Book Excerpt

The Age of Outrage:
Strategies for Parents and Educators

Lisa Wright, MA, MEd
long-time Texas educator/
current high school counselor

A note from the author...

I began this project in May 2018, just after the Santa Fe High School (Texas) shooting. Like everyone else, I was (again) in shock, and in disbelief, that yet another school shooting had taken place. In the days and weeks after that shooting, I felt that there were many areas of our own adult lives and of our kids’ lives that we could actively work on to create change, but I wasn’t seeing that conversation taking place. So rather than talk to the television, I began to put my thoughts on paper.

As a long-time educator, I feel that we—educators, parents, and society—can work together to begin to reverse the current alarming trends we are seeing and redefine our “new normal.” School shootings seem “too big” to solve, yet schools must work to proactively prevent them. Laws and increased school security, while needed and valued, are not at the core of what is needed to address the issue of people choosing violence as a means of solving problems. Anxiety, stress, depression, anger, perfection, mental health, and the struggle to cope combined with the 24-7 online world—all are areas with which our students (and many adults) struggle in the modern world, and all are areas we can purposefully address in an effort to change the trajectory on which we find ourselves in schools today. Parents, educators, and people who touch the lives of kids are at the very root of what it will take to change that trajectory, and it starts well before kids reach high school.

While this book addresses school shootings, it is not solely a “school shooter or shooting” book. This book is about people, not politics, and it is about purposeful change that starts with adults as leaders of kids. Together we can and must build more resilient kids who will grow into more resilient future adults. Let’s begin the conversation about doing just that.

Book Excerpt

So what does this all mean? What do resilience and grit, kids doing homework on their own, relationships, kids and parents communicating better, kids advocating for themselves, cell phone and social media usage, worldviews, parenting styles, parents and educators working together, anger, outrage, apathy, empathy, and school shootings or other violence (and on and on and on) have to do with each other? More importantly, what do they have to do with you—the parent, or your child, or you—the educator, and your students? I propose that these topics (and all of us) are all significantly intertwined, and therein lies my belief and call to action that we have in each of us the power to effect real, lasting change, and we need to work individually and as a team to make that change happen.

In some ways, just as we discussed that “grades don’t happen to kids,” we do have some level of power to influence whether another human chooses violence and murder as the solution to his/her problems. We may not be able to stop every event from happening, but we—each and every one of us—can certainly influence the areas we have control over in an effort to reverse the (obviously) alarming trend that we are all living with right now.

As different and wide-ranging as the topics in this book might be, they are really all connected, and we have more control over these areas than some might have acknowledged or realized before reading this book. It may be that many of the topics ring true for your situation or apply to your child. Or it may be that you have concerns or need help with only a few of these areas. Or it may be that you don’t have any concerns about your child. And you may be right. This book is ultimately meant to be a catalyst for starting an open conversation in which we peel back the protective covers of complacency and status quo and try to create a movement for real change that can ultimately provide a safer school and world environment for all of us. Clearly what we have been doing doesn’t always work.


We live in an angry, easily outraged world, yet we are all in disbelief when something angry and outrageous happens in which people are killed or injured. We cannot have it both ways—all disbelief but no responsibility for or ownership of the current state of affairs. The online world (and freeway driving, but I digress) often has a “Wild West” feel in which those who post anger and hate consider themselves to be judge and jury, always right, and they do not hesitate to spew hate at you to either run you off or (perceivably) put you in your place. We all have ownership in the state of anger and outrage when we add our angry two cents online, and we all need to take a step back and remember that with words comes responsibility, whether you have ever met or will ever meet the other posters you are expressing your anger towards or about online. (Obviously), if you would never say it to someone’s face, it probably isn’t helpful to post it online. The online world isn’t the only place people express their opinions via anger and aggression—do an online search for “parent brawl” or “Black Friday brawl” and you will find far too many examples of live, face-to-face acts of hate, aggression, intolerance, and violence. We just cannot operate this way and then claim shock and disbelief when the hate, aggression, intolerance, and violence enters our schools and kills students, educators, and innocent bystanders. Killing people cannot be the modus operandi of how people deal with their feelings.

I have said before parenting is hard, and parenting in this modern time in which people are less inclined to hold back their aggressive anger and outrage (and the assumptions that go along with these feelings) is that much more challenging than in previous generations. The level of anger, hate, and outrage we all deal with every day not only impacts our adult lives and the actions we take as adults, but it also has a trickle-down effect on how our kids choose to interact with each other as well as how they choose to work through their own problems and issues. Anger, outrage, and “me now” are the new norm for a lot of people, and teens are right in the middle of it with social media alone, never mind navigating their peers in person. Adults are definitely not immune—just take notice of how many teasers for news stories in our world lead with the descriptor “outraged.” We can’t go on like this and act surprised or shocked when “outraged” events take place.

