It feels as though we live in an upside-down world where extremism rips apart all traces of sanity and balance. Can we even fathom a notion of working together to solve school shootings? Without a togetherness goal, can we even survive, much less flourish?
No one expects fully armed military personnel to sit in a circle to teach language fundamentals to prekindergarten children. Equally bizarre would be an expectation for teachers to be armed and ready to perform as soldiers. No one doubts the challenges faced by our military.
No one should doubt the daunting — although totally different — challenges of teaching children and teens. I suggest that we set aside the lunacy of assuming one another’s roles. Please consider:
• Teachers teach. Tax accountants balance numbers. Police and military maintain safety. Life works best when each of us accomplishes what we came here to do.
• Every time society dumps another task in the laps of teachers, their stamina for serving children takes a hit. Add lack of respect and less-than-adequate salaries to an unrealistic job expectation, and we wonder why anyone stays in the classroom. Now, we deliberate adding concealed carry to teachers’ job expectations?
• Instead of spending resources to get teachers gun-ready, imagine targeting issues that possibly drive students to harm peers. Early childhood teachers recognize a child who functions in different and dangerous ways within minutes. Currently, with school budgets slashed to the core, few resources exist for salvaging a child who steps on a risky path at an early age.
Although proposed solutions differ, I suspect all of us want our kids to be safe at school. We differ over guiding principles.
A principle based squarely on fear recommends that we fight guns with more guns. We’ve all heard, “What stops a bad guy with a gun? A good guy with a gun.” Today, I also hear an argument that a teacher with a concealed gun could stop an assumed killer at the door. That gives me pause until I remember that the killer at most classroom doors will probably be another kid. Damaged kids remain our kids.
The other principle states that intelligent individuals can solve even drastic challenges thoughtfully, with careful planning, and will. This principle adheres to faith in our capacity to make positive changes by working cooperatively. A principle based on intelligent problem solving begs everyone to investigate and consider multiple options.
In closing, the best teachers arrive with hearts wanting to nurture as well as to educate. Police and military seek to protect. Thank you to those with the drive and talent to keep us safe. Thank you to teachers who show up day after day to give their best to students. If we honor the skills of one another and lean in together, we will solve this tragic problem. If we choose to arm teachers, we will be bowing to a token god of fear. Any time we surrender to fear, everyone loses.
Frandsen retired from St. Edward’s University after teaching in Austin for 33 years, including at Langford and Patton elementary schools.