Leah Vukmir still thinks “the self-esteem movement” is partly to blame for school shootings. Revisiting comments that she made in the wake of the Columbine shooting, the Wisconsin Senate candidate continues to diagnose an inability to deal with “pathologic adolescent rage” as a factor in these tragedies.
As Vukmir challenges fellow Republican Kevin Nicholson for the right to challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin, and as the Parkland, Fla., school shooting dominates the news, one of her old blog posts from 1999 has resurfaced. Five months after Columbine, Vukmir wrote that massacres would continue until educators and parents overcame their “preoccupation with protecting [teenage] self-esteem.”
The self-esteem movement has become an entrenched feature in our schools and homes. The emergence of a psychotherapeutic culture of cushioning self-esteem at all costs has led to school programs aimed at coddling teens instead of encouraging their growth and independence …
[O]ur national obsession with the feelings of teenagers has played an enormous but heretofore unrecognized role in what is transpiring nationwide. Unless we change our attitudes and approach to dealing with the normal developmental phase of years known as adolescence, I fear another Columbine is inevitable.
When we asked her about her past statements, the nurse-turned-politician didn’t back down from her criticism of "the self-esteem movement" but added that school shootings are “a multifaceted problem.” After noting that the question goes “back to comments I made in 1999,” Vukmir said schools' overemphasis on self-esteem remains “one of the factors.”
“It is a multifaceted problem, and that was one article talking about one factor. But obviously there are a variety of factors underlying this,” Vukmir said. “I’m very cognizant as a healthcare professional that we have to do a better job identifying these kids who are troubled and not be afraid to speak out."
All the motivations of the Florida shooter are still not clear. Perhaps the current approach to adolescent students has, as Vukmir wrote in 1999, produced students “absorbed by their own self-pity.”
It seems undeniable, though, that social alienation compounded by a broken family motivated the massacre. Like the earlier Las Vegas and the Charlottesville, Va., murderers, the Parkland shooter seemed wholly detached from community. After the death of his father and mother, he grew detached. Classmates remember him tormenting animals and starting fights.