Remember that kids’ behaviors and coping skills are formed based on the behaviors and coping skills of the adults and other kids they are exposed to, and their worldviews are impacted by those of the adults and kids they are exposed to. When kids see adults or other kids angry and lashing out at each other, they emulate that very behavior themselves. It is the same process that toddlers use when they learn curse words. They simply imitate what they hear other people saying. Adults must be cognizant of the behaviors and coping skills they are modeling for their kids in their own lives and relationships.

When it comes to shielding kids from “bad things,” old school methods rarely work in today’s world. In previous generations, when parents saw someone or something as a potential “bad influence,” they essentially hid “it” away from their kids by not letting the kids be exposed to it. It was much easier for parents to do this in previous generations because they could still exert some control over what their kids were exposed to. In the current 24-7 “always on” electronic world, hiding “bad influences” from kids just doesn’t work. By the time adults realize there is something that needs to be hidden way from their kids, it’s too late—your kids probably already know about it.


My home growing up was very small, and very quiet, and we had a clock on the wall that had a swinging pendulum. Every hour, or perhaps it was half-hour, the clock’s low, slow chime sounded to let us know another increment of time had passed. Those sounds were a specific part of life in our house. Tick...tock, tick...tock. Time passing. Decisions, behaviors, actions. Choices being made. Defining moments of and for people’s lives. Time passing.

We—all of us—have the power to help. A ripple effect. A call to action. If not us, then who? If not now, then when? The time is now.

Regardless of changes to laws, personnel, school security or safety planning and response, the fact remains that shootings and violence as a means of solving problems are a reflection of how people have changed and of the decisions they make. Laws and safety procedures alone will not be enough if we continue along the same path as people and as a society. We must be purposeful and deliberate in addressing all of the issues that could be contributing to the level of violence, anger, and outrage in schools and in our world, and it begins well before a student ever enters high school. We each possess the power to create change. The key is to follow through and do it.


There is no shortage of resources and opinions, expert and otherwise, on all topics addressed in this book. Rather than continue to quote into infinity, I have included an extensive bibliography of resources I referenced in this book as well as others that I have read or come across throughout the writing of this book. I encourage you to read each of these (or watch the video as the case may be) in order to continue to broaden the information you have on all subjects. I also encourage you to do your own research. An internet search on any topic in this book will produce more than enough results for you to read, and read, and read (and watch).

I began this book immediately after the Santa Fe High School (Texas) shooting in May 2018 because I had just had enough, and I was not seeing anything significant from lawmakers or the field of education in the immediate reaction to it other than discussions of arming teachers, adding more school security, and a lack of focus on the human aspect of school shooters themselves other than general references to mental health. I mention this here simply to give you the time period during which I researched and wrote the book. As a side note, as I wrote this final chapter and continued through the editing process, shootings continued to occur. I mention this to drive home the point that we don’t seem to be nearing an end to these types of events, which is what makes all of our actions moving forward critical for creating positive change.

Many of the opinion pieces that are referenced in the bibliography of this book were written by educators. Many were written out of frustration and an outcry for making “things” better, whether that is classrooms, student behavior or motivation or responsibility, or people’s lives, just to name a few. It is educators’ (and my own) opinions that I want to support again because I believe that those who work in education, particularly public education, have a unique, broad “real world” perspective on everything mentioned in this book but also on “real life” in general. Educators have chosen to be in their field, and as the joke goes, it’s not for the pay. Most educators are “helpers” by nature and desperately want much-needed improvements in the field of education to improve students’ educations and lives and so that good educators will enter the profession and stay, to give just two reasons. In its simplest form, educators have a realistic perspective on “what’s really going on” in our world. Educators see it all: raw, unfiltered, unpoliticized real life. We see the real lives students and their families are living, we know the obstacles students and their families face every day, and we ultimately want one thing—to help those people. I mention again, too, that this is not a political book even if it discusses topics that may be considered political. This is a book about change—positive, proactive change that is much-needed.

As you investigate the resources I have included, I urge you to read/listen with an open mind, free of any preconceived opinions or beliefs. It might or might not change your own worldview, but my hope is that it sparks change in our world. Start the conversation now.

Sample Bibliography

Harter, S., Low, S.M., Whitesell, N.R. (2003). What we have learned from Columbine: The impact of the self-system on suicidal and violent ideation among adolescents. Journal of School Violence, 2(3), 3-26.

