School Daze- Putting First Things, First, in the Wake of School Shootings
Once the hurt has passed- passed, at least, to the point where we can review what took place in Parkland without knee-jerk reactions clouding the issue of school shootings, the nation will have to focus its attention on the immediate problem, first.
It is not the guns, nor even the availability of guns that is at issue. It’s not the failure of an FBI, having lost the focus of its primary mission to connect the dots and take preemptive action to prevent crime, as in this case, they well could have. It’s not mental illness, per se, and how local authorities gather and share information when it comes to troubled youth. All of these things are important, and there is ample need for all of these issues to be addressed.
The primary and immediate problem, however, is that our schools are not safe, and distracted focus on the peripheral issues already enumerated will not make our schools any safer tomorrow, than they were on February 14th. Since guns of all types won’t be off the streets anytime soon, and there is no shortage of social misfits and evil “sickos” who are capable of exacting such wretched carnage, we have to take steps now to ensure that our schools are safe…
…and if we cannot take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of our schools, then we need to face the eventuality that the time has come to consider closing our schools, permanently.
When a school shooting begins, whether it is from Columbine nineteen years ago, all the way up through Parkland last week, there is about a ten-minute gap in the time alerts go out and the time that police response is on site. In that amount of time, an armed assailant with enough ammunition can kill a lot of unarmed children and adults, as well. Time after time, the dastardly deed is all done by the time police arrive, so any amount of self-defense the school can provide has to come from within the school’s staff. Hence, the call to consider arming our teachers, or at very least, some of our teachers (though, the thought of some of our own teachers “carrying,” admittedly, causes us to laugh and wander off track), comes to the fore.
Any adult school staff member- administrator, counselor, nurse, custodian and teacher, too, could be trained in firearm safety and trained how to shoot. For that matter, it needn’t even be a member of the school’s staff. There are plenty of trained adults- retired police and arson investigators, armed services veterans and retired military, who have been trained in the proper use of firearms, and many of these men and women could use a paying job, for sure. Just as sure, many would volunteer to be hallway proctors equipped to fight back against an armed assailant, bent on mass murder. That’s one thing that could be done very soon.
While none of us can board an airplane, attend a major league sporting event, or enter an arena or concert hall, without passing through metal detectors and bag checks, thousands enter and leave school property each day without having to do so…not at all schools, but at enough schools with no such provisions, that the means to conduct such searches should be provided with funding and mandate. What’s good for the county courthouse and magistrate’s office should also be good for the schools within their jurisdictions. Within a year or two, all public schools across the entire country could be so equipped.
It is obvious that these measures will cost, one way or another, a tremendous amount of money and resources, which might easily beg the question, “Is the safety of our children while attending school worth it?”
As obvious as the answer to that question might be, we must also consider the school- that is, to say, the school building, as a continued venue for elementary and secondary education. It takes a tremendous amount of taxpayer money to finance the overall operation of the school building(s)- staff salaries, equipment, school cafeterias and lunch programs, maintenance and physical plant operating costs, not to mention the costs of transporting students, to and from school. Added together, it is small wonder that public education takes a big slice, perhaps the biggest slice, of state and municipal operating budgets.
Add these costs to the problems associated with school shootings and other forms of violence taking place in our schools, perpetrated from within and without, not to mention instances of sexual misconduct that steal away the innocence of our precious children, and one has to ask, “Is this all worth it?”
We live in an age where information, most all of the known information, is available on the internet. We could provision every home in America with broadband internet service, provide every household with an interactive home-based computer, and provide quality education to every child, for a fraction of what it costs to operate school facilities. As any telecommuter who has participated in on-line meetings and virtual training seminars knows, the classroom can be brought to the home as easily as the corporate conference room can be brought to the home.
Granted, what would be lost in the wholesale conversion to home-based schooling, would be the social interaction between kids (already a problem with a generation of children who prefer computer games to outdoor physical activity), and a severe impact on extra-curricular and athletic participation, too. Then again, if the purpose of education is to learn, learning can be accomplished at home, and the issue of school safety becomes moot.
Simply stated, if we cannot as a nation make our schools safe, then we must consider the eventuality of closing the schools as we know them, and keeping our kids safe at home, with an on-line teacher, instead.
-Drew Nickell, 22 February 2018
© 2018 by Drew Nickell, all rights reserved.
author of “Bending Your Ear- a Collection of Essays on the Issues of Our Times”
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