I’ve run into my share of rattlesnakes photographing the desert in early morning and late evening. It’s important to remember that what they do is totally defensive in nature – because they feel threatened. Otherwise, it’s easy to take offense at their posturing. It’s why some start poking rattlers with a stick, and why people often end up getting bit. It just makes the snake strike out more in self-defense.

It dawned on me years ago that many of our troublesome students are like rattlesnakes. All the posturing they do is really defensive – because they feel threatened. Unfortunately, teachers too often find their behavior offensive and do the equivalent of poking a rattler with a stick, which only causes these kids to get worse, to strike out at us even more.

I think we’re dealing with the same thing with North Korea. They certainly have reason to wonder what the U.S. might do, after being listed as part of an “axis of evil”, and seeing what happened to Iraq, one of the other two included in the list.

Plus, consider how we responded to the old Soviet Union developing missiles, and nuclear bombs. We went on a crash program to do the same in self-defense - to give them reason to never entertain a first strike.

Now we’re feeling threatened about the possibility of North Korea launching a first strike with nuclear tipped ICBMs in the future. Like any anxiety, it’s about something that could happen, but hasn’t yet, and often never will. It would be suicide for them to do such a thing. We have enough nuclear warheads to turn their country, and much of the world into glass. I don’t think they’re suicidal.

We always should ask, “What do we really want?” and “How’s what we’re doing working?” Well, we don’t want them to attack us with nuclear weapons, but the way we’re going about preventing that certainly isn’t working. It’s like poking a rattler with a stick again.

Maybe we should try to give them reason to feel less threatened instead.

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Rattlesnakes, Troublesome Students, and North Korea. The important connection.

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