Herge, W.M., LaGreca, A.M., & Chan, S.F. (2016). Adolescent peer victimization and physical health problems. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 41(1), 15-27. doi:10.1093/jpepsy/jsv050

Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. (2018.) Teen sexting: A brief guide for educators and parents. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved from: https://cyberbullying.org/sexting-a-brief-guide-for-educators-and-parents

Hoffman, J. (2018). The price of cool: A teenager, a JUUL and nicotine addiction. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/16/health/vaping-juul-teens-addiction-nicotine.html

Holt, M.K., Kantor, G.K., Finkhelhor, D. (2009). Parent/child concordance about bullying involvement and family characteristics related to bullying and peer victimization. Journal of School Violence, 8, 42-63. doi:10.1080/15388220802067813

Hwang, Y.G. (1995). Student apathy, lack of self-responsibility and false self-esteem are failing American schools. Education, 115(4), 484-489.

Ihm, J. (2018). Social implications of children’s smartphone addiction: The role of support networks and social engagement. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 7(2), 473-481. doi:10.1556/2006.7.2018.48

Irimia, C. (2010). Empathy as a source of attitude change. Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice, 2(2), 319-324.

Ives, E.A. (2012). iGeneration: The social cognitive effects of digital technology on teenagers. (Master’s thesis). Retrieved from https://scholar.dominican.edu/masters-theses/92

Jiang, J. (2018). How teens and parents navigate screen time and device distracations. (A Pew Research Center Report.) Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/08/22/how-teens-and-parents-navigate-screen-time-and-device-distractions/

Jimenez, D.E., Bartels, S.J., Cardenas, V., Daliwal, S.S., & Alegria, M. (2012). Cultural beliefs and mental health treatment preferences of ethnically diverse older adult consumers in primary care. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 20(6), 533-542. https://doi.org/10.1097/JGP.0b013e318227f876

Jimenez, L., Sargrad, S., Morales, J., & Thompson, M. (2016). Remedial education: The cost of catching up. Center for American Progress. Retrieved from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-12/reports/2016/09/28/144000/remedial-education/

Jolly, J. (2018). Facebook adds tools to curb screen addiction: I tried it with my teen. WFAA. Retrieved from https://www.wfaa.com/article/news/nation-now/facebook-adds-tools-to-curb-screen-addiction-i-tried-it-with-my-teen/465-91db2a26-8192-49ba-bbd9-02b4d5817f9e

Kamenetz, A. (2018). The ‘overparenting’ crisis in school and at home. National Public Radio. Retrieved https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/07/24/628042168/the-over-parenting-crisis-in-school-and-at-home

Keaten, J., & Cheng, M. (2018). Compulsive video-game playing now new mental health problem, says WHO. WFAA. Retrieved from https://www.wfaa.com/article/news/nation-world/compulsive-video-game-playing-now-new-mental-health-problem-says-who/565245304

Kennedy-Paine, C., & Crepeau-Hobson, F. (2015). FBI study of active shooter incidents: Implications for school psychologists. Communique, 43(7), 1-23.

Khazan, O. (2018). ‘Find your passion’ is awful advice. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/07/find-your-passion-is-terrible-advice/564932/

Kids competing with mobile phones for parents’ attention. (2015, June). AVG Technologies online survey. Retrieved from https://now.avg.com/digital-diaries-kids-competing-with-mobile-phones-for-parents-attention

Klein, A. (2015). No child left behind: An overview. Education Week. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/no-child-left-behind-overview-definition-summary.html

Know the signs. (2016). Sandy Hook Promise. Retrieved from https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/preventionprograms?lightbox=0#say-something

Kohn, D. (2001). Columbine: Were there warning signs? CBS News. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/columbine-were-there-warning-signs/

Kolbert, J.B., Schultz, D., Crothers, L.M. (2014). Bullying prevention and the parent involvement model. Journal of School Counseling, 12(7), 1-20.

Kraayenbrink, A., Skaar, N., & Clopton, K. (2018). Using mindfulness to promote resilience. Communique, 46(8), 1-33.

Lamia, M.C.. (2010, October 30). Do bullies actually lack empathy? Psychology Today. (Web log post.) Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/intense-emotions-and-strong-feelings/201010/do-bullies-actually-lack-empathy

About the Author

Lisa Wright is a Texas public high school counselor whose career in education began almost three decades ago and includes twenty years as a middle school and high school teacher. Wright has observed the changes in students and the educational system brought about by the advent of technology and cell phones, by school district mandates designed to help kids, and by evolving parenting styles, all of which were well-intentioned but have at times resulted in unintended negative consequences.

Wright has witnessed the evolution of schools and the educational system as school shootings have happened again and again. Wright’s experience over three decades of a changing educational landscape and her research bring a unique perspective to her discussion of modern student and school issues. She addresses those issues head-on while including ways both parents and educators can help their kids/students.

Wright promotes open discussion so that educators and parents can unite to work together to make our schools and our world safer places and our kids more resilient future adults.

The Age of Outrage: Strategies for Parents and Educators (2019) by Lisa Wright, MA, MEd, High School Counselor is available on Amazon.


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