The following letter was sent to the parents of Austin Montessori School and is used with their permission.
We are all stunned and grief-stricken at the violence that erupted at a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie. The news coverage has been pervasive and will continue as the investigation and, ultimately, the trial continues.
We would like to recommend the following excellent advice from Dr. Laura Markham about how to talk to children who may be exposed to media coverage or conversations with peers or other adults.
blog/Parenting_Blog/post/How_ To_Talk_with_Kids_about_ Tragedies_Like_the_Aurora,_ Colorado_Shooting/
Those of us dedicated to the healthy social and psychological development of children are also saddened to know that even had there been no gunman, no bullets and no booby-trapped apartment that night, there still would have been trauma in the theater. It would have been quiet, hard to see, and unnoticed by the media, but it would have been no less real to the children in that theater -- infants, 3 year-olds, 6 year-olds, 10 year-olds -- whose parents chose to ignore the PG-13 rating and warnings like this one from IMDb.com: "Parents should note that this is in no way a typical superhero movie. It is a violent and gritty story that is powerful and moving. But also very violent and disturbing. Definitely not recommended to children younger than 13."
As Maria Montessori wrote in 1947 in an open letter to the world's governments,
"Childhood constructs with what it finds. If the material is poor, the construction is also poor. […] In order to build himself, he has to take by chance, whatever he finds in the environment. The child is the forgotten citizen, and yet, if statesmen and educationalists once came to realize the terrific force that is in childhood for good or for evil, I feel they would give it priority above everything else."
Although our society is in some ways obsessed with childhood, our children are still too often "forgotten citizens." If we want to create a world in which tragedies such as the one in Aurora rarely, if ever, happen, we can continue to work on behalf of children everywhere, through Montessori education, through political action, through sharing with our family, friends and neighbors what we know about the needs of children, and through supporting the enlightened efforts of many others, such as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (www.commercialfreechildhood.
In our children, there is great hope for our world.
The Administrative Team