December 18, 2012

One teacher’s thoughts on the idea of arming teachers

Posted in Current events, Education, Musings, Politics at 3:40 pm by The Lizard Queen

A prologue: My thoughts and heart remain with those who lost loved ones in Newtown last Friday.  I am so, so heartbroken that we as a society did not do better by those children and their caretakers.

I suppose I should further preface this post by stating unequivocally that my thoughts here are solely my own opinions, and do not reflect the viewpoints of any of my employers.  Furthermore, I do not pretend to speak for other teachers at any level.  These musings simply reflect where I stand on this issue at the moment.

This post contains musings on past mass shootings and the potential for similar events in the future.  If you would rather go look at GIFs featuring adorable dogs and children, I completely understand.

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A few years ago I attended a conference at which there was a session on workplace safety.  the facilitator began the session by playing, without any warning or other preamble, a recording of the 911 call from Columbine.  I was horrified, first on a purely visceral level, then by the idea that the facilitator saw that as an appropriate way to open a conference session, and finally by one of the conclusions that the facilitator drew from the events that the 911 call heralded: that if the teachers and other administrators at the high school had been carrying firearms, much of the tragedy of that day could have been avoided.  I imagined myself at the front of a classroom, in the midst of a discussion on audience or run-on sentences.  I tried to imagine the rest of the scenario: a shooter, my response, crossfire.  I could splice in scenes from action movies, but putting myself into the scene was a struggle, to say the least.  I’ve touched a gun, once.  A Second-Amendment-hippie acquaintance of mine made sure of that a few years ago.  But insofar as actually handling a gun goes, I only know what I’ve seen in movies, which is pretty poor preparation for a worst-case-scenario plan.

The idea that teachers should be armed is being floated again in response to last Friday’s tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, CT, and I’m just as perplexed now as I was at that conference.  My training is in writing and literature, and in teaching those two subjects at the college level.  I have absolutely no training in the use of firearms.  Had I desired such training, had I believed I had the inclination and the aptitude for such things, I might have been drawn to fields other than writing, fields like law enforcement or other branches of criminal justice, or the military.  I can’t imagine I’d be particularly well-suited for such fields, however.  I’m pretty good at thinking on my feet, and I like to think I handle myself well in emergency situations, but I’m also completely neurotic, a consummate crier, and easily startled.  These are not ideal qualities in a first responder.

I understand the need and desire to be prepared for the worst.  However, where does such preparation stop?  If students would be safer if their teachers were armed, then surely they would be safer still in bullet-proof vests, right?  At what stage does such preparation represent “the abandonment of civil society”?  If we must be armed to teach, to worship, to go to the movies, does that really represent a victory for the rights of the populace?  Is that the price we pay to live in this society, or a sign that we have failed?

I don’t have any solutions to the problems that each mass shooting presents.  However, I feel fairly confident that “more guns” isn’t a solution, either.

Further (and better) reading:

Ta-Nehisi Coates, just in general

Thoughts and links on gun control

“I am Sorry” by Jennifer Louden

The Onion puts a painfully apt spin on things, as usual

1 Comment »

  1. Nick Humez said,

    For some years I taught in a smallish state college in New Jersey. The local urban culture glorified weapons as part of a “gangsta” value system popular among inner-city minority youth in its resistance to the Establishment, sentiments I have since found to be not unlike those of many suburban-rural gung-ho Tea Partiers after I retired to Ohio’s Western Reserve. In either instance the soberer members of the community repeatedly point out that the more weapons there are out there, the more likely they will go off. I cannot say we have had much success there or here. What I do believe with all my heart is that if guns are in a school, no matter who brings them in, someone is sure to get hurt. What we have is a public health epidemic, and it is in essence a psychiatric one, with a strong component of mass paranoia. Such a persecutional worldview risks becoming self-fulfilling if the nation is driven by more and more of these outrageous massacres to find itself with no choice but to treat gun proliferation as a homeland-security issue and DHS sets about confiscating all automatic weapons from private citizens not actually members of a public well-regulated militia (e.g., the armed forces or the police). But it may be hoped that even voters in pro-gun enclaves find enough additional reasons to vote for legislators who will stand up to the NRA and its “culture war.” If indeed there is such a war on, at bottom it is a war of sane and civilized culture against paranoid barbarity, and civilization will win, “else all our faith were vain.”


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