jaden Carter (whom I assume is a cousin or even a brother of) had been shot to death near the school. The details of the case are buried in a later part of the article; what matters at this point is the setup. The problem is framed as “gun violence.” Guns, having become sentient, presumably through some racist Skynet, are roaming the streets of Richmond inflicting harm on Black Bodies.
Virginia’s capital is facing an epidemic of youth gun violence. In the past three years, almost 30 Richmond students died in gunfire, according to the school system. The city’s rate of young people killed by guns spiked to three times the national average in 2017. In 2022 alone, there were 22 children under 18 injured by gunfire and five shot to death, according to Richmond police . . .
It’s not just Richmond — it’s a national problem. Since 2020, guns have become the leading cause of death among children and teens, with Black youths dying in firearm homicides at the highest rates. The pandemic made things worse, fueling a spike in violence: There were more school shootings in 2022 than in any year since 1999, according to a Washington Post database. Then there are the threats posted on Instagram, student beefs that spill into school hallways and random neighborhood shootings that leave children cowering on the floors of their bedrooms, too scared to attend class the next day. Taken together, guns are reshaping every aspect of American education.
A naïve reader might wonder if it’s the guns that “are reshaping every aspect of American education,” since the same guns have been around since the advent of public schools, whereas the problem described here is depicted as being novel. One might well ask, pace Skynet, if there are any people making any decisions to use these guns that might factor into the equation, who these people are, and why they might think it’s a good idea to shoot up their neighborhoods after checking their Instagram feeds. One might suspect these people are the problem and that something should be done about them.
The Washington Post’s team of diverse nice lady reporters’ mission is to disabuse you of that wrongthink through carefully framing the issue in the terms in which you are meant to understand it. There is a formula to writing these sorts of articles. In the first place, the tone and voice should be as passive as possible when describing the individuals most directly involved, and as specific and direct as possible when ascribing blame to the social forces, political tendencies, and inanimate objects of which the reader is meant to disapprove. Second, the article must still be true in its basic narrative. The point is not to lie; the authors end up giving the careful reader all the information he needs to put together the actual story and what was involved. Rather, the truth that (eventually) spills out serves to camouflage the subtext, and to prevent the piece from being criticized on factual grounds. And finally, and most importantly, the article is meant to reassure the readers that the managerial system is hard at work devising solutions to the problems that were caused by either the racist regime of the evil past, or unknown and unmentioned forces (the case here). The managerial elites are always well-meaning and never wrong; the correct solution to any problem is to empower them more and insulate them further from public interference and criticism so that they can continue to improve society.
Hence the employment of a woman whose sole job seems to be sitting in a classroom all day in a hoodie and sneakers. Her role is part of a larger educational fad called “trauma-informed” education.
Starting in 2018, the district reorganized its staffing and systems to become “trauma-informed,” an approach that emphasizes responding to students with empathy. This meant training educators how to handle children’s emotional breakdowns, hiring more mental health and social workers and establishing districtwide and school-based “crisis response” teams. These include psychologists and behavioral specialists. The day after Jaden died, leaders of the districtwide team traveled to Huguenot’s campus and set up camp in an empty conference room, waiting to see if anyone needed help.
In other words, they hired a great number of credentialed experts (salaries undisclosed) to sit in a room all day in case the students felt like coming by and talking to them about how sad they felt about the death of their classmate. How useful were they?
But almost no teens came to see her [the main therapist] — only two male students who asked to leave class so they could wander the building. They told her they didn’t want to talk. Otherwise, two teachers stopped in, crying. She gave both hugs.
So they’re there if anyone (student or teacher) wants to skip class and malinger for a while.
Short, the instructional specialist, said she did not refer anyone to counseling that day, because nobody asked for it. “I don’t want to say they expect it to happen,” she said of Huguenot students. “But it’s like they’ve got adjusted to hearing that people are passing away.”
The kids seem a bit more resilient and realistic than the overwrought tone of the article would imply. There are 22,000 students in Richmond Public Schools and the article notes that ten students a year in the whole district are killed. Two students at Huguenot HS were killed the previous year out of 1,500 who attend. While obviously no amount of dead kids is good, given the demographics of the area that’s actually not especially bad. There’s also the fact that kids, like adults, don’t really take the deaths of people they don’t know especially to heart. In a school of 1,500, how many people even directly knew the two who died? Several years ago, at my own school, a student on break was murdered by his own mother in a horrific way. They brought in the usual counsellors and therapists, but no one made much use of them. The student involved did not have many close friends at the school, and cold as it may sound, life simply went on, without any acknowledgement of any “trauma.” But though there is little trauma in evidence as shown by revealed preferences, the term itself has tremendous significance.
