Action/Overreaction

teachertrainingHere it comes.  This is just one story of what I’ve seen beginning to happen across the country since the Newtown, CT.  shootings.

Gun advocates to give classes to teach teachers how to come to school armed:

Ohio-based Buckeye Firearms Foundation has launched an Armed Teacher Training curriculum to offer gun training to teachers and school workers. According to Ohio’s Fox 19, “As of Wednesday, the Armed Teacher Training Program has attracted more than 600 applicants from several states including Ohio, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.” More than one-third of the 600 applicants are female.

I am wondering if any of these gun training applicants have taken time to be aware of the ramifications of coming to school packing a firearm each and every day?  This is not the same thing as bringing a laptop or iPad, or making some other teaching tool is available and accessible for the day, although advocates for arming teachers are trying to make this argument.  This choice carries something into a schoolhouse that can make a significant difference in how a teacher approaches the day in his or her classroom.  It also forces us to truly consider the real likelihood of a school shooting occurring in any given day.

I am the worst type of person to be doing this type of math, but you start to wonder if this could be quantified as some sort of rate of expectations with respect to the likelihood of a school shooting occurring on a given public school campus at a given time.  Consider that there have been 31 school shootings since Columbine.  Over 13 years (1999-2012), that’s roughly 2.3 school shootings per year.  If you then take the number of public schools across the United States, 98,817 (as of 2009-2010), and divide 2.3/98,817, the statistical insignificance of the resulting number calls into question this sudden fear of violent gun-related terrorists coming onto our campuses.  There seems to be a more reasonable and rational fear of preparing California school campuses for a major earthquake, given that the likelihood of a major 6.7+ temblor striking the Greater Los Angeles area is far higher than that of a school shooter arriving on a given campus.

But my fuzzy math also doesn’t take into account the fact that an mentally unbalanced individual who decides to shoot up a school will be far less stable and unpredictable than the various faults and geographic terrain factors in the Southern California area.  It is that very unpredictability that is undoubtedly behind this sudden desire for fearful teachers to start packing.  Would it therefore help?

Since the days after the Newtown shootings, another argument I’ve seen expressed, involves some sort of assault weapon fantasy involving Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochprung, and how arming her would have ended Adam Lanza’s life before he had a chance to take the lives of the Sandy Hook students and staff members:

[L]et’s assume that if part of Hochsprung’s job were to protect the school from an armed assault, she would have to be trained in counter-attack tactics. She would have wanted to wear body armor. She would have wanted to clean and fire her M-4 regularly, to make sure it was ready to go at a second’s notice in the highly highly unlikely event that the school was attacked. And she would have somehow trained herself to remain on high alert every hour of every day for all the years and decades that she worked as a teacher and administrator, all the while also being an excellent educator and manager.
And then, the morning of the attack, Hochsprung would have had to have reacted perfectly — hearing the gunfire and shattered glass from her conference room, unslinging the M-4, releasing the safety, crawling silently toward the door of the conference room, and then taking aim at a highly alert gunman and shooting him in the head before the gunman noticed that she was there or had fired a single bullet at anyone.
(In other words, she would have to assassinate Adam Lanza on the assumption that he was there to kill kids, and not wait for him to do it. Or was she supposed to wait for him to kill someone, on the theory that he might just be a dime-a-dozen crazy person who didn’t actually intend to kill anyone? There are lots of those, too.)

In other words, Hochsprung would have had to have acted and reacted like a soldier in a war zone. All day. Every day. For decades.  

Are these 600 applicants prepared to act and react militarily, all while maintaining the appropriate empathy and understanding for the very idiosyncratic nature of what we teachers do with our students in a classroom each and every day?

Even if these teachers have the capability to do their jobs and that of an armed constabulary:

There is no evidence indicating that arming Americans further will help prevent mass shootings or reduce the carnage, says Dr. Stephen Hargarten, a leading expert on emergency medicine and gun violence at the Medical College of Wisconsin…

Armed civilians attempting to intervene are actually more likely to increase the bloodshed, says Hargarten, “given that civilian shooters are less likely to hit their targets than police in these circumstances.” A chaotic scene in August at the Empire State Building put this starkly into perspective when New York City police officers confronting a gunman wounded nine innocent bystanders.

But back to this fantasy of arming Principal Hochsprung, even then, that wouldn’t be enough.  The entire school should be armed:

And what if Hochsprung had been on the other side of the building when the attacker shot through the door? Principals do, occasionally, leave the vicinity of the front door.

Well, to eliminate that risk, Gohmert and others who want to keep giving almost all citizens unlimited access to military weapons will presumably want to arm every teacher and employee at the school. So they’ll all walk around all day with M-4s and bullets strapped to their shoulders. And they will all have to be trained and act and react in precisely the same way — all without someone ever making a mistake and shooting a kid instead of a bad guy.

And, in the rare event of a school shooting, in the ensuing chaos, would police officers know who to shoot?

Sadly, calm reassurance was the one consistent component that my daughter’s school district hoped to convey to its parents and students in the days immediately following the Sandy Hook shootings.  It was what I tried to do with my own classroom of kids.  Calm and reason, rather than irrational fear, should be how we moved forward from such a terrible experience.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t play into the minds of those people who have manufactured some sort of post-Newtown gun revenge fantasy wherein the staff members rise up and take out Adam Lanza before he can take them out.  Weaponry apparently trumps calm reassurance.

In the end though, it reminds me of one of my students, years ago, whose mother chose not to allow him to go on a overnight school field trip to the Ocean Institute in Dana Point in the weeks after 9/11, because of her real fear of a terrorist attack occurring there.  While I don’t necessarily mean to belittle her decision to not allow E. to go with us, I was left wondering how the Institute would have moved so high up Al Qaeda’s list of high-profile targets.  Seeing teachers fleeing to gun training classes calls to mind how I felt then.  We’ve allowed the fear to overtake our reason.  We should know better.  Teachers, who must incorporate rationality into their lesson planning, should be even more aware of this than anyone.

The real terrorism is not from forces outside, but rather inside of all of us.

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