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Arming teachers is not the solution

 

September 20, 2018



Sometimes looking back can help us understand how we should move forward, but when it comes to predicting craziness, history’s lessons aren’t helpful at all.

For instance: opposing views of both the role and the structure of public education meant it was predictable even a hundred years ago that public education politics would be confrontational. The liberal or progressive side leaned toward the individual child’s needs, while the traditional or conservative side argued in terms of subject matter and institutional structure – society’s needs. Even into the ‘70’s, however, there was little question as to the value of the public education institution itself.

Eventually, with progressives becoming more interested in revisionist history and social justice than in the 3 R’s, conservatives wrote a new version of the public education narrative. In this version, teachers’ unions, having successfully fought for pay and benefits just above the “genteel poverty” for which the profession was known, were labeled subversive organizations. Questions about prayer in schools, sex ed, and evolution were hot items from the beginning, but even such things as teaching methods and the arrangement of student desks became flashpoints for accusation and opposition.

Public education came to be derisively labeled “government schools.” Teachers were painted as under-trained, over-paid, and insufficiently patriotic. Conservatives worked to siphon money from public education and hand it to church-sponsored schooling. The goal sometimes seemed to be the complete dismantling of the institution.

Now there’s still another chapter, this one written by forces outside education. It has blood splattered on every page. For centuries, while churches have been sanctuaries protected by faith, classrooms have been sanctuaries protected by reason. Both of these sanctuaries have been terminally violated by gunfire, a sure sign that American civilization is badly fractured.

How has conservatism reacted? Well, sometimes sensibly, but then there’s that considerable segment that wants to arm teachers.

Suddenly all those undertrained, overpaid, pinko-progressive teachers are good enough to be given responsibility not just for subject-matter and social behavior, but with being continuously ready to engage in firefights without causing harm to the 25 panicked students milling around the room. Never mind that the only good defense against assault weapons is at the very least an infantry or SWAT squad working in unison; that the element of surprise means the psychos will always inflict massive damage long before the teacher engages (with a pistol, in an environment that is a tactical nightmare); that lawsuit-happy citizens will be poised to cash in on teachers’ mistakes under fire; that those who support this idea won’t be in any personal danger whatsoever, nor carry any responsibility for its failures; that now there will somehow be plenty of federal money for guns (as of August 2018, this is Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s idea – and, whatever happened to Republicans’ reluctance to spend federal dollars on public education? – and, it’s party-time at NRA headquarters), training, and inevitably combat pay, while teachers’ basic pay issues continue to require infighting and even strikes.

Never mind that safe classrooms are civilization’s responsibility, not teachers’.

So here’s how it breaks down: pass the responsibility buck to teachers, simultaneously pass a boatload of taxpayer bucks to the gun industry, and if kids are still being slaughtered, there’s bound to be some reason it’s former-President Obama’s fault.

Isn’t it brilliant?

Nothing in the history of public education could have predicted that a whole segment of our country would call this armed-teacher idea a solution for the fix we’re in.

It’s just too crazy.

Ron Rude is a retired teacher and public-school superintendent from Plains.

 

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