Fresh out of 12+ years of high end public education in Canada I had learned two (and a half) things about education. These two bits of information are relevant for understanding the closely related problems of poor academic performance and school violence.
1) Education means going to a school where bundles of knowledge are presented to students who are compelled by law (and subsidy, but I figured that out later) to be there. This learning occurs while sitting quietly at desks in rows, listening patiently to a teacher (most of whom genuinely care) teaching a standardized curriculum (the best!). Smart students will get good grades without much effort, “dumb” students will pass without much effort (because they need that education to succeed it would be unfair to deny them their future).
1.5) Europe’s version of this system has higher standards and works better some how.
2) The above I learned from experience and discussion with my peers, the following from watching discovery channel and in science class: all mammals learn by play fighting. Bear cubs gnaw on each other’s faces, squirrels chase each other, and in this constant movement they learn how to survive.
This second stylized fact about education points to a deep systemic cause for gruesome violence in schools. School is not the same thing as education. By confusing the two and establishing policy to dramatically increase schooling, we are essentially bear baiting teenagers and being left with predictable results.