I just read a fairly preachy post on Facebook. It was written by a “friend”. I would not have classified him as a friend in the traditional sense of the word, but in Facebook parlance, people are either your friend or they aren’t.
In any case, the guy wrote about how putting armed police in every school could be an expensive option, and offered the alternative prospect of arming teachers.
I prefaced where I read the post, because I don’t want anyone to think that I got started on this thought process by going to the websites of political parties or special interest groups. I certainly did not find this topic by reading the news, which I can’t really bear to do lately. I make no apologies for not keeping abreast of a nation’s heartache; as a rational adult, I know all I need to right now and choose not to saturate my brain with the minutiae of every sickeningly painful detail, as reported ad nauseum by each and every news outlet.
I hoped that my “friend” was a lone voice and that he wasn’t just echoing the thoughts of someone with a broader audience than Facebook. Somehow I doubted it. A quick Google search proved my instincts correct. An elected official in Washington State is pushing for teachers to have the right to carry weapons into the classroom. Where would we be without some lawmaker telling us how to fight fire with firepower, or as I like to put it, fight crazy with insanity?
I feel I have a fair amount of first hand experience with schools and with teachers. I attended public schools for kindergarten then twelve more years before moving on to several universities where I earned multiple degrees. For the past 15 years or so, I’ve worked in schools. I’ve dealt with every type of school employee from custodians to superintendents and many, many teachers in between. I’ve dealt with new-graduate teachers and tenured, published PhD’s. I’ve dealt with a lot of students as well. My exposure to homicidal maniacs has been much more limited.
I am not a teacher. I am not in the teachers’ union. My father was a teacher, as were some of the most influential, important people in my life. I admit that I’ve also dealt with a few teachers who were inept, sad examples of their profession. Sitting here in my kitchen, I can’t think of a single one of those educators who I could imagine carrying a gun in the classroom.
In recent years, public school teachers in many states have wrestled with taxpayers and politicians over merit-based pay, benefits and tenure. Apparently in the halls of power of at least one state, the argument has now switched as to whether or not to arm teachers.
Let’s take a moment to review: Elected officials and taxpayers can’t decide what a teacher’s work is worth, or how to determine if they are even effective at performing their jobs, but you’d like them to carry firearms?! OK, just wanted to make sure I heard that right.
On a side note, law enforcement professionals routinely carry guns. In many states they face the same scrutiny of pay and benefit issues which teachers do. Unlike teachers, they enter their chosen profession knowing their duties may invlove the use of deadly force. As a profession which has a fair amount of power in its armed authority, police training is designed to help weed out candidates who are unsuitable for the responsibilities of the job. Despite the careful screening, history has shown us that sometimes the wrong people get badges and guns anyway.
Teachers’ challenges managing kids are pretty well documented. In addition to teaching the three R’s, they are often called upon to teach kids things which would traditionally be taught at home and only reinforced in school. Things like respect, being able to tell right from wrong and the basics of ethical behavior. There have also been more than a few complaints about children in the U.S. falling behind their counterparts elsewhere in the world. Tacking on the additional responsibility of acting as an armed guard just doesn’t strike me as a particularly effective way of improving overall job performance.
Owning and being capable of using a firearm is strong stuff. Despite walking this planet for over 50 years, I have yet to find it necessary to even hold a gun, let alone carry one to work. The first part of my personal rationale for not owning a firearm is that I don’t think I need one. I believe, perhaps foolishly, that I can use other personal attributes to avoid gunplay. Like a teacher, I’m convinced that I can use my knowledge and ability to communicate. The other part of my rationale is that owning a gun would somehow reduce my belief in the first part of my rationale.
In my opinion, a teacher who wants to bring a gun to school, has to accept the same thought, on some level.
The horror in Connecticut has dominated the news, but it is not an isolated case of senseless violence. Two innocent people were killed by a shooter in a mall near Portland, Oregon. Two volunteer firefighters were killed and others seriously injured by a sniper in New York who set fire to his home and car strictly to draw the firemen into his line of fire.
If the logic for arming teachers holds water, then it’s only fair that Foot Locker employees and firefighters are also encouraged to pack heat. I’m sure that if one analyzed the data for victims of gun violence nationwide, it would be difficult to find a demographic which wouldn’t qualify for carrying a gun.
I know Facebook is filled with people who pop in photos of puppies or little quips about how annoyed they are with the weather without giving it a second thought. One would hope they would stop and think before proposing something as controversial and fundamentally absurd as arming teachers. As for state lawmakers making the same proposals, I’m at a loss for words, finally.