The word is a type of code; “trauma” is a medical term denoting the necessity for therapeutic attention on the part of numerous credentialed and well-compensated experts, who participate in an open-ended process of “therapy” that is preferably life-long and carefully monitored. In return for acknowledging the expertise and authority of the system to treat this “trauma,” the therapeutic subject is given special dispensation as a victim in the form of immunity from personal responsibility. Trauma is a type of homage. One becomes the system’s man(child), gaining its protection and material support so long as one serves it loyally. You will notice that single white women make prolific use of that and related terms in their personal lives and in expressing their political inclinations.
Three trips to Fallujah can’t produce this level of PTSD
This isn’t to say that psychological trauma is not a real thing or that it cannot affect people’s lives. The main idea behind “trauma-informed” education, however, is that trauma is the normal condition of life for entire communities, absolving the members of those communities of broader obligations, moral duties, and personal responsibility. Trauma is invoked as a way of indicating the hand of managerial intercession; the traumatized community is one which needs their special attention and benefits from their protection. Rules do not apply to the traumatized the way they do to others:
Under the new approach, Richmond converted spaces once used for student suspensions into “restorative rooms,” where children could go to calm down if they were disrupting class. It turned school security staffers into “care and safety associates,” dressing them in casual polos and tasking them with bonding with students. And the district launched daily “community circles” in which students share issues they are facing inside and outside the classroom.
Does it work? The way the Washington Post frames this question is interesting. They do not wish to say ‘yes’ outright, for two reasons. One, this would be obviously factually incorrect and invite untoward attention. Two, if it worked, there would be no further need for more expensive investigations as to whether it worked. Better to say, as the Post does, that existing research is inconclusive, but that the teachers seem to like it, as do all the new hires designed to implement it. The nice white ladies who teach in public schools are naturally amenable a method informed by the worldview they feed to each other on social media, while make-work is of course universally popular among those with access to such patronage.
But is it stopping the kids from shooting each other? This is, after all, the ostensible point of all the Covid-money they’re spending. Well, the authors note that the system has not yet found the “secret sauce” (or the eleven herbs and spices) for solving that problem. The reason gradually becomes clear as the article progresses. In the course of recounting his non-judgmentally mentoring of young Jaden Carter, the school
cop care and safety associate, Willie Ruffin, noted something interesting:
Ruffin said Jaden appeared in his email in fall 2021, when police sent him security footage that showed someone who looked exactly like Jaden near the scene of an armed robbery near a school. Not long after that, Ruffin said, Jaden was suspended for getting in a fight at Huguenot.
Exactly like him! What are the odds? And was it that same doppelganger getting into a fight at school?
After the suspension, Ruffin said, he pulled Jaden aside for a private conversation and urged the teen to reconsider his choices. Jaden said he didn’t commit the crime; he was “just there” during the robbery, Ruffin recalled. Ruffin tried not to judge.
Ok, so not an evil twin scenario, something a little more plausible. Young Jaden, a “bright, short student with a deep voice, who walked with a bounce and talked about becoming an electrician after he graduated” had the colorful hobby of innocently hanging out at robberies, as one does. Ruffin drew upon his trauma-informed training to suspend disbelief to ‘I-think-the-new-Captain-Marvel-movie-might-actually-be-good’ levels:
“Sometimes, it requires you to turn off the ‘cops and robbers’ mentality and be a father, or be a counselor, or be a therapist or just be a friend,” Ruffin said. “Just listen.”
Ruffin was good at turning off the cop mentality, Jaden less so at the robber part:
In late October, Richmond police told The Post they determined that Jaden’s killing was a “justifiable homicide,” meaning the person who killed him was acting in self-defense, did nothing to draw an attack and cannot be held criminally liable. Jaden had been attempting to rob another young man that night, police spokesman James Mercante said in an interview. Jaden shot the man before he returned fire, killing Jaden, Mercante said.
Well that’s interesting. Twenty-five hundred words into the story, the authors casually drop the information that the late Mr. Carter was killed while attempting to rob and murder someone. Another set of writers might have asked if the actual victim of the crime experienced any trauma due to having to shoot a teenager to save his own life, but as this was a (presumably) legal gun owner defending himself without recourse to the state he is of no interest to them; he’s not an officially certified victim like Carter. Mitigating the impact of the revelation of Carter’s life of crime is the standard (and well-memed) framing of his mom’s sadness and doubts about the official story:
She has heard another version of events, she said, in which her son was shot first.
“The one thing that doesn’t change in all of that — me second-guessing and wondering — [is that] I still love my son,” she said. “But it makes you wonder. ... Who’s really lying?”
Dad could not be reached for comment. There were also his friends, talking about what a great guy he was when he wasn’t robbing people:
Ca’Miyah King, a senior last year who rode the bus with Jaden, said she felt his absence every morning. Before he died, his deep voice used to fill the whole bus, she said.
“He was so loud, and he was so bubbly,” she said. “When he passed away, it was just so silent. It was like nobody was laughing anymore for a long, long time.”
At any rate, a year of trauma-informed education training culminated in a graduation ceremony that, if nothing else, created some fresh official demand for therapists next year, though again, one wonders how great their insights into human nature actually are:
Things got worse after graduation, which was supposed to mark a healing moment of celebration after a tough year.
Instead, a former Richmond student opened fire just after the ceremony, killing just-graduated Shawn Jackson, 18, and his stepfather outside Altria Theater in downtown Richmond. Five other people were shot and several more were injured, including Jackson’s little sister, hit by a car as the 9-year-old tried to run to her father . . .
The district later investigated what went wrong at graduation [presumably apart from the mass shooting]. Its report, obtained by The Post, concluded that Jackson had been homebound because of mental health challenges. According to a local news station, CBS6, his friends also had an ongoing dispute with another group. Officials worried it could lead to violence.
The Richmond report said a school counselor, acting as Gilstrap’s designee, approved Jackson’s attendance at graduation.
Mental health challenges and a dispute with a “group?” Sounds like Reddit. But why all the gunfire? Could they possibly mean the kid was a psychopath involved in a gang, but due to his ‘trauma’ some genius counselor decided to invite him to graduation to increase the equity level, thereby involving the other students in said “challenged” young man’s beef with a similar nutcase? The authors don’t elaborate, leading one to wonder what the headline would be if China launched a nuke at Washington:
“GROUPS OF PEOPLE DO THINGS- MILLIONS DEAD; Women and Minorities hardest hit.”
So how was all this received by its intended audience? Exactly as the authors’ hoped. Disney could take a lesson from Bezos here (but not from Amazon Studios) about how to retain audience share despite never deviating from the formula. The comment section says it all. Here are some representative samples:
Get rid of the guns. It’s not that complicated.
Republicans DO NOT CARE about the people they are supposed to represent.
If God existed, He/She/They would vote blue.
This reader thinks the voters of Richmond are represented by Republicans and that God, whatever the pronouns, would vote for people who don’t believe in Ze/Zim.
Some where in the USA.
A meth fueled MAGA is tossing and turning in his sleep.
Muttering to himself, "shall not be infringed, shall not be infringed, shall not be infringed".
This well-informed individual thinks people sleep while on meth binges.
I don’t visit Red Death states.
The voters in Red Death states are insane over guns.
As long as they vote Red or don’t vote or throw away their vote on third parties their children will continue to die.
They must not care about dead kids. There must be something in the water in the South to cause MAGA insanity.
This is the meth’d out MAGA 2A redneck radical who currently governs Richmond, VA, cleverly disguised as a DEImocrat.
Most (but not all) commenters ignored the central fact in the death of Jaden Carter, that were it not for the protections granted by the Second Amendment, an innocent man would be dead and his family left with actual trauma. The story was so successful in getting its real point across that even though they admitted as much, everyone just flew right past it to virtue signal their love of new gun laws they have no interest in enforcing against the very people likely to violate them. These are our best and brightest, the managerial elite who bring to education the same bold spirit of action and depth of thought they do to politics and everything else. That is the real story here, the way that framing completely subsumes content, and how it encourages a worldview that elevates posturing over substance. You might have already known it, but it’s worth seeing it in action from time to time.
The more you know . . .
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