Friday, December 14, 2012

School shooting at Newtown CT elementary school

No, I don't have any news, sorry. At this writing, the reports are coming in fast and conflicting, as is sadly familiar in these sadly familiar atrocities. This is the latest so far. God...

Still here? Then let me share with you this marker of societal necrosis, that I discovered with Google's Ngram Viewer. It tabulates the occurrences of words, in this case "school shooting" in books and magazines over a given period of time, in this case 200 years. (I haven't figured out what "smoothing" means yet).

In brief, in 100 years we've gone from this:

The War Department has taken an interest in a form of training which certain public schools have adopted. Acting Secretary of War Oliver has written to the governor of every Educational state asking that action be taken to put rifle practice in the public schools directly in charge of the National Guards, and urges that every boy over twelve years of age be put under instruction in the handling of firearms. Furthermore, Secretary Oliver announces that the Department will offer a trophy to be awarded to that school which shows the highest degree of efficiency in marksmanship. This trophy is to be competed for by clubs of ten boys from each school.
Shooting is recommended by the Secretary on a variety of grounds. In the first place, it is a form of exercise which gives training in accuracy. In the second place, it teaches the dangers of abuse of firearms as well as the value of their use. Finally, it is a form of training which can be taken up by each individual, rather than a form of training which can be participated in only by the few boys who are members of a limited team.

To this:

What evil spirit is abroad in our land, to impel people to these horrors?