Thousands of school shootings have happened over the years in the U.S., and as they became more frequent people became more vocal about preventing them from happening, but the story stayed the same. For a long time the story was about the shooter. The media pored over the details of why the shooter committed his violent act –why didn’t anyone stop him from buying a gun? why wasn’t he flagged for metal health issues? —and the story unraveled from there (mostly because knowing what one person did wasn’t preventing others from committing similar acts).
But the fallout from the Parkland, FL shooting was different. The students changed the story. They became a unified voice for safer schools. Inquiries about the shooter were suppressed by the roar of the students calling for stricter gun control. People took to the streets. Nationwide walkouts and marches swirled around a more productive question: what are we going to do to make our schools safer?
As Tasha Eurich says in her book, Insight, “Why questions stir up negative emotions; what questions keep us curious. Why questions trap us in the past; what questions help us create a better future.” She’s referring to individuals who take on a victim mentality, but this principle is relevant to the group too.
As a result of asking ‘what’, Parkland students started the ball rolling to combat the problem. Cities, counties, states, and the federal government are now proposing ideas and passing measures to make our schools safer. Even corporations are distancing themselves from the powerful gun lobby.
When we change the story–the story we tell ourselves as individuals or as a society–we can stop taking pity on ourselves and start taking action. We can inspire